Day 1, Stream 3


Oron Catts: SymbioticA, University of Western Australia


Tarsh Bates: SymbioticA, University of Western Australia

Joanna Hoffman-Dietrich: University of Arts, Poznan, Poland

Morten Søndergaard: Aalborg University, Denmark

Rebecca Cunningham: Australia

George Poonkhin Khut: Australia

James Brown: Australia



Tarsh Bates  Candida as companion species: exploring the performativity of interspecies care

Insects, fungi and bacteria are by far the most prevalent species humans encounter. These organisms are easy to ignore, easy to look back at without reciprocity. If we owe responsibility to ‘higher’ animals, those more similar to humans, the furry, the dangerously exotic, don’t we also owe responsibility to all non-humans? Are we drawing another arbitrary line? ‘The Animal’ is not an inclusive term: very little theorising refers to non-humans other than to ‘higher’ animals. Where are plants and fungi in the rhizomes of Deleuze and Guattari? How do Irigaray’s lips speak without whispering about skin bacteria? Are vaginal yeasts not companion species?
This paper discusses the aesthetics of care experienced between humans and ‘unseen’ non-humans, that is, the embodied experiences constituted by sustained proximity and care. Most human encounters with non-humans are domestic and mundane and this paper introduces my attempts to explore the complexities and contradictions of these experiences through gentle and lingering meetings rather than abrupt and spectacular confrontations. These attempts are conceived through the lens of alterity, a phenomenological mode of negotiating relationships between Self and Other, and embodied in a series of artistic encounters. The radical difference of the organisms, specifically honey bees and Candida albicans, assists in clarifying and making conscious human negotiations with alterity, and making visible the performative nature of care. I also endeavour to respect them as adults of other species, to understand these organisms “as other, in [their] otherness, and to let that otherness be.


Joanna Hoffman-Dietrich  Hidden Topology of Being – Life and Space

The phenomenon of life has many definitions. Today it is usually identified with the processes of preserving and transferring information/knowledge. However life can be also interpreted, paraphrasing S.Semotiuk’s words, as the way in which space exists, and vice versa; space might be treated as the way in which life exists. This definition implies the comprehension of “an individual existence” as an integral fragment of its micro & macro environment as well as of the time-space continuum. Thus it locates its parameters at heart of the rich history of the human culture, grounded on the diversity and changes in the spatiotemporal apprehension of our reality.
I would like to ground my reflection on the series of artworks inspired by the structure and dynamics of protein molecules. My interest in this organic compound started already during the art&science residency at the KHOJ/ International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in New Delhi in 2007 (followed by the residency at CEMA/National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore and other collaborations). This “basic brick of life” contains lots of secrets which we still cannot fully understand; from tetrahedron shape of covalent bonds characteristic for the organic matter (and reminding us about Pythagorean roots of the geometrisation of the Western Knowledge) till the folding topology of protein chains resembling “Calabi-Yau manifolds”( geometrical forms in which, according to the superstring theory, successive dimensions “curled up” on a subatomic scale). In the culture, as McLuhan asserted, the medium is the message, in nature the structure is the message. However we need various media and methods to discover it.
In my talk I would like to reflex on how science, humanities and cultural imageries influence each other in shaping our understanding and knowledge and how technology modulates these relations.


Morten Søndergaard  Colliding Realities. ACOUSTICAL ACCIDENTS AND CLOUDED TEXTS in Stelarc’s Internet Ear

When the Ethics Council held its annual meeting at the Utzon Center in Aalborg in October 2010, none of the participants at the meeting realized that a biotech ear was listening in.
This was the result of coincidences and an acoustical accident: Someone turned on the speaker system by mistake in the exhibition spaces below the beautiful conference hall overlooking the fiord in Aalborg. In the exhibition space was located an artwork by the Australian artist Stelarc, Internet Ear, which was part of the exhibition Biotopia – Art in the Wet Zone.
Thus Stelarc’s Internet Ear, suddenly and unwittingly, is able to ‘hear’ and ‘broadcast’ what was said at the Ethical Council meeting. The transmission is fed back to the ear as ‘speech-noise’ – and broadcasted once again as a transmission inside a transmission, etc., creating a feed-back loop of fragmented announcements from a debate on ethics.

