"Queer forms of life" is 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 3rd cycle of the Suratómica Network named "At the Edge of Chaos" and my master project for the New Media Class of the UDK in Berlin. A creation Group with the same name collaboratively explored the idea in 2021 and during the social outbreak happening in Colombia since 28.04.2021 the network's context "Other politics for the living" was derived.
The documentation to come on this page aims to present the research, reflections, and interconnections of many processes, ideas, works, references, and dialogues that surround the co-creation of the QFL context and possible derived projects.
The living as a process instead of a matter
The question about life and its origins has been widely studied. Every area of knowledge and comprehension of nature has embraced it in one way or another. Many definitions of what life is have come into the discussion, and whether it can be spontaneously generated or not was a huge argument among scientists in past centuries. Scientists have grown life/micro-organisms in their laboratories, DNA has been understood as the constitutive matter of life, Physicists such as Schrödinger introduced life as a research program, astrobiology brought the need for dismounting standard definitions of life, experiments with tardigrades interfering in quantum entanglement in Qbits have been done, and the internet, artificial intelligence, and artificial life have required also other understandings of the living. (- Super rough summary)
Simultaneously and in the way processes are not one-way influenced but co-evolving, diversifying, we find ourselves today in a bubbling time of new/other ways of knowledge-creation and understandings. On one hand, the question about de-unifying ways of knowledge, meaning avoiding thinking of western science as the unique way of creating knowledge, related also to non-colonialist thinking. Then, the diluted frontiers that appeared with quantum physics, complexity sciences, and queer theories. And, among others, the need to re-think, re-create our relation with/as part of nature.
Organicist ideas emerge from the understanding of nature as a living organism itself. From the beginnings of Biology as a discipline, it has been built as a philosophical perspective and has brought to us the possibility of stopping understanding nature as a resource for humans, a foundational idea of western civilization, or later as a machine, from the modern epoch, avoiding mechanism and reductionism views on life (Maldonado, 2021).
We look today for other theories that allow us to understand life as a process and dilute the difference between living and non-living entities. As Francisco Varela says, referring to the fact that through our science we do a huge effort to imagine a dead (physicalist) universe and how life emerges from it when on the contrary, life precedes existence. - I understand: life is the process that allows existence. (Varela, 2001)
In Labor, Paul Vanouse compares the human exploitation that led to the industrial revolution with the exploitation of microorganisms such as bacteria that humans currently carry out in the food and the medical industry, for instance.
The nature of nature is indeterminacy
In previous works and texts (1, 2), I have explored the encountering ideas of indeterminacy emerging from quantum physics and from gender studies. From the physics field, as Karen Barad (2013) presents it, we understood that we can not know what nature is, not because of our lack of abilities, but because nature doesn't know itself. On the other hand Queer theories, widely expanded from gender to territory, to interspecies, to knowledge creation, bring us a big challenge and at the same time big freedom for this re-invention of nature.
Binarisms and frontiers are no longer that strong and bio artists have an amazing way to approach and embrace this indeterminacy of the living. Ideas such as Glitch Feminism by Legacy Russel and of course the first ideas of the cyborg manifesto by Donna Haraway open not one but many paths for this indeterminacy to take over digital media.
Quimera Rosa, on its side, is a collective that experiments with the process of trans-species transition (or trans-kingdom). In the Trans*Plant project (2016), one of the artists in the collective transforms the imposed border as a human identity to hybridize with the concept or identity of plants. In an articulation of various formats and research/creation processes, the work narrates what breaking these borders means, while deeply questioning ideas of current medicine and above all the limits or closures on knowledge about the body. "All life is patented," they say
Confronting Vegetal Otherness (2016) is a series created by Špela Petrič addressing plant/human intercognition. From the series, the piece Phytoteratology, whose name refers to the study of monstrosity in plants, is perhaps the work in which the artist most directly transforms the genetic expression of a plant. In it, a thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) embryo is incubated and develops with the assistance of steroids extracted from urine, to which the plant responds by altering its epigenetic patterns and growing in unique and monstrous morphologies; always understanding the “monstrous” as diverse.
Inter-living entities mutual AID
In evolution, understood as diversification, as the process of life, mutual aid among organisms has been questioned, refuted, and minimized. However, from the macro-organisms cooperation presented by Kropotkin to the symbiosis concept created by Lyn Margulis, the idea of inter-species mutual Aid for coevolution has become extremely relevant in contemporary proposals.
Glenn Albrecht, in contrast to the Anthropocene concept, proposed the Symbiocene, an age of inter-species cooperation for co-evolution and sustainability. Some artists have also explored the idea of communicating with other living beings or questioned through their creative processes the kind of relations we can weave.
In the Institute for Inconspicuous Languages: Reading Lips work, the artist explores an 18-year scientific experiment by Mi Yu in which through light the scientist teaches a tree three codes for "less", "more", and "stop", regarding the leaves absorbing the water.
In a broader conception of life, in queer forms of life, where living organisms are not only those considered up to know and neither categorizable nor "taxonimizable", an inter-living entities cooperation can be created, a collaboration that includes our digital/bio-technologies as living organisms or media to enable life.
Maldonado, C. Periódico Desde Abajo (16.08.2021) ¿Qué es el organicismo? [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE8NRHEPAe0
Varela, F. (2001) La belleza del pensar. Interview. [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-VydyPdhhg
Albrecht, Glenn A. (2011) Symbiocene. http://healthearth.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/symbiocene.html
Barad, K. (2012). What Is the Measure of Nothingness? Infinity, Virtuality, Justice. dOCUMENTA (13). documenta und Museum Fridericianum Veranstaltungs-GmbH.
Haraway, D. (1991) Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Routledge
Haraway, D. (2019) Seguir con el problema. Generar parentesco en el Chthuluceno. Ed. Consonni.
Maldonado, C. (2021). Estética y complejidad: elementos para un estado crítico del arte. Suratómica.
Margulis, L. (1990). «Words as Battle Cries: Symbiogenesis and the New Field of Endocytobiology». BioScience 40 (9): 673. ISSN 0006-3568. doi:10.2307/1311435.
Margulis, L. (1999). Symbiotic Planet: A New Look At Evolution. Basic Books
Suratomica Network and Enjambre Interzone. (2021) Other Politics of the Living. XII Creation - Art and Science Encounter. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX-Z3XvnTgs
Lee, K. et. al. (2021) Entanglement between superconducting qubits and a tardigrade. arXiv:2112.07978v2 [quant-ph] https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2112.07978
Labor (2019) - Paul Vanouse
Trans*Plant (2016) - Quimera Rosa
Confronting Vegetal Otherness: Phytoteratology (2016) - Špela Petrič
Institute for Inconspicuous Languages: Reading Lips (2018) - Špela Petrič