MO Museum opened the exhibition Shared Habitats, which invites visitors to dive into the worlds of other living organisms. Creators of the exhibition are trying to move away from the contradiction of human vs non-human and analyse how we are shaping our environment, how the environment is shaping us, and learn what role art has in all these processes. The exhibition presents artworks of creators who are not only artists but also organisms living with them. Why have artists chosen to create such artworks and what do they actually present?
Are living organisms equal to human?
“We are surrounded by entities that we cannot relate to or latch onto. And the first thing that strikes me is our lack of connection to so much of what surrounds us. And this means we do not understand the world as it is. We only observe what we have learned to see and understand”, said cybernetics expert Andrew Pickering, who spoke at the exhibition conference.
In his report, Pickering also added the attitude that man controls everything was not only wrong but even harmful. “We are all in it together, and that we need to see that humans genuinely share the world with all the other organic and inorganic beings, and that none of us, including humans, are in charge, at the centre of the action”, he said.
This approach is reflected at the exhibition Shared Habitats and in the artworks of the artists from the Bauhaus University Weimar. Artists question the traditional approach of human supremacy and treat living organisms as creators that are equal to themselves.
Even a mushroom becomes artist
Artists from the Bauhaus University Weimar are combining traditional art studio tools with biotechnology laboratory practice. Artists raise questions on how different kinds of beings interact, how people experience it, and how it is conveyed in art. Therefore, the artwork created during experimenting can surprise the visitor.
Here, living creatures become creators. “Theresa Schubert’s work “Growing Geometry – Tattooing Mushrooms”, where a tattooed fungus itself becomes a creator as it keeps growing and changes the drawing. Ursula Damm and Birgit Brügemeier’s installation “Karaoke Bar: Singing in the Language of Flies” allows the visitor to sing karaoke or talk to fruit flies and get their response and reaction to their song”, says Ugnė Paberžytė, one of the curators of the exhibition Shared Habitats.
Artists from the Bauhaus University, whose artworks are exhibited at MO Museum, have also expanded the laboratory sphere, as in their works it also includes the living environment of artists. Without trying to compete with biotechnologies, they seek to create a structure that connects people with other living organisms or materials.
Visitors will become active exhibition participants
According to the exhibition organisers, active visitors’ involvement at the exhibition is more than welcome.
“Only by being enthusiastic, trying out, and experiencing will the viewer be able to see the exhibition as it is, and, hopefully, leave the museum with a feeling of excitement and new ideas. Visitors will be able to sing karaoke to fruit flies, play a virtual reality game, where they will try to impersonate a pig and avoid a slaughterhouse. It will also be possible to experiment in a self-repair laboratory”, Paberžytė notes.
She also adds that during the exhibition period, the visitor will be able to watch the changing artworks. “Bioreactor-grown mushroom will change and grow every day. The design of tattooing mushrooms will also change shape, and on different days the flies may react differently to the songs they hear. So, the exhibition is alive and can be different every time”, Paberžytė says.
Experiments at museum
During the exhibition, a small laboratory is established at the museum, where four workshops will take place, during which participants will raise different questions, conduct scientific experiments, and present their results at the end of the workshops.
“During the workshops, artists and participants together will conduct experiments for three days and later present them in a cultural context. For example, one of the topics of a future workshop is lactose intolerance. Its participants will also analyse and raise a common question – how everyday life changes if a person is lactose intolerant”, notes the exhibition curator Paberžytė.
The first workshop took place during the opening weekend and dealt with symbiosis – or the co-existence of one organism with others. Other workshops are scheduled for 25-27 May,15-17 June, and 20-22 July.Curators of the exhibition Shared Habitats – Ursula Damm and Ugnė Paberžytė, coordinators – Mindaugas Gapševičius and Iveta Jaugaitė, scientific consultant – Julian Collet. The exhibition Shared Habitats will run at MO until 22 July.