Nonhuman Subjectivities

The Other Selves. On the Phenomenon of the Microbiome

François-Joseph Lapointe, Saša Spačal with Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik , Tarsh Bates , Joana Ricou

Performance - 1000 Handshakes: 3 February, 7-10PM during the opening of transmediale, House of World Cultures (more information)
Opening of the exhibition: 26 February, 2016, 8PM
Artists' Talk: 28 February, 2016, 3PM
Berlin Science Hack Day Stammtisch: 23 March, 7PM
(more information)
Scientist and artist talk with PD Dr. Annette Moter and Tarsh Bates: 23 April, 2016, 6PM (more information)
Finissage with talk by Felix Navarrete: 30 April, 2016, 3-6PM

Exhibition runs: 27 February – 30 April, 2016, Fri-Sun 2-6PM and by appointment. (29 April open until 9PM)




left: François-Joseph Lapointe, Microbiome selfie, 2014, center & right: Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj, Anil Podgornik Mycophone Unison, Responsive installation: electronics, sound, and biological material, 2013; Petri dish, detail of installation 2013

Art Laboratory Berlin is pleased to present the new series Nonhuman Subjectivities. Based on current philosophical theories of the object and a critique of anthropocentrism, our attention is focused on non-human actors.

The exhibition, the first of our new exhibition series Nonhuman Subjectivities, presents various artistic reflections on the complex microbial environment found on and within the human body. Scientists say that bacterial cells are as numerous as human cells in our body. The phenomenon of the microbiome also brings forth many complex questions about human identity and our relation to our multiple selves.

François-Joseph Lapointe connects his biological research with performance art. His latest works of art deal with the microbiome in our daily lives and physical connections to others. Lapointe sequences his microbiome to produce metagenomic self-portraits, Microbiome Selfies, which illustrate the metamorphosis of his bacterial self.

The exhibition features new works from his performance in 1000 Handshakes which was realised on 3 February, 2016, the opening night of transmediale. During the evening Lapointe shook 1001 hands at the Berlin House of World Cultures. Every 50 or so handshakes, samples were collected from his palms for DNA analysis of the microbiome. The results demonstrate how the contact with others shapes our microbiome and changes us.

To create his artistic works Lapointe has used a next generation sequencing platform and network visualisation software developed for bioinformatics. In contrast to the analog microscopic analysis of previous generations, Lapointe is working here with a digital DNA record. Both the video work and the six prints constitute the final step of the analysis: the network analysis, It is noteworthy that Lapointe, in his artistic aesthetic production, deletes the systemic context (numbers, data). The pictures show a microbial profile during the interaction with the microbiomes of others. It is fascinating to think back to the essential gesture of his performance: the handshake, a basic and ancient act of networking.

Saša
Spačal together with Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik are interested in the contrast between the oneness of the human body as biological entity and the multiplicity of the human microbiome. In their installation Mycophone_unison the artist-scientist-designer collective has developed a sound map of intra-action between their microbiomes and the recipient. By leaving a fingerprint the viewer sends a signal to the map that processes it through the central 'celestial plate' to the microbiomes. The polymodal sonification stresses the multiplicities of the makers.

The three petri dishes on the 'celestial plate' are cultured with samples from the work's three creators. These cultures, in their multiplicity and complexity, defy any monolithic or unitary definition of being. But in their ever-changing resistance to an electrical current, these cultures microbiomes create, together, a unison of tone with the participatory aid of visitors.


    
Left: Tarsh Bates working in the science lab for artistic production, School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of Western Australia, 2015
Right: Joana Ricou, Other landscape no. 1, microbiome of the artist and environment, C-print, 89 × 140 cm, 2014

Joana Ricou's works blur the fundamental boundary between organism and environment, taking the shape of photographs of microbial paintings or performance. Ricou collected samples of her own microbiome and that of her environment and cultured these in the lab to visualise them. Out of this two portraits emerged: Other-self Portrait, a composite of cultures derived from her body, and Non-self Portrait, a composite of environmental cultures. Ricou, an émigré, began this work questioning whether her new environment was changing her microbiome, and if so, asking what is the border between self and 'non-self'.

Her series Other Selves is a series of microbiome portraits that Ricou has carried out over the last few years, in which she has cultured samples from the belly buttons of over 400 people, resulting in an amazingly diverse range of bacteria, fungi and archaea. These portraits, in turn, challenge our traditional view of the self as solitary, or solely human.

