[ISEA2022] Paper: Morten Søndergaard & Laura Beloff — Living Biotechnical Lives: Noise, Parasites, and Relational Practices


Full Paper. Session: Critical Robotics / Ecologies and biotechnical relationships

Keywords: Parasite, Serres, biology, technology, noise, ticks, relations, biotechnology, science, evolution

Life in the era of biotechnology opens up opportunities but also brings challenges related to our values ​​and questions on how we want to see coexistence on our planet inhabited by many species.

The parasite is our case study and an interesting concept that we inherit from biology, but which is also addressed in humanism and philosophy. As humans, we commonly understand a parasite as a negative concept that suggests that someone or something benefits at our expense. However, French philosopher Michel Serres has thought differently about the parasite. According to him, the parasite is based on relations between different entities and that there is often noise in these relationships. Michel Serres refers to biologist Henri Atlan, who has argued that noise forces the system to reorganize in a way that incorporates noise as a part of the complex system. The idea of ​​noise included as a part of the system is quite far from today’s thought-processes with the development of bio/technology that typically aims at noiseless, error-free and aesthetically attractive results.

Therefore, although parasites are often associated with terms such as inhospitable, undesirable and disgusting, and they are seen to be located outside of art and technology, in this paper we argue that the concept of parasitical is tightly intertwined into our contemporary biotechnical lives. The article relates the parasitic thinking by Michel Serres to an artistic mediation of the biological parasite, a tick.

  • Laura Beloff, PhD, (FI/DK) is an internationally acclaimed artist and a researcher in the cross section of art, technology and science. The research is in a form of installations, wearable artifacts, and experiments with scientific methods that deal with the merger of the technological and biological matter. The research engages with human enhancement, biosemiotics, AI, AL, robotics affiliated with art, humans, natural environment and society. She is Associate Professor and Head of Doctoral Education in the Department of Art & Media at Aalto University, Finland.
  • Morten Søndergaard, PhD, (DK) is an internationally acclaimed curator and researcher in the histories, theories and cultures of transdisciplinary practices merging technology, media, art and societal trajectories. From the master thesis on the method of Michel Serres in-between poetry, art and science (1995) to the Phd on unheard avant-gardes in Denmark (Show-bix and the Danish media poet Per Højholt) (2007) the line of inquiry draws the analysis of transdisciplinary practices into epistemological questionings regarding the complexities of human and non-human relations, as well as a general study of the overarching question regarding experiencing and evidencing posthumanity. He is Associate Professor and Academic Director of the Erasmus Media Art Cultures Master Program at Aalborg University, Denmark.