Red Suratómica | New Media Class - UdK Berlín
Interconnected nature - Internet for Bacteria
Interconnected Nature: Internet for Bacteria is a speculative art-science (indisciplinary) research-creation project to generate an internet-bacteria symbiosis, that creates other possibilities for the Internet of Bio and Nano Things (IoBNT) besides the nature-extractivist and exploitative discourse of these under-developing technologies. It explores other possible inter-living-entities relations that embrace the uncontrollable nature of the living and sets aside human interaction among the mentioned entities.
Through an offering/sharing of our digital technologies and a collaborative effort, Bio-IoT mediating devices would be placed in different soils around the globe to allow bacteria to perform horizontal gene transfer through the internet. Shared DNA in one soil would be instantly globally available.
Lynn Margulis (1995) described how bacteria could, through horizontal gene transfer, quickly recover after a natural disaster, that would take us humans, for instance, much longer or even fail. What could mean for such an impressive collaborative process of bacteria the access to a human-created global network with the IoT infrastructure?
Internet for Bacteria is the exploration of the possibilities of our current digital communication technologies as interspecies/inter-living-entities mutual aid technologies or, even further, symbiotic ones.
The upcoming documentation presents the contexts, methodologies, and processes to create an interface that would allow the hyperconnected bacteria superorganism to emerge as a Queer form of life.
To all the communities of living organisms that resist to human control
QUEER FORMS OF LIFE
This creation project is connected to Queer forms of life a research-creation context to explore the possibilities of the emerging understandings of life by complexity sciences, biology, philosophy of biology, new media, and many others in art/knowledge creation/worlding.
It has been created in the context of the 2nd cycle of the Suratómica Network named At the Edge of Chaos and Natalia Rivera's master project for the New Media Class at the UDK in Berlin. A creation group with the same name collaboratively explored the idea in 2021 and during the social outbreak in Colombia starting in April of the same year, the network’s context Other politics of the living was derived.
Queer forms of life:
Digital technologies for the living
Theoretical proposal about the creation of hybrid organisms or biocomputers as queer forms of life.
Artistic creative processes with biological computers, understood as Queer forms of life or symbiotic bio-digital organisms, both emerge from and at the same time shape the biocentric turn in the development of these digital technologies. Biological computing, developed with living organisms or biologically derived molecules, is an emergent media that requires a new/ other understanding of our relations with the biological entities included in the information processing and storage, and the biocomputer as a living organism itself. Together with them, the artistic creation, or even wider, the shared aesthetic experience of metabolization, generates a new/other form of life that dilutes many taxonomical borders and, while embracing the uncontrollable nature of the living, becomes evidence of bio-centered digital technologies. Some ideas about the possibilities of biological computers as co-creative / co- metabolizing / co-evolutionary media are explored in this text with a media theory approach that intertwines with speculative fabulation (Haraway, 2016) in its way.
In an early stage, the discourses and experiments surrounding biocomputing show clearly how the development of this media is given from a strong anthropocentric, still extractivist, understanding and relation to nature. The motivations, aims, narratives, and methodologies seek for the continuation of human-controlled technology creation, even when other entities, traditionally understood as living ones, are directly involved as components of it. From that utilitarian perspective, biological organisms appear more capable of complex information processing (human-interesting one), and more efficient in terms of energy consumption or their ability to self-replicate and repair, among many other characteristics.
However, an other comprehension of the aesthetics, biologically based (Maldonado, 2021a), radically transforms the kind of relations we would be able to create with these computers. It brings a relevant new/other understanding that situates the narratives and creative processes with biocomputers in a life-enabling wide range of possibilities. While the shared experience among living organisms is an aesthetical one, the matter of the inter-living-entities co-creation becomes life itself. On this path, artistic projects such as Myconnect (2013) by Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj, Anil Podgornik, and Tadej Droljc, and Biocomputer Music (2015) or Biocomputer Rhythms (2016) by Eduardo Miranda are early expressions of this interspecies co-creation through digital media.
Queer forms of life explore the emergence of these new hybrid entities through the sharing of our digital technologies with other living organisms. Our digital technologies offered to other living organisms, in the same way that other living organisms’ technologies, such as fermentation, for instance, are shared/interconnected with us. These collaborative creation processes with them require new common languages and methodologies, and relocate the artistic creation from a visual or tangible piece, as an outcome, to the creation of the media or symbiotic bio-digital organism itself.
Haraway, D. (2016) Staying with the Trouble. Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.
Maldonado, C. (2021a) Estética y complejidad. Elementos para un estado crítico del arte. Editorial Suratómica.
Miranda, E. (2015) Biocomputer music [Biocomputer and music performance]. http://neuromusic.soc.plymouth.ac.uk
Miranda, E. (2016) Biocomputer Rhythms [Biocomputer and music performance].http://neuromusic.soc.plymouth.ac.uk
Spačal, S. et al. (2013) Myconnect [Installation]. https://www.agapea.si/en/projects/myconnect
Exploring the possibilities of our current and emerging digital communication technologies to become or be understood as Inter-living- entities MUTUAL AID/SYMBIOTIC media.
