We begin a stroll on a sunny day before a flowering meadow in which insects buzz and butterflies flutter, and we make a bubble around each of the animals living in the meadow. The bubble represents each animal’s environment and contains all the features accessible to the subject. As soon as we enter into one such bubble, the previous surroundings of the subject are completely reconfigured. Many qualities of the colourful meadow vanish completely, others lose their coherence with one another, and new connections are created A new world arises in each bubble.
(Jakob von Uexküll, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: with A Theory of Meaning)
In 1930s Jakob von Uexküll, the pioneer in such fields as biosemiotics, zoosemiotics and bioacoustics, described the world as a network of connected microspheres which are created by every organism inhabiting the planet. An ongoing, dynamic communication takes place between the spheres - bubbles. Uexküll believed that every organism generates in its natural environment an individual audiosphere, which interacts with others, transforming every time the whole environment - this metaphor has become the point of departure for the project Transnature Is Here.
Artists, musicians, engineers and IT specialists, invited to the project, belong to the generation of digital natives, they are technological autochthons for whom programming and technical tools are the underlying means of expression. Therefore, many of the works are based on designing microspheres which enable the co-existence of nature and technology; biochemical or electromagnetic stimuli generated by living organisms are processed through digital algorithms and, thus, understanding the molecular structures of life is closely related to creative programming. Transnature has been portrayed as suiting the modern definition of life, which interacts on different planes with specialised technology, which in turn no longer is only a set of tools external to the organisms, but is ever more often linked with them, not so much by being their extension as by interfering in their structure.
Jakob von Uexküll wrote that signs and impulses sent between organisms can be deciphered in a far older language than speech - on a prelinguistic and preverbal level. Organisms in an environment gain orientation not only through sensory experiences, but also through functional tones - bio-vibrations which they use to generate specific stimuli necessary to survive. In a way, organisms are instruments which create individual, overlapping audiospheres, from which people can hear only a small number of tones.
The exhibited works fall into the realm of the so-called cyber-ecology. Sometimes they have an ironic character, causing an intended distance towards the topic of technological interference into nature, while on other occasions treat seriously of the utopian vision of biosemiotic communitas. These extreme approaches pose an opportunity for the audience to arrive at their own definitions of the new reality. Transnature Is Here gives a chance, even if for a while, to step out of your anthropocentric position in the framework of a bio-technological cycle. Every work from the Transnature Is Here series designs a different kind of affective experience. Every one of them requires the audience’s interactive involvement and willingness to establish contact. Likewise, they all avoid explicit wording, maintaining an impression-based sphere, attempting solely to cause the clash between individual bubbles-microspheres of everyone of us and the experiences of transnature that are often not realized and unnamed. Eventually, each work expands human perception, modifying it with the technological interface and allowing it, through media, to function in the cycle with nature.
Agnieszka Jelewska, Michał Krawczak
In an intuitive way, the artists taking part in TransnatureIs Here used sound as a non-verbal channel of communication, which is able to transmit unnamed impulses, drawing attention to a different, more impression-based and somatic meaning of the vibrations generated by various living organisms. And although all presented projects generate specific audiospheres, they approach the topic of transnature in a very diverse manner. In some of them plants become a hardware, which can be hacked, adjusted to new interactive needs, whereas in others we deal with the processes of life simulation, building it from scratch in new technological conditions.
Yet another group expands natural capabilities of organisms, for instance, enabling animals to perform simple mathematical operations or ask philosophical questions, as in Rafał Zapała’s triptych Where Is My Mind !?!!, composed of three complementary installations: I. Hens (count?), II. Fish (ask?), III. Plants (believe?). The author poses questions about the possibilities of trans-species communication and existential changes ensuing from them, employing a subversive strategy of humour and irony.
Leviatan by Przemysław Jasielski, on the other hand, explores the idea of artificial life, a being of unrecognizable ontology, functioning at the intersection of nature and technology. The electronic organism is susceptible to touch - under its influence the organism emits different sounds and vibrations. Leviatan contradicts the privileged position of a human being as regards technology and the utilitarian use of machine. It grants the machine its own subjective identity.
Similar factors have shaped Patryk Lichota’s Cyborganic Plants. In this case, we encounter technologically modified plants whose natural capabilities were expanded by electronic receptors. Hence, it is possible to communicate with them and influence their condition.
On the other hand, Biophotonica by Marek Straszak and Tomasz Gęstwicki is an interactive system imitating the process of photosynthesis and intracellular communication. The network of photoreceptors can be initiated by the activities of the audience; when the organism receives the sufficient number of light stimuli, the process will start - the object will flood the audience with a wave of optical and tactile sensations.
Another type of interaction has been suggested by Szymon Kaliski. His Sympatykotonia is an installation based on the phenomenon of biofeedback - the relation between living plants and their environment. The project relies on the technique of data visualisation - using sensors designed by Kaliski, joint affective states of the audience and plants are recoded by bio-computer algorithms into sets of sounds and images.
The Humanities/Art/Technology Research Center was founded in 2011 at Adam Mickiewicz University on the initiative of Agnieszka Jelewska and Michał Krawczak. HAT Center is a modern, interdisciplinary research unit which deals with transdisciplinary research, cooperates with theoreticians, artists, designers and engineers of various competencies and specializations. As a scientific and artistic hub, the Center carries out research and projects which go beyond conventional, defined research disciplines, on many occasions making art the tool of scientific study and science an artistic experiment.
Agnieszka Jelewska - HAT Center programming director, Assistant Professor in the Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance of Adam Mickiewicz University. She is predominantly occupied with the interrelations of science, culture and technology. The author of books: Craig. Mit sztuki teatru (2007), Sensorium. Eseje o sztuce i technologii (2012), Toponoia. Na styku sztuki i (post)humanistyki (2013).
Michał Krawczak - co-creator of HAT Center, Assistant Professor in the Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance of Adam Mickiewicz University. He is occupied with contemporary interactive art, performance, video, installation, programming and new technologies of performative art. He is the author of books: Artysta musi być obecny and Sztuka Mariny Abramović (2013).