TABOO - TRANSGRESSION - TRANSCENDENCE
in Art & Science
27-29 September 2023, Malta Society of Arts, Valletta
I am an holobiont (Haraway,2016): half bacterial, less than half human. And while I am intellectually convinced of this, what does it mean? What am I? This is the subject of my artist talk.
I can feel my human body, whereas my microbiota (all the microorganisms associated with my body) is silent, invisible, a ghost of myself in an inaccessible dimension. But they are my microbial identity. To whom can read their message, they will tell a lot about my health (Schommer and Gallo, 2013) and my ancestors (Henry et al., 2021). They know what I am. In this project, I present my transformation from scientist and social individual to conscient holobiont through a multisensorial experiential lens in an exhibition and/or an artist talk with a bioartistic approach. This project is also a tentative of deep conversation and communication with my microbiota.
This research is a quest for interspecies communications in a liminal space, my skin, and a micro-social ethological study, in addition, to being an inclusively feminist inquiry, the microbiota being a feminine, maternal inheritance that is shared to every human.
It is not enough for me to see the human microbiotas on fabric; I also need tangible and direct clues of interrelations between all my dermal microbes and my skin to experiment with my human nature limits. For that, I put pH-sensitive patches of jellified culture media inoculated with diverse freshwater microalgae species on my skin. Introducing an element external to the microbiota, an algal newcomer, brings intense reactions (Gilbert and Tauber, 2016) inside the patch during fighting or welcoming to the microalgae. Those strong interactions with each other and my skin modify the local pH. Each change and response between my skin, microbiota, and the microalgal culture manifests as color and sound in my visual and performative practices.
Microbial/algal/human conversations are also present in my practice via the sounds and colors surrounding my body and microbiota in performance. But others can also perform alongside my body; they can put pieces of fabric soaked in an (edible) culture media on their skin during their stay in the gallery and store them in a plastic bag. After three to seven days, they can admire and read their microbiota. I am building an open digital archive (website) from scientific articles and anonymous information from the participants to decode the information about their health and life that their microbiotal images on fabric show. The performance will stay alive in documentation, video, photography, sound, and the once-worn patches placed on the wall. But the main goal is to materialize our microbiota, make the participants know we are never alone, and that our health, survival, past, and future are not anthropocentric, purely human but multiple communicative species matter.
We are BacterHumans.
I am a fully self-accepted BacterVirHuman, bioartist (BFA, MFA), and scientist (Ph.D. in plant science) named Nathalie Dubois Calero, and my works are a feminist act of reconciliation with my non (or too much?) human components. Microbes are the media I use in workshops, performances, videos, and objects making.
My recent project, BacterHuman, focuses on the cutaneous microbiota (all the microorganisms living on and inside the skin) and the multifaceted relationships we have with it. This work includes Microidentidad (workshops and exhibition, ICA, Bacalar, Q.R., Mexico, 2020) Name:Nathalie Species: HomoBacter Insipiens (TTT Vienna, 2020 online), Queer and Biophilic Approach of the Cutaneous Microbiome (online workshop, ISEA, 2021), We are planets (hiflex workshop, HTLMlles festival, 2021), and Bodies of water about our microbiotal relationship with microalgae and water alone (exhibition and video at Leamington Art Centre, Ontario, Canada, 2022) and in collaboration with Ada Gogova, also called Bodies of water. My recent work, MaterVirus, in collaboration with Cecilia Vilca, explores our viral nature and the presence of retroviruses in the human DNA.
I am a member of Incubator Art Lab, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.