Tarsh Bates artistically explores what it means to be human when we recognise our bodies as composed of over one trillion cells, of which only around half are human. This new work Surface dynamics of adhesion, created here in Berlin, resembles a model of flocked wallpaper. Sealed in a series of acrylic boxes in agar based on the blood of the artist, living Candida parapsilosis grows in a pattern based on the first drawing of its relative, Candida albicans, by Charles Philippe Robin in 1853. It was also the Victorian era when awareness of hygiene was rapidly increasing. This complex installation includes furniture from that time and invites visitors to sit down and read more about Tarsh Bates and her artistic research on Candida.

Her video work Ereignis, Gelassenheit und Lichtung: A love story shows, in time-lapse video, Candida albicans developing in the laboratory, whilst mixing with serum collected from the artist.

Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz (curators)

More on the Nonhuman Subjectivities series


Original press release (10-2-2016) as .pdf

Press/exhibition text as .pdf

berlinartlink.com, publishes on 16 April 2016 von Alice Bardos BODY // Nonhuman Subjectivities: Humans Can Learn from the Political Make-Up of Our Bacteria

labiotech.eu, published on 5 March, 2016 by Claire Braun, BioArt : What is our True Relationship with the Human Microbiome?


art-in-berlin-de, published 3 March, 2016 by Inge Pett, Die Kunst des Händeschüttelns. Eine neue Ausstellung bei Art Laboratory Berlin

The Daily Mail, published 2 March, 2016 by Abigail Beall, The beauty in your BELLY BUTTON: Artist uses fluff and bacteria from navels to create works of art that are 'unique as fingerprints'

Delo, published 27 February, 2016 by Mojca Kumerdej, Poleti bi lahko brstela v triindvajsetih identitetah

gizmodo.com published 26 February, 2016 by Jennifer Ouellette, Your Belly Button Lint Makes a Beautiful Portrait as Unique as Your Fingerprint

iflscience! published 25. February, 2016 by Tom Hale, Petri Dish Portraits Of The Belly Button's Bacteria

The Guardian, published 24 February, 2016, Navel gazing: portraits of the bacteria in our belly buttons – in pictures

RTE (Radio Television Ireland), published on 12 February, 2016 by Luke Clancy, Cultural File: Hacking a Microbiome
as .mp3 (from 2'22")


BZ- Berlin, Published on 3 February, 2016 by Philipp Pohl, Haus der Kulturen der Welt: Künstler will 1000 hände schütteln

With the generous support of:



Cooperation partners:


Media partner:


Made possible in part by a generous gift from Michael Schröder.

 

Mycophone_unison from Saša Spacal on Vimeo.





Saša
Spačal with Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik Mycophone_unison, Responsive installation: electronics, sound, and biological material, 2013, Photographs copyright by Tim Deussen



Saša Spačal with Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik Mycophone_unison, Responsive installation: electronics, sound, and biological material, 2013; Petri dish, detail of installation 2013, Photographs copyright by Tim Deussen

Saša Spačal with Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik Mycophone_unison, Responsive installation: electronics, sound, and biological material, 2013; Petri dish, detail of installation 2013, Photographs copyright by Tim Deussen

Foreground: Saša Spačal with Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik Mycophone_unison, Responsive installation: electronics, sound, and biological material, 2013; background: François-Joseph Lapointe, Microbiome selfie, 2016, Photographs copyright by Tim Deussen


François-Joseph Lapointe, Microbiome selfie, 2016, Photographs copyright by Tim Deussen


François-Joseph Lapointe, Left: Microbiome selfie, 2014; center: Microbiome selfie, 2016, animation; right: 1000 Handshakes, 2016, documentation of performance at transmediale 2016, Photographs copyright by Tim Deussen

Left Tarsh Bates, Surface dynamics of adhesion, 2015-16, installation with live Candida Parapsilosis; right: Joana Ricou, The Other Selves, 2015, video, Photographs copyright by Tim Deussen

Tarsh Bates, Surface dynamics of adhesion, 2015-16, installation with live Candida Parapsilosis; right: Ereignis, Gelassenheit und Lichtung: A love story, 2015, video, Photographs copyright by Tim Deussen

Tarsh Bates, Surface dynamics of adhesion, 2015-16, installation with live Candida Parapsilosis (detail), Photographs copyright by Tim Deussen


Special thanks to: