“Symbiosis and the fallacy of a naturefree existence” presented by Zurr


Presentation Title:

  • Symbiosis and the fallacy of a naturefree existence




  • In times of ecological emergency, solutionist fantasies of nature-free human existence promise salvation and repair. The innovative paradigm offers “products” such as lab-grown (animal free) meat and artificial automated surrogates to replace reproductive biological bodies.

    These so-called innovations require special artificial environments to host, nurture and culturally articulate this “new” nature-free, decontextualized and colonised life. The entanglement of life with its surrogate environment/apparatus, echoing human relationships with living and semi-living agents; when control and care is employed to counter resistance.

    Artists, scientists, designers and engineers all play their part in this transformation and its effects on human relations with life and the environment. This creates a range of ontological conundrums and fantastical expectations as to what technology can provide and to whom. Using examples of artistic research that deal with emerging technologies and new knowledge, I will narrate artists’ symbiotic and parasitic relationships with such post nature.

    The talk is framed by the imminent closure of SymbioticA, the first artistic research laboratory based in a life sciences department. SymbioticA began as a symbiotic act, embodied in an academic institution, to enable critical, yet mutualistic, relations among artists and scientists. Many of SymbioticA’s alumni have continued to establish their own laboratories and artistic practice in other academic institutions around the world, leading to the growth of the field of Biological Arts.

    SymbioticA is now being treated as a parasite by a changed host body. Is this a ‘natural’ survivalist rejection against a foreign body or can we detect symptoms of an autoimmune disorder?