performance 2019

microbial entanglement*

in vitro breakout

How can an imaginary world facilitate a radically new view on biological rules, hierarchies, interactions, dimensions and scales?

In science, in vitro refers to experiments conducted in a controlled artificial environment outside a living organism, such as a petri dish. A living being cannot be reduced to its DNA, its exploration of social relationships requires, among other things, an artistic and philosophical extension of scientific tools.

In this performative work, Bäumel uses the principles of biological co-operation models to transform them metaphorically. Here, she negotiates phenomena such as quorum sensing, a field of research exploring the communication systems between microbes. These co-ordinate activities such as their growth and structure formation as a group via chemical processes. The term quorum comes from the political form of the Roman Senate and describes the process by which a collective must reach a decision through negotiation.

Today's research focuses on the analysis of the competition and co-operation behaviour within heterogeneous bacterial communities, which makes it interesting for the humanities and social sciences in the transfer of scientific knowledge. The increasing understanding of symbiotic systems is proving to be a paradigmatic revolution, in which the traditional view of the individual as a monad or island (insular individuality) is being fundamentally challenged. Currently, the biological concept of species is also experiencing a basic questioning. In both concepts, that of ‘species’ and that of ‘individual’, the borderlines between what it means to be a ‘self’ are becoming increasingly blurred, when everything suggests that the processual exchange and constant interaction between living beings and things determine the essence of all living things.

The performance ‘microbial entanglement’ was a site specific performance developed by Sonja Bäumel in collaboration with the choreographer and performance artist Doris Uhlich and the performance artist and dancer Andrius Mulokas for the exhibition opening ‘Trees of Life – Stories for a Damaged Planet’ at the Frankfurter Kunstverein in Germany on the 9th of October 2019 at 7pm.

(1) Text by Franziska Nori, Director Frankfurter Kunstverein.

*Part of the project ‘ What would a microbe say?’(2017-2020), a co-operation between Sonja Bäumel and Helen Blackwell, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.
Sonja Bäumel
Andrius Mulokas
Doris Uhlich
Robert Schittko
Video documentation: Herzog.film
NSF - National Science Foundation US
Frankfurter Kunstverein
Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Gratitude goes to the support of
Dr.Helen Blackwell and Dr. Manuel Selg