Along with the contemporary interest of science, humanities and art in the material dynamics comes the realization that change and agency can no longer be associated only with life. The growing awareness of the self-organizing capabilities of matter, the role of abiotic factors in the origin of life, and the chemical and physical impact on both biological and mineral evolutions have led to the observation that the distinction between inert matter (nonlife) and life is becoming problematic. This paper aims to examine these artistic inquiries into living-nonliving entanglements, which by turning to the cutting edge, science and technologies are developing, outside expert circles, a better understanding of the material dynamics of physical, chemical, and biological environments, not just of the present but also those to come in the future. With their specific methodologies and languages artworks – providing both an insight into the complexities of planetary environments of the present, as well as inspiration to speculate about the biochemical futures of the earth and beyond – might be seen as forms of “response-able” practices offering the opportunity to share environmental concerns and negotiate ethical terms. Taking up the task of redefining the human vis-à-vis global and cosmic environments, and at the same time respecting the agency of the nonliving, opens up infinite possibilities performed by self-transforming matter where multispecies alliances are formed among both organic and nonorganic species challenging the living/nonliving divide.
Monika Bakke is Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at the Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland. She writes on contemporary art and aesthetics with a particular interest in posthumanist, transspecies and gender perspectives. She is the author of Bio-transfigurations: Art and Aesthetics of Posthumanism (2010, in Polish) and Open Body (2000, in Polish) co-author of Pleroma: Art in Search of Fullness (1998), and editor of Australian Aboriginal Aesthetics (2004, in Polish), Going Aerial: Air, Art, Architecture (2006) and The Life of Air: Dwelling, Communicating, Manipulating (2011).