[ISEA2020] Paper: Eleanor Dare & Elena Papadaki — Mycorrhizal Curation: minimal cognition for maximal cooperation

Abstract (short paper)

Keywords: Mycorrhizal, Physarum polycephalum (slime mould), epistemic, curation, artificial intelligence

Since 2015, when the authors first wrote a chapter about the state of curation for electronic art (pointing to the absence of works significantly addressing the epistemic implications of
a computational logic), artificial intelligence and wider algorithmic forms of logic have become more pervasive themes within mainstream art, with, for example, exhibitions such as ‘AI More than Human’ (2019) at the Barbican Centre, London, the increasing profile of the Lumen Prize, as well as headline grabbing events such as Christie’s auction of the AI-generated painting ‘Portrait of Edmond Belamy’ (2018, created by GAN [Generative Adversarial Network]). The logic of computation is now, if not generally understood, a ubiquitous facet of the curatorial imaginary, begging the question: where are the alternatives and challenges to Western computation, to the Neoplatonist ideals of mathematical logic? Appraising discourse addressing the non-human and the arboreal, the authors present a radically alternative set of practices, framed as Mycorrhizal Curation, a provocative affront to human representational systems and power relations which place the human at the apex of all epistemic hierarchies, but also, the authors intend to provide a provocative challenge to the hegemony of the artworld, with shifts to models of amicable cooperation and wealth distribution.

  • Elena Papadaki is a visual historian, cultural theorist and curator based in London and Brussels. Her research interests lie in the intersection of screen-reliant imagery, curation, interactivity and audience reception. Having previously held posts at the Hellenic Ministry of Culture (department of Museum studies) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM), she has over ten years of professional experience in the arts and museum sector. Her doctoral thesis from Goldsmiths University of London was titled “Curating Screens: Art, Performance, and Public Spaces” and focused on the exhibition of screen-based works in different environments. Elena works as a Senior Lecturer in Curation and Digital Arts at University of Greenwich (London UK) and as an Associate Lecturer (Senior Tutor – Research) at the Royal College of Art (London UK). She is also the founder of Incandescent Square (a collaborative meeting point for design, art, and research); with the latter, she has curated and/or managed exhibition projects in France, Greece, Malta, Portugal and the UK.
  • Eleanor Dare is Reader in Digital Media at the Royal College of Art’s School of Communication and Head of the MA Digital Direction (London, UK). She has a PhD in Arts and Computational Technology from Goldsmiths University of London (Department of Computing), supported by a full doctoral studentship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Her doctoral thesis and MSc (Distinction) at Goldsmiths were concerned with computer programming practices, subjectivity and artificial intelligence for interactive and responsive books. Since completing her PhD in 2011 (titled: “Navigating Subjectivity: South a Psychometric Text Adventure”), she has continued to research the ways in which computational systems try to understand humans, especially what happens when computers attempt to generate human-like cultural expressions. Inevitably, this has resulted in an increasing concern with the significance of the human and the non-human, with situatedness and embodiment. In 2018, she completed an Open University MA in Creative Writing (Distinction), addressing virtuality and non-linear narrative structures. She has exhibited work addressing both the limits and potential of VR/AR and AI.