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  • Ad Mortem Defaecatam – Unnecessary Life

    For several years, I have been operating in the space of professional biological laboratories, that is in a post-nature world full of inhuman actors (of human origin or not). The issue of relations with them is one of the main points of my artistic and research interest. The idea of the project Ad Mortem Defaecatam - Unnecessary Life came from an anecdote. My partner in the projects, biotechnologist Dr Jakub Piątkowski mentioned one day that each laboratory has refrigerators full of unnecessary strains of bacteria or yeast that someone "created" but did not "use", and since rarely does anyone tidy up the refrigerators, these strains stay behind for years. When I asked what was going on with this unnecessary life, he said jokingly: they are left behind ad mortem defaecatam (which means in the simplest sense: until death). Apart from the fact that I immediately saw it as a future project title, I thought of these samples as junk life i.e. something that is not garbage, although it can become such, or can be of some use one day. It occurred to me to give all these liminal entities suspended in the laboratory vacuum a chance to live even for a moment, not to be used, but to live for life