The Internet Ear by Stelarc addresses the situation where data and communications in a distributed public are ‘tagged’ in a context and no ‘real’ cultural conversation is taking place outside that distributed public space. In this paper, I will take a closer look at how the aesthetics of Internet Ear is being reloaded / remixed and argue that this event of ‘electronic ear-dropping’ is created by an emergent distributed public in a ‘cloud’ of accessible data. The acoustical accident of the Internet Ear, then, is addressing the issue of converging and diverging realities in a cloud culture – and point at the situation where cultural patterns as we know them are renegotiated online.


Rebecca Cunningham  DIY DNA Visualization – a preliminary method

This paper offers a brief history to bio- practice. A preliminary DIY method undertaken by the author will be followed by a discussion of the particular practical, technical and legal implications for the large scale collecting and imaging human DNA . The paper concludes with areas of future research and further questions. The findings presented are the result of research from the work “ONE: a durational performance by Rebecca Cunningham and all of you”

ONE is a performance that may take
ONE lifetime
ONE person
sitting opposite ONE person
there is ONE exchange
ONE sample of DNA is collected
if desired ONE sample of DNA is exchanged
this will happen ONE million times
until ONE million samples have been collected
once ONE million samples from
ONE million people has been collected
each DNA sample will be imaged. From ONE million DNA images
ONE will be made, a composite of all
becoming ONE

This century, will we genetically modify food, pets, our children, ourselves? Information and sharing information is reaching immense speeds and saturation, but what happens to that grey area between public and private? When are our bodies our own, and when are we the property of the global social corpus? Living in times where we rarely put ourselves in situations where we need to trust each other, and in most cases given more reason to distrust, will you trust me with your most intimate material? Your DNA?

First presented at the Brisbane Festival, Under the Radar 2011, ONE has been to Sydney, LA, New York, USA & now in the UK. In 2012 ONE was in residence at The Queensland State Library: The Edge. Recently, the paper “DIY DNA Visualization” derived from research pertaining to this project was presented at CSIRO SPECTRA Conference on art and Science.


George Poonkhin Khut & James Brown  Theta Lab

ThetaLab is a new project by George Poonkhin Khut and James Brown exploring alternate subjectivities facilitated by neurofeedback interactions, presented as part of ISEA2013. The project aims to develop and document new forms and contexts for creative practice that use the technologies of neurofeedback to explore alternate modes of attention and interaction as a focus for artistic enquiry. Electronic soundscapes controlled by increases in Alpha, and then Theta brainwave activity are used to assist volunteers to sense, increase and then sustain – these brainwave patterns to produce a state of heightened hypnogogic reverie, at the threshold of sleep, in sessions lasting between 45 to 90 minutes at a time. Recollections and reflections on the experience of ‘being inside’ the work, and its aftereffects, recorded with participants after their interaction – by way of journal entries, sketches and spoken narratives – provide the basis for an exhibition that invites visitors to consider the possibility of an aesthetics of engagement, and cognitive orientation.

In contrast to other work in the area of creative brain-computer interaction that have focussed for the most part on concert-performance – ThetaLab’s emphasis is on facilitating, documenting and then reflecting on alternate modes of attention and interaction – and the range of insights and subjectivities these specialised forms of cognitive orientation can support: how does it feel to engage with oneself and the artworks (sound design) under these unusual conditions? How might this experience colour subsequent experience of daily life activities and meditative processes?

This presentation will present an introduction to the creative neurofeedback methods used in this project, including a discussion of caveats regarding the reliability of EEG data in non-clinical settings, the compositional strategies required for this type of interaction, and preliminary interview materials gathered from volunteer neurofeedback subjects as part of ISEA2013.