"Nature for us is made" (Haraway, Promises and Monsters)
Your bodies move with my thought imposed upon your being
What will happen if I store this thought safe within you?
Your bio-artefactuality is a becoming
that I cannot know in the present
Bio-artefactuality is the monster incarnate: an assemblage of human and non-human actors, the telos of which we can have no claim over.
For some time now I have been working on the building of a structure within which to house the living thoughts I have been growing in the laboratory. Presently, I re-culture them regularly, taking a sample of E. coli and discarding the rest (farewell, dutiful microbes). The process is tedious and also questionable. Why am I compelled to keep them alive? My instinctive answer is that even though they came into being as a result of my experimentation, perversely I don't want them to end their life as a result of my experimentation. I am troubled by making a life and then discarding it. In practice it is more complex than that. There are questions of production and waste. By bringing the E. coli bioassemblage into being, I instigate a number of processes (the production of plasmid DNA, the transformation and culturing of living organisms), by keeping it alive I instigate another series of processes (the use of nutrients and disposable plastic to continually culture generations of E. coli bioassemblages) and by terminating the bioassemblages I instigate further processes (sealing in double or triple layers of plastic, autoclaving and disposal of biological waste). I have chosen to keep my bioassemblages alive and in doing so, I am subverting laboratory protocols by considering 'material' as 'alive'. There is an emotional context: I am consumed by the responsibility of altering a living organism to house my thought within its body. I feel a certain obligation towards the living beings that contain my thought within them, I understand them as a community of beings that grow and adapt, with a form of deep sentience over time, carrying my thought within them. There is a philosophical dilemma: I could have simply written words, committed them to text, preserved digitally or on paper, but in committing my thought to a living body, I have conferred my subjectivity to another being with its own vitality. I have imposed upon these (unwitting?) organisms. Over the year or so that my thought has existed within their generations, I have found that they accept my thought as a part of their being and have not altered it. Perhaps it is cumbersome and irrelevant: hoarded with no purpose, perhaps it is simply additional information, stored away, with potential for future use, unknown in the present. It is this unknowable quality that compels me to nurture these bioassemblages: they are both a product of my making and independent of my role in their existence.
So it is with these many avenues of continued exploration that I build a structure in which to allow the bioassemblages to live more permanently. A cyborgian settlement to house the subject of my will, where colonies exist for speculative enquiry into the reasons for their existence.
Image: Drawing, edited video footage of live E. coli bioassemblages* continuously cultured for 12 months
*E. coli transformed with synthetic plasmid DNA that translates as the phrase "what will happen if I store this thought safe within you?"