Špela Petrič

Meta.Morf 2022 – Ecophilia / Dokkhuset / Conference May 21 / Curator: Zane Cerpina

Matters of Play and Passion

Špela Petrič [SL]

By recognising the ubiquitous, (eco)systemic embeddedness within algorithmic logic, Špela Petrič’s recent work examines the potential of AI, design and robotics to create compelling ways of engaging with plants. As there is no outside to the computational system Petrič attempts to subvert its intentions by using feminist principles of resistance – to practice erotics, cultivate passions of everyday and seek pleasures not instructed from elsewhere. Inspired by the plants’ resilience in totalising circumstances, what emerges at the nexus of art, computation, and vegetal becoming formulates new possibilities of interspecies relations in exultopias to come.

Špela Petrič 
Špela Petrič is a new media artist with a background in the natural sciences. Her artistic practice combines biomedia and performativity to enact strange relations that reveal the underpinnings of our (bio)technological societies. Petrič has received several awards, such as the White Aphroid for outstanding artistic achievement (Slovenia), the Bioart and Design Award (Netherlands), and an Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica (Austria).


Header Graphics: “PL’AI” by Špela Petrič. Produced by: Kersnikova Institute. Photo credit: Hana Josic.
Portrait Photograph by Anže Sekelj.


Stephanie Rothenberg

Aquadisia Body

Meta.Morf 2022 – Ecophilia / Dokkhuset / Conference May 20 / Curator: Zane Cerpina

Aquadisia: The Science of Sentience 2.0

Stephanie Rothenberg [US]

What if humans could cure climate change by simply drinking a special potion? A potion that would create an equal playing field between all entities, human and other-than-human? And now imagine that this special potion is made by a new species of bioengineered oysters. These new and improved cyborg oysters secrete a fluid that when ingested turn that ecstatic feeling of aphrodisia in humans into a new state of sentience – an “aquadisia”! Our insatiable consumptive desires are transformed into sensorial and energetic pleasures beyond the mere sexual, leading to new forms of sentient interconnections with the cycle of life.

Aquadisia is a speculative design project that plays on the myth of the oyster as an aphrodisiac to reimagine a more mutually symbiotic relationship between humans and other-than-humans. The project manifests through video, an interactive installation and documented experiments modifying oyster DNA using gene manipulation tools such as CRISPR conducted at the Coalesce Center for Biological Arts in Buffalo, New York. The project narrative engages a pseudo scientific overview of the process for creating this magical fluid. Anyone can access it by simply turning on their faucet and taking a drink. It begins with extraction and gene manipulation of the organisms in the lab, studies on its effect on the human body, and then moves outward to the ocean where the futuristic aquaculture vessels are being harvested around the world. These structures allow the fluid to be piped into public water systems.

The project explores several critical issues significant to our ecological crisis within the intersection of biotechnology and marine science: the use of nonhuman life for human survival through genetic engineering, the illusion of conservation within the “blue economy” enabled through ecosystem services, and the neoliberal desire to transcend climate change through individuated responses. Moving between reality and fantasy, Aquadisia not only questions human action but also the ethical and economic dimensions of our solutions. Through this presentation I aim to generate discussion on what are the real world possibilities and action steps for moving forward in this vulnerable real world situation we are all in.

Stephanie Rothenberg
Stephanie Rothenberg’s interdisciplinary art draws from digital culture, science and economics to explore symbiotic relationships between human designed systems and biological ecosystems. Moving between real and virtual spaces, she engages a variety of media platforms that include interactive installation, drawing, sculpture, video and performance. Her artworks make visible the terrestrial and digital networks of capital that flow through the bodies of both human and more-than-human entities. Arising from her fascination with techno utopian culture, her multimedia storytelling seeks to reveal the contradictions of its narratives. Topics in her work include the bio politics of digital labor and sustainability myths surrounding the concept of  natural capital.

She has exhibited internationally in venues and festivals including ISEA, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center (US), Sundance Film Festival (US), Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art / MASS MoCA (US), House of Electronic Arts / HeK (CH), LABoral (ES), Transmediale (DE), and ZKM Center for Art & Media (DE). She is a recipient of numerous awards, most recently from the Harpo Foundation and Creative Capital. Residencies include ZK/U Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik in Berlin, TOKAS / Tokyo Art and Space (JP), the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace/LMCC (US), Eyebeam Art and Technology Center and the Santa Fe Art Institute (US). Her work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art and has been widely reviewed including Artforum, Artnet, The Brooklyn Rail and Hyperallergic. She has been a participant and organizer in the MoneyLab research project at the Institute of Network Cultures (NL), co-organizing the 2018 MoneyLab 5 symposium that took place in Buffalo, NY (US). She is Professor in the Department of Art at SUNY Buffalo (US) where she co-directs the Platform Social Design Lab, an interdisciplinary design studio collaborating with local social justice organizations.


Header Graphics: “Aquadisia” by Stephanie Rothenberg.


Kirsty Kross

Meta.Morf 2022 – Ecophilia / Dokkhuset / Conference May 21 / Curator: Zane Cerpina

Let’s Talk About Dolphin Sex

Kirsty Kross [AU/NO]

My cousin claims to have had a relationship with a female dolphin for several years on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia. Then a friend of a friend was a screenwriter for a popular teen, oceanic, drama series which involved research at Seaworld about dolphins and, of course, their very active sex lives. Apparently there is a reason why tourists must wear a wetsuit while swimming with dolphins… Then a friend of mine that took a lot of hallucinogens claimed to see aliens transforming into a pod of dolphins at Byron Bay that later tried to seduce him.

“Let’s Talk About Dolphin Sex” features REAL LIFE stories about dolphin sex and the humans they love. Told LIVE in a one night stand sensational performance lecture.


Kirsty Kross
Kirsty Kross is an Oslo based artist originally from Brisbane, Australia. Her work focuses largely on humans’ relationship to the attention economy and growing ecological uncertainty. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from the University of Queensland and a Masters Degree of Art in Context from the Berlin University of the Arts. Kirsty Kross has exhibited and performed at Bergen Assembly, Høstutstillingen, KUBE og Jugendstilsenteret, Tenthaus and PINK CUBE as well as Clockwork Gallery, Parkhaus Projects and Galerie Crystal Ball in Berlin. She will perform at “Jeg kaller det Kunst”- the opening exhibition of the Norwegian National Museum in 2022.

Photo for talk: Public Domain image from needpix.com



Thomas Twaites

Meta.Morf 2022 – Ecophilia / Dokkhuset / Conference May 20 / Curator: Zane Cerpina

Goatman: How I tried and failed to take a holiday from being human

Thomas Thwaites [UK]

A few years ago I tried to turn myself into a goat, so I could have a holiday from being human. This was a fairly protracted process, as you might imagine. Over the course of about a year I enlisted the help of doctors of prosthetics, rumen biologists, evolutionary anatomists, neuroscientists, ethologists, a shaman and a goatherd. Each of these experts, when asked what the difference between Us and Goats is, could point to various greater or lesser differences, except the shaman, who maintained that at heart, there is no ultimate difference between us.

In my talk I’ll tell the story of this ‘hero’s journey’ and discuss the underlying method: the pursuit of an impossible goal as beacon by which to navigate through vast cross-disciplinary territories, as storytelling device, and means by which to force a move from theory to an engagement with (the often inconvenient) practical aspects of implementation.

I will also describe my current project: to make a totally harmless car, not just harmless in all senses for human persons, but for non-human persons too. Again this is an impossible goal, the practical implementation of which will force a reckoning with the reality with de-anthropocentric design.

Goatman began as a project to take a holiday from being human; to escape the stress and worry of being a person in human society with all its moral and practical complexities. There is a lot to worry about personally and globally, and with worry comes guilt and regret for failing to do ‘the right thing’. So: wouldn’t it be nice to just trot away from it all and become a goat, free to roam, free from worry, free from guilt? To have a holiday not only from your day-to-day life, but from your self as well?

But underlying the project is a question about ‘progress’: the notion that our species and our civilization is progressing toward something better: our spinning of stories out of our pasts and our futures, our regrets and our hopes.

I found trying to become a lowly, humble goat spiritually (as well as physically) uncomfortable: was I trying to go ‘backwards’, to de-volve? This discomfort led me to realise, that although I don’t consider myself religious, I’d been swept up/indoctrinated in a secular grand narrative; that there is a hierarchy of species, and that despite a few setbacks along the way, a rationalist liberal high technology culture will ultimately emerge as the end of our history. The techno-optimist idea that we as a species are progressing and evolving away from our base, savage uncultured ancestors, and toward an enlightened post-human future, possibly even colonising other planets.

Ernest Becker in the Denial of Death (1973), stated that currently ‘we are gods with anuses’: we’re high-tech cyborgs able to transcend so much of our biology, but yet we still must succumb to our biology, eating and defecting, and ultimately will die and rot away. Becker argued it is cognitive dissonance arising from this dual view of ourselves, that drives our need to be part of grand narratives, be they religious, nationalistic, aristocratic, or techno-scientific. We can’t quite face our knowledge of our own mortality, so we need to latch on to the idea we’re part of something greater.

The post-human answer to resolving this dissonance is to continue developing technology which will ultimately allow us to sever our link with our mortal fleshy biology, curing old age and death, and thus become fully god-like (and in the case of ‘mind-uploading’ to literally relieve ourselves from the necessity of having an anus).

As I pursued my dream of becoming a goat I realised I’d soaked in this optimistic vision of the future growing up, and at least subconsciously believed I was contributing in some small way to progressing human civilisation toward some kind of Star Trek future. And so Goatman became about enacting an alternative route out of our dissonance; to remove the godlike part in us. I wanted to personally come to terms with the idea that there is no ‘human destiny’ that we are all a part of, to stop thinking about ‘the future’ as a kind of destination, to stop striving, to remove humanity from the top of some imaginary hierarchy of nature, to expunge Descartes, and to present an alternative humble future of the post-human to aim for: the life of a goat on a hillside.

Should we dream of a future amongst the stars, or should we dream of a future akin to the life of a goat on a mountainside?

Thomas Thwaites
Thomas Thwaites is a designer interested in the social impacts of science and technology. He holds an MA in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art, and a BSc. in Human Sciences from University College, London.

His work is in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Banque De France (Cite de l’Economie in Paris), and the Asia Culture Centre in South Korea. His work is exhibited at major galleries and museums worldwide, including at the National Museum of China, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, the Science Museum (London), the Cooper Hewitt in the USA and La Triennale di Milano (Italy). He has spoken at numerous conferences, including TED and Design Indaba, as well as at universities and businesses worldwide. Press includes features in national newspapers including the New York Times, Süddeutsche and The Financial Times. He has presented a four part television series, aired on Discovery Channel.

He is the author of two books; The Toaster Project, and GoatMan. The Toaster Project documents Thwaites’ attempt to make an electric toaster from scratch. Goatman describes his project to take a holiday from being human by becoming a goat. Both are published by Princeton Architectural Press, and have been translated into Korean, Japanese and Norwegian.


Header Graphics: “Goatman” by Thomas Thwaites. Photo credit: Tim Bowditch.