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Science Friction

Living Among Companion Species

An exhibition based on the work in progress begun at L’Espace Virtuel Jeu de Paume in Paris, and which subsequently mutated into Especies del Chthuluceno. Panorama de prácticas para un planeta herido (Species from Chthuluceno. Panorama of practices for a wounded planet; Gabinete Sycorax, 2019)

The central theme of this exhibition, curated by Maria Ptqk, is the realisation that the human species is changing. Not quite the species itself, but rather the idea of humans as a superior species. The aim is to show that all life on Earth is interdependent, involved in complex biological exchanges. Evolution is not simply a tree with humans at its pinnacle, but rather a network; a network of interspecies interchanges. A network comprising collaborations, mutations, exchanges, co-evolution and symbiosis, the etymological meaning of which is “living together”.

This exhibition invites us to explore the frictions that arise from this change. Frictions expressed in the realms of natural sciences, philosophy, humanities and culture. Frictions which imply contact and abrasion, resistance and the ability to imagine other stories about life on earth, other ways of coexisting in the community of life.

The inspirational starting point for the entire project is Donna Haraway’s book Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, and one of the most important elements in the CCCB presentation is the work of Lynn Margulis. Margulis was a major influence for Haraway and one of the most distinguished biologists of the 20th century thanks to her contributions to the idea of endosymbiosis and the role of bacteria in evolution.

Fungi, the vast subterranean biochemical network that is symbiotically connected to all forms of life, takes a leading role in the exhibition. So too does the extraordinary world of plants, responsible for the air that we breathe and the permanent regeneration of the soil, and which form the basis of the food chain. Indigenous cultures have always been aware of this, as reflected in the work of Dimas Paredes, of the Usko Ayar school of painting in the Peruvian Amazon.

Using a completely different language, but with a very similar awareness, Treehugger by Marshmallow is a virtual reality tool that transports the visitor inside a giant sequoia tree as if they were a drop of water travelling through this enormous living structure.

From a science friction point of view, animals are viewed as companion species (to use Haraway’s term), inviting us to question how we humans have coevolved so closely with them: with cows, livestock, chickens, horses, domestic animals and insects like bees (who are themselves involved in a deeply intimate relationship with flowers).

Given that evolution should be better understood as co-evolution, a crucial issue is that of: Time, Origins, Ancestors. How will future life forms co-evolve? Ecosystem of Excess is an exercise in guesswork inspired by the microplastics found in the oceans, which are a threat to biodiversity but also a new habitat for microorganisms. The project poses the question: what would happen if a future lifeform emerged from this primordial plastic soup? Will these microorganisms which feed on plastic be the ancestors of the future?

Finally, the exhibition focuses on the rights of nature and biocentrism, after their official recognition in the Constitution of Ecuador. This represents a landmark feat in political subjectivity, which seeks to go beyond the human domain and Western ways of thinking, thus aligning itself more closely with an indigenous worldview.

The exhibition presents works in different formats and materials: painting, drawing, video installations and virtual reality, as well as textile arts, literature and avant-garde films on origins. The artworks are also diverse in their geographical and historical origins and show that, beyond the current environmental focus, the creators have always passionately explored the creative possibilities of meetings between species.

The journey is structured into five spaces: Symbiogenesis, Companion Species, Networks of Biochemical Consciousness, Origin Stories and, as an epilogue, Natural Contract.

Curator: María Ptqk 

Programme of activities

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