This spring I had the pleasure of presenting some of my work with living systems at International Symposium of Electronic Arts. This panel included Carlos Castellanos, Mariana Perez Bobadilla/Maro Pebo and myself and was titled Cosmologies of Care: Epistemological and Ontological repositioning of Symbiotic Relationships in Art and Living Systems. Our talk offered examples of artist researchers working at the intersection of art/sci collaboration and considered what this form of inquiry may offer. The panel abstract states:
Despite the often wide phenomenological and ontological divides between humans and non-humans (or indeed because of them), artists have experimented with a myriad of methods of “collaboration” with myriad different species. This panel will explore the tricky edges of collaboration, asking how art-making can be a way of understanding trans/inter/cross-species relationships; or as environmental biologist Robin Wall Kimmerer suggests, how can we learn from instead of learning about the more-than-human world? How do we understand the aims, desires and perceptual landscape of the non-human? We will discuss these questions as well as unpack terms such as symbiosis, parasitism, commensalism and mutualism. In doing so we hope to elucidate how the arts can contribute to an epistemological and ontological decentering, in order to open up possibilities for heretofore unconsidered collaborative relations.
Having been on review panels for ISEA myself in the past, I find that review comments the most up to date considerations in this rapidly emarging field. I’m including the two evaluation comments on this panel below so that my students can look at what researchers in these kinds of fields are currently considering. Please note that reviewers are not named in feedback. Please feel free to follow up on the reviewers comments.
———————– REVIEW 1 ———————
“I found this a highly intriguing proposal that addressed some relevant points related to the “symbiosis” theme of this year’s ISEA events. The notion of collaborating across and with other species is a fascinating one.
Several of the keywords could have been developed further however, such as the tantalising reference to “care” in the title. Subsequent to that there is little discussion of the ethics and/or theory of care. Writers that could be relevant in this regard might include Joan Tronto, Carol Gilligan, and Timothy Morton. Similarly a lot could be opened up further regarding the “posthuman” via Rosi Braidotti, Kate Soper, Karen Barad and many others. And the essay/chapter “Indigeneity, Posthumanism and Nomad Thought: Transforming Colonial Ecologies” by Simone Bignall and Daryle Rigney is an excellent text regarding shortcomings and potentialities of Posthumanism when read via an indigenous lens.
I am very interested in this panel as it emerges from a practice-based (art) and cross-disciplinary (art-science) collaborative perspective and it seems to have much potential as an intriguing and relevant contribution to the ISEA forum. I was happy to see the imagery included in the proposal, again grounding these ideas in practice.
The notion of an “ecological AI” is another exciting discussion and I enjoyed reading the following definition of such an initiative: “An AI that does not attempt to control or “solve” nature but instead enter into continual adaptive conversation – that is a mutual
construction, a symbiosis of meaning – resulting in a new kind of hybrid ecosystem. One with unstructured flows of information; where organic and environmental processes are allowed to flow and influence computational ones.”
It seems that this is a crucial point historically in how to integrate thoughtful applications of AI technologies in hybridised ways to create better outcomes.
———————– REVIEW 2 ———————
TITLE: Cosmologies of Care: Epistemological and Ontological Repositioning of Symbiotic Relationships in Art and Living Systems
AUTHORS: Mariana Perez Bobadilla, Elizabeth Demaray and Carlos Castellanos
———– Overall evaluation (Papers, panels) ———–
SCORE: 3 (strong accept)
This presentation proposal poses important questions involving interspecies relationships, specifically as they relate to artists working with non-human species. The author challenges the notion that those relationships are collaborations, using intent as a key factor in determining a conclusion. The author’s thoughtful inquiry into concepts that include symbiosis, mutualism, parasitism, and commensalism are productive in exploring the landscape of artwork produced by way of trans-species entwinements. Cybernetic conversations between species and the role of AI systems in such endeavors is also a topic that has exploded in recent years. It is one that is most fitting for the theme of ISEA 2023.