Slime mold, bacterial cellulose, scuba fabric, bioplastic.
Working with MIT Media Lab's Space Exploration Initiative, this performance seeks to rethink imaginaries of multispecies survivance in space exploration via the lens of symbiosis. Based on a reformulation of the “first contact”, the narrative of the performance shifts perspectives to a microbial scale. In contrast to Hollywood portrayals of alien first contact, here first contact happens at a scale imperceptible to the unaided eye.
The narrative is inspired by biologist Lynn Margulis' endosymbiotic theory of species evolution through a process which Donna Haraway describes as “critters eating critters and getting indigestion.” The flyer dons an inoculated flight suit to collide with a bacteria cellulose inflatable in microgravity and proceed to "become one" by inhabiting the inflatable.
The inflatable is made with bacterial cellulose produced via fermentation, which embodies a practice of co-living and building with communities of humans and more-than-humans. This new space age has given rise to free market frontierism in space, with little regard to the ongoing privatization, extraction, and destruction it has enacted here on earth. The performance is an attempt to import the language of kinship into narratives of the interplanetary ecologies we might one day become part of.
I. A fermented bacteria cellulose sac.
Fermenting kombucha produces a layer of bacteria cellulose, also called SCOBY or mother. The SCOBY is a latent life form, it can be dried, distributed or stored like seeds. When it is re-immersed into its preferred environment (water, sugar, tea) it will awaken and start reproducing again. The SCOBY is a living archive.
What can we do with this idea of latency and heritage in our space faring futures?
II. A biodesigned and inoculated flight suit
The scuba fabric of the flight suit is inoculated with slime mold. Slime molds (Physarum polycephalum) are single-celled organisms that, in times of food scarcity, congregate into a larger whole to make collective decisions.
What does collective intelligence look like in space?
BEHIND THE SCENES
SEI 2020 Cohort
Images courtesy of Steve Boxall, ZERO-G
This project is funded by the Council for the Arts at MIT.