I have explored some possible ways to write a question relating to the living beings to hybridize, avoiding in a way previous expectations or definitions on how this experiment should develop.
Through Speculative Fabulation and the experimental narratives with generative text, I get to dialogue with the current knowledge, narratives, ideas, and possibilities for this fiction.
What if? - As an open question for the creation of narratives.
In terms of life. In the context of evolutive biology, which extends, as presented before, beyond the living organisms we have considered living so far, the moral concepts of what is good/bad for the living beings included could be reconsidered. Instead, the question to ask in terms of life, according to Carlos Maldonado(2021a), is: does it enable life?
When researchers tried to create a bacterial processor for biocomputing, bacterial communities evolved over time into a complex network connected through the internet, that both competed and cooperated to survive.
What if bacteria take over the internet?
IN TERMS OF LIFE
Would a symbiotic relation between bacteria and the internet enable life?
CONTEXTS / PROCESSES / METHODOLOGIES
[strategies of involvement]
CREATING A NEAR IMPOSSIBLE SYMBIOTIC BIO-DIGITAL ORGANISM
With Interconnected Nature: Internet for Bacteria, I have taken the chance to give the imaginative process a more relevant space over the outcome as an art piece. In the sense of collecting and creating interdisciplinary knowledge that will shape a project that, being feasible as a scientific research project, for instance, crosses and questions the anthropocentric boundaries that require for it to be fictional.
It entangles diverse methodologies and processes that allow the project to interconnect with different emerging biocentric narratives while aiming to contribute to them too. The main ones refer to methodologies to design a scientific experiment and the biotechnologies and resources required to carry it out and, on the other side, the fictional, not less real, narratives that appear and intertwine when the project speaks for non-human centered digital biotechnologies.
Speculative Fabulation (Haraway, 2016) allows me to dialogue with the technological possibilities of the ongoing underdevelopment media of biocomputing while re-arranging the narratives and metaphors. I find fascinating Haraways’ thoughts and proposals about the worlding power of scientific knowledge and narratives, and I seek for the transformation of these last ones to be my creative practice.
Marta de Menezes’s proposal for the Moon’s moon project opens an amazing conversation on how to give space to the research, imagining, and shaping of a project as an artistic outcome in itself. In her words: “This project explores the idea that a body of knowledge can be developed as an artwork. It consists in collecting and eventually exhibiting information about the creation of a near impossible art- object.”(De Menezes, 2021)
Methodologies on how to deal with “near impossible” artistic mediation can also approach the Aesthetics of the impossible, proposed by Iliana Hernández (2019) or the Epistemology of impossibility or Science of indetermination by Carlos Maldonado (2021b). There, indisciplinary creative practices beyond the already-known or understood as feasible are more than relevant to create our experience of the world while creating the world itself. Creating in such a context is not to determine an outcome but to open the chance for possibilities to emerge.
All in all, indiscilplinarity allows the inter/intra action of a plurality of methodologies. In-discipline speaks for the non-existence of defined disciplines and at the same time, similarly to the word in Spanish, undisciplined, a lack of disciplined behavior.
My understanding of any human creative process is as an expression of nature’s creative processes, evolutionary, interconnected, collaborative, and collective. In that sense, it is relevant for the contexts, ideas, and proposals included in this research-creation project to blur the imaginary boundaries of a lineal, individual, and isolated creation process and rather seek to share how from the encounter with others, humans, other traditionally understood-as-living organisms, and hybrid bio-digital organisms the ideas and creative processes emerge.
This has been an important base for my creative practice, in which opening spaces, or inhabiting spaces, for collective conversation and co-creation became not one but a multiplicity of methodologies.
Ten years ago, the first encounters of the Mutante Laboratory’s participants were organized. It was my first approach to collaborative processes as knowledge creation processes, in the frame of my bachelor’s thesis. Afterward, the numerous dialogues, spaces, events, encounters, and projects organized and created by this art and science laboratory have opened, as well, numerous possibilities for creative practices, situated mostly in Bogotá, but globally connected through the Suratómica Network.
Dialogues together with Mutante and different communities or creatives during the development of previous projects such as the Expanded Bestiary (Bestiario Expandido) (2019), already approaching Speculative Fabulation creative processes, are also of great influence to the Queer Forms of Life idea.
I want to acknowledge the relevance of all those spaces and collaborations for the creation of this project, having in mind however that it might not be possible to include all the experiences, conversations, and actions that shaped it, but stating clearly how it is a co-creation, an outcome of an encounter of multiple networks, that exceeds an individual process or effort.
1. At the edge of chaos (En el filo del caos). Co-creation cycle. Suratómica Network. 2021 - currently.
2. Other politics of the living (Otras políticas de lo vivo). Co-creation context. Suratómica Network and Enjambre Interzone. 2021 - currently.
3. Queer forms of life (Formas extrañas de vida).
Creation group. Proposed by Natalia rivera. Suratómica Network. 04-05.2021
4. Microcosmos. Creation group.
Proposed by Corpogen and Biocrea Network. Suratómica Network. 04-06.2021
5. Complexity and aesthetics (Complejidad y estética). Creation group. Proposed by Carlos Maldonado. Suratómica Network. 08.2020-03.2021
6. Other politics of the living (Otras políticas de lo vivo).
XII Creation - Art and Science Encounter. Suratómica Network and Enjambre Interzone. 04.2022
7. Other [tiny] forms of life. (Otras [pequeñas] Formas de Vida). Creation project by Mutante and CorpoGen. 2022
8. New Media Class. Berlin University of the Arts UDK. WS20/21 - SS22.
QUEER FORMS OF LIFE
CREATION GROUP - Suratómica Network
The first co-creation space directly connected to this research-creation project was the Queer forms of life (Formas extrañas de vida) creation group, connected to the Suratómica Network’s third cycle of creation groups, from April to May 2021. This space established in a way the conceptual frame and political positions from which the queer forms of life would be thought.
Together with all the participants, we wondered about the definition of life, the multiple current definitions, and the political implications of establishing a definition. The questions focused on how to relate to, discover, and create forms of life without controlling, colonizing, dominating, or even defining.
As an outcome, Queer forms of life became a comprehension frame that embraces the indeterminacy of life, of the life forms that we already know and life forms as they could be. Questioning the taxonómical borders, the hierarchy among the living and the considered-non-living things, and the presumed need, that we as humans have, to determine nature. These ideas are shared in the first part of this book. (Article: Queer forms of life: Digital technologies for the living)
While having these conversations, the social outbreak in April 2021 in Colombia started. More than the knowledge of life, the experience of life was urgent, and so our narratives entangled with those politics emerging from a full-of-life expression of the protests in the streets. We learned from and allowed our creative processes to be transformed by them.
With the derived context Other politics of the living, created together with the Enjambre Interzone, the Queer forms of life concept embraced the anarchic nature of the living, as understood as a complex system (Maldonado and Mezza, 2016).
OTHER [TiNy] FORMS OF LIFE
CREATION PROJECT BY MUTANTE AND CORPOGEN
Other [tiny] forms of life (Otras [pequeñas] formas de vida) is an expedition to discover the biodiversity of the bacteria that inhabit and shape three parks and a wetland in Bogotá. The creation groups were in charge of investigating which bacteria are present in these green public spaces, with microbiology, molecular biology, and metagenomics techniques, and at the same time with artistic creation processes such as drawing, photography, and generative modeling of sculptures using the genetic code.
O[t]FL has been co-created as an articulation of methodologies for collectively exploring, thinking, and creating. Embracing and developing collaborative processes, related to the DIWO (Do it with others) ideas and communitarian-based creation, and connecting the Interconnected Nature project to the O[t]FL one, was the main strategy of involvement, to get close to the microbiology practices and methodologies.
The ideas in Mutante and Suratómica about these collective creation processes explore the diversification of knowledge/ways of knowing; the in-disciplinarity of knowledge, methodologies, and techniques; the co-creation of situated emerging understandings, meanings, and the network itself. Furthermore, the exploration of alternative ways of social organization.
The exploration in Bogotá included the Parque Nacional, Parque Simón Bolivar, Parque Entre Nubes, and Humedal Juan Amarillo, during May and June 2022. My parallel exploration in Berlin took place at the Panke river, at Pankow. The project was designed together by the laboratories Mutante and CorpoGen, and developed with the support of the grant for experimentation, art, science, and technology for civic culture by the SCRD of Bogotá.
Getting to know the surroundings. We explored the location, created maps, documented with pictures and drawings, and collected samples of soil, air, water, plants, and other living organisms, to look for bacterial communities inhabiting and conforming the territory.
In Petri dishes, we grew microorganisms from the samples we had collected before. Using laboratory and house-made agar, the samples were directly placed on the Petri dishes, to grow a big amount and variety of microorganisms, or diluted before in order to grow clear bacterial colonies to be studied.
With the aim of being able to see the DNA, we carried out a simple and homemade experiment to extract the DNA of strawberries. With a mix of soap and alcohol, it was possible to get enough amount of DNA to be seen with bare eyes.
SEQUENCING DNA OF SOIL SAMPLES
To discover other bacteria, which would not grow in our Petri dishes environment, we used DNA sequencing in a process called Metabarcoding. We got the information on the 16S gene of all the bacteria present in the soil sample, to be afterward compared with a database to find their families and names.
The sequencing was done by the CorpoGen laboratory, using a MinION sequencer.