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Cultivating More-than-Human Lifeworlds: Laudatio on Indigenous Fermentation, Smell and Metabolic Power Grids

Published in O. T. Leino (Ed.), ISEA2016 Hong Kong CULTURAL R>EVOLUTION, (pp. 360–364) for 22nd International Symposium on Electronic Art, May 16-22, 2016 at City University, School of Creative Media


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The article reviews the aesthetic implications of fermentation processes in current electronic art. Exploring the intersection of electrons and enzymes from the point of view of bacterial cultures, ethical questions are raised rather than answered. Based on microbiome research, more conscious ways of relating to and learning from bacterial alliances are proposed. When human aesthetic articulations like sound or visual art rely on bacteria power, it destabilises the borders of species and can appear as an assemblage of animality. Humans are limited (and always will be) in knowing and sensing the lifeworld of microbiota despite their increasing dependency on bacteria for micro-metabolic power grids for example. The article suggests looking beyond mere utility and aesthetics for considering and creatively adopting the successful continuum of bacterial working relationships into human organisations. Human governance has a lot to learn from the coevolutionary forces of social coalescence, cultural manipulation and adversarial companionship.

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Keywords: Lactic acid bacteria, performativity, Chthulucene, Homo Bacteriens, panarchy.