Indomitable mechanisms: Bacteria as wet machines.
Abstract: In their relative simplicity, bacteria enact wet machines with more clarity than other organisms. Gene editing has turned them into a preexisting mechanism that can be customized. This conceptualization cannot be dissociated from considerations of power and anthropocentrism. This analysis proposes that a mechanistic understanding of these wet machines is twofold. First, as part of the exploitation of zoé–as understood by Braidotti–and the commercialization of all living matter. Second, as a recognition of a more comprehensive definition of the living in the continuum nature-culture that might include other mechanical and electronic forms of self-organization, leading to a post-dualistic understanding of matter and meaning.
I depart from examples of material thinking through art and science, such as the work of Gilberto Esparza, Christina Agapakis, Interspecifics and our experiments with MFCs. Complexity is favored over the simplification of the living, considering that bacteria have so far proven unpredictable, uncontrollable, and impossible to completely model as machines. Bacteria are represented instead as agents, as the minimal expression of life where the tensions of exploitation and subjectivity take place, and therefore the ground for environmental activism is transformed into renewed conceptual creativity.
Presented at EVA Copenhagen
To be held in Copenhagen, 2018, EVA Copenhagen is a conference focusing on digital arts and culture, which is part of the international ‘Electronic Visualisation & the Arts’ (EVA) network. The conference will bring together artists and academics working in a broad range of fields related to digital arts. Organised in partnership between Aalborg University (Aalborg, Copenhagen) and Dias: Digital Interactive Art Space (Copenhagen), the conference will host an exhibition of digital artworks, while also presenting a programme of academic papers. In doing so, we aim to bring together practitioners and academics working in digital arts, providing valuable opportunities for the exchange of knowledge, networking, and showcasing of innovative work at the frontiers of digital culture.