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Indomitable mechanisms: Bacteria as wet machines.

Activity: Talk/lecture or presentationPresentation

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Abstract: In their relative simplicity, bacteria enact wet machines with more clarity than other organisms. Gene editing has turned them into a preexisting mechanism that can be customized. This conceptualization cannot be dissociated from considerations of power and anthropocentrism. This analysis proposes that a mechanistic understanding of these wet machines is twofold. First, as part of the exploitation of zoé–as understood by Braidotti–and the commercialization of all living matter. Second, as a recognition of a more comprehensive definition of the living in the continuum nature-culture that might include other mechanical and electronic forms of self-organization, leading to a post-dualistic understanding of matter and meaning.

I depart from examples of material thinking through art and science, such as the work of Gilberto Esparza, Christina Agapakis, Interspecifics and our experiments with MFCs. Complexity is favored over the simplification of the living, considering that bacteria have so far proven unpredictable, uncontrollable, and impossible to completely model as machines. Bacteria are represented instead as agents, as the minimal expression of life where the tensions of exploitation and subjectivity take place, and therefore the ground for environmental activism is transformed into renewed conceptual creativity.

Research Unit / Event Journal/Book Series


Title‘Electronic Visualisation & the Arts’ (EVA)
Abbreviated titleEVA
LocationAalborg University
Degree of recognitionInternational event