Biomaterials + Multispecies Relations

Erin Cuana

This course traces along the multispecies ethnographic and feminist techno-scientific scholarship of Anna Tsing and Donna Haraway, both of whom are informed by folk and indigenous oral traditions of Animism. We will work with David Abram’s definition of Animism, which he describes as a “perceptual experience” of objects, plants, animals and other phenomena as active, dynamic, and participatory: in other words the acceptance that we can “never directly experience any phenomenon as definitely inert or inanimate.”

Working within these traditions, we will engage with biomaterials through communal growing and fabrication using bacterial cellulose, mycelium, lactobacilli, yeast, and more. Each week we will go over a different biomaterial growing process while considering our unique positions within multispecies relations and interspecies storytelling.

During the course students will participate in research that is somatically based, and writing as a generative pathway to create their own multispecies allegories and exploratory projects. Students will leave the class with a situated design or creative project within multispecies worldbuilding that incorporates novel fabrication techniques. The materials we will cover in this class have a myriad of applications such as: being cast into 3D printed or CNC’d molds, integrated with physical computing, speculative worldbuilding, and compostable/environmentally conscious design practices. We will look over and talk about the work by artists such as: Natalie Jeremijenko, CAConrad, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, David Abram, Anicka Yi, Bo Zheng, Una Chaudhuri, Agnieszka Kurant and Ernst Karel.