Lauren RUIZ. Plastic Lifewords: At the Intersection of
Human and Nonhuman Labor

I am a research-based multimedia artist whose work addresses ecological contamination and the status of human life in the contexts of post- and transhumanism. My work explores the ramifications of plastic pollution, its effects on human biology, and how plastic waste modifies traditional notions of evolution and survival. In addressing these topics, my research and artistic practice thematizes the lifecycle and digestive capacities of wax worms. These insects, commonly bred to feed domestic reptiles, can digest certain types of synthetic compounds and pollutants. Recently biologists have looked to this species as offering a possible solution to the overwhelming amount of plastic pollution plaguing the planet. As an interrogation of nonhuman labor and its contribution to species survival, I have created a series of digital works that explore the ethics of mobilizing animal labor to redress anthropogenic climate change. The works call attention to the interrelation of insect and human lifeworlds, and explore how unsustainable environmental practices have forced the scientific exploration of insect abilities as mechanism through which to address geologic destruction. My presentation will unpack the histories of insect, plant, and animal labor, and consider how these legacies inform contemporary biopolitical and experiential structures in the ecological crisis.

Lauren Ruiz is a research-based artist confronting the effects of plastic pollution and the role of genetics in the evolutionary status of human life through interactive installations, sculpture and digital media. She has participated in interdisciplinary residencies, exhibition opportunities, and conference talks nationally and internationally. She was a resident artist of Guerilla Science and the National Science Foundation’s Artist-Scientist Residency, which culminated in an interactive installation in Figment NYC on Governors Island NY, in June 2018. She presented an artist talk at the Future (Im)Perfect Conference hosted by the Comparative Literature Department at UC Berkeley in October 2018. Lauren has received the Maurice M. and Miriam H. Goldberger Fellowship for excellence in Graduate practice in Studio Art as well as a grant from the Professional Development Awards Program at Stony Brook University. She currently lives and works on Long Island, NY where she teaches undergraduate studio art courses at Stony Brook University.


Martina HUYNH. Living Infrastructure

Mycorrhizal networks are mutually beneficial symbioses between plant roots and certain types of fungi – forming a complex communication infrastructure for the exchange of both information and nutrients. Living Infrastructure proposes to merge our electricity and internet infrastructure underground with existing mycorrhizal networks to form a new symbiosis – to turn our inanimate cable infrastructure into a technically-augmented living organism that can grow, evolve and maintain itself – a collaboration between man, technology and already smart and autonomous natural systems like with fungi. Instead of digging out soil and disturbing existing organic networks to put our own cables in: Can we work together instead and make use of the landscape’s potential?Based on existing scientific research and personal fungi-tronic experiments, Living Infrastructure is a semi-speculative vision that strongly empathises the human role today in facilitating interspecies collaborations. By offering first steps, this project urges us to work towards alternative technologies that are fit for an era after and past the human-centric mindset that helped shape the anthropocene. Instead of keeping ourselves busy with old modernist utopias like the ‘smart city’, it is time to envision different modalities of living together with our surrounding ecologies.

Martina Huynh is a Swiss design researcher and interaction designer, based in the Netherland. She graduated cum laude from the Design Academy Eindhoven – department Man & Media. With a strong conceptual focus, Huynh playfully translates research on societal trends into tangible experiences, often in form of interactive installations and video essays. She conducts practical design research on the social and political implications of emerging technology and has a lasting interest in the fields of digital humanities and both alternative ecologies & economies. Currently she is investigating the improved contextualization of news stories via experimental news interfaces, and does so in collaboration with social designer Jonas Althaus and with support from art museum Z33 (BE).Previous talk on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lt-VpNJtMPQ&t=1s


Richard PETTIFER. Climate Change vs. Hans, the Opera Robot: Negotiating Non-Human Agency

After years working on the subject of ecological crisis in theatre, in 2018 I was selected to participate in a European Commission forum about Big Data at the Joint Research Centre, Italy. Out of this situation, I proposed to develop in collaboration with EU experts the ‘opera robot’ Hans: a singer more human than human, capable of endless renditions, repetitions, and self-harmonisation. On the surface, the project has little relation to ecological crisis, yet parallels exist: creating robots is an ideological practice, a political narrative much like climate change and with similarly devastating real-world ramifications. From the situation, I want to discuss new definitions of environment made possible by movement away from anthropocentrism and into decentred or multi-nodal subjectivity. Such decentralisation offers us a set of romantically attractive possibilities, forcing what Donna Haraway calls “becom(ing) with each other”. But within a situation where escapism is the dominant response to increasingly crisis-prone conditions, at what point does a nominal granting of agency to other entities amount to a further shedding of the obligations of human governance? Is there a middle ground, which only the robot – acting as mediator between the material and human worlds – can produce? What would it really mean to acknowledge non-human agency?

Richard Pettifer is a director, critic and scholar based in Berlin. He is part of the collective Atelierhaus Australiasche Botschaft OST, which is housed in the former Australian Embassy in East Berlin. He writes criticism on his critical writing platform Theaterstück, as well as for publications such as Art Territory (LAT), Samizdat (ROM), Sirp (EST) and occasionally in academia. His work often concerns climate change and art activism, placing attention on our complicity with the global system through distancing norms and mechanisms in culture. www.theaterstuck.blogspot.de  www.richardpettifer.blogspot.de


Haakon Haraldsen ROEN, Vako VARANKIAN. Gathering of The Hive: Investigating the clustering behaviour of honeybees through art and swarm robotics

In Gathering of the Hive, the societal and ecological implications, as well as technological possibilities of swarm robotics is explored through the lense of Artificial Life. These matters are examined through an algorithm inspired by the clustering behaviour of young honeybees applied to a small ‘swarm’ of thymio robots interacting in a simulated, changing environment. These clusters, most common when weather conditions are sub-optimal, are formed through mutual, collaborative, interactive behaviour within groups of bees. A combination of factors play into the movement of the individual bee, but gives a collective result in tightly formed clusters around areas with ideal conditions for the group as a whole. This behavioural pattern is taken as a site of investigation into how these forms of emergent, social mechanisms observed in nature can be interpreted, adapted and illuminated with strategies at the intersection of art and IT. What possibilities and challenges lies in adapting strategies from this type of collaboratively based algorithmic behaviour into human-made technology, and how does this fit into a wider ecological context, faced with changing realities such as increasing mass death of insects?

Haakon Haraldsen Roen is a part of the research team at Living Technology Lab at Oslo Metropolitan University. He has a background in fine art and art dissemination, and is finishing up his MA of Aesthetics: Art in Society in the spring of 2019.

Vako Varankian is studying electronics and IT at Oslo Metropolitan University, with a specialisation in automation and robotics. While being a student he worked as a research assistant at the university he was studying in, where he programmed robots to do certain tasks applicable to promotion, research and art, in addition to demonstrating and public speaking about ongoing research project, and other active research groups of the university.