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dossier Rethinking Anthropocene

A story by Talitha Fruneaux, who asks: Is it OK to play with life?

Part of Living Matters non-exhibition

24 June 2020

“I spent some time searching for ethics on bio art and bio design. I found a lot about the ethics from human perspective. How can bio art, design or technology affect humans, society, culture, privacy, human rights and so on. But apparently these ideas weren’t what I was looking for. I just wanted someone to tell me that what I was doing was okay. That it was okay to play with bacteria, mushrooms and plants. I read about how plants and bacteria also use other bodies to grow, eat, survive and even manipulate other bodies to make life easier for themselves. Does that mean I am also allowed to do the same? How is their practice different from what I do as a human? Why do I need to be sure that they do it also - to feel less guilty?”

Talitha mapped bacteria from her home surroundings, and these invisible bodies quickly became her companions. But it was risky to keep them close for long, as they multiply too fast for safety. So before saying her goodbyes, she packed them into a bag, so that they could cuddle with each other. To work with life is to embrace complexity and uncomfortable positions. Her learning how to grow mycelium, how to work with living and fragile bodies with the hope to manipulate them and create from them, quickly turned into the realisation that to work with living bodies is to be implicated in their living and transformative processes. Rather than finding answers, staying with and dancing with the problem becomes more important.