The interest of this artistic research project lies in non-linguistic microbial communication. The project investigates the language of microbes, known scientifically as “quorum sensing”. Such field of investigation was initiated more than thirty years ago and it is still to be fully unraveled. According to the population density, microbes can alter their behavior using an intercellular signaling molecular process. Quorum sensing effectively allows microbes to be aware of each other presence, to “count” themselves and behave as a multicellular group at high cell number. If we, humans, aspire to truly experience and thus better understand inter-organismic communication, there is an urge to recognize microbial life-forms as actors that co-shape our bodies (and thus our physical and mental constitution). This may allow us to better take care of both the micro- and macrocosm, and thus ultimately to better take care of ourselves. How can we develop critical artistic research tools that allow us to deepen our understanding of non-linguistic organisms? Could we expand our sensual, haptic, physical, visual and imaginary language to explore our relation to these living organisms and therefor deepen and broaden our understanding of being in the world? How can an imaginary world facilitate a radically new view on biological rules, hierarchies, interactions, dimensions and scales?

Building on questioning the metaphor of living species’ skins as a surfaces, membranes or interfaces linked to the discovery of the Microbiome, we will re-imagine skins as a fictional layer of communication, as multi-beings landscapes. Experiencing bodies as walking biotopes opens up a realm of completely new perspectives and possibilities, as part of human culture. We will study the ‘social network’ of ecosystems by striving for learning microbial languages and their collective behaviors. What if we had wondrous artifacts that could act as mediators to get a better understanding of “the other”? New societal landscapes could evolve related to ethical issues. Artifacts allow us to broaden our view, to start talking to them and to envision further forms of interaction. We will stress the need of a change in the long-lasting belief that microbes are asocial creatures that do not affect neither us nor our surrounding environment.

As part of this project, wondrous artifacts will be developed and utilized as imaginary tools; by doing this, we aim to sharpen and awaken the explorer’s senses, to create awareness and encourage the development of private knowledge about the body. We aim to activate the use of the biggest nonverbal communication platform between humans, as a method for thinking critically and imagining alternative futures. Once created, these multi-beings landscapes will allow the viewer to experience recently acquired scientific knowledge and offer the opportunity to approach and potentially understand their body from a new standpoint. The project seeks to address human exceptionalism and expand the current knowledge about microbial communication by developing new artistic, chemical and biological tools. The invisible microcosm will become tangible and imaginable, and thus, available to a wider audience.

The project runs from autumn 2017 until spring 2020.


What would a microbe say? is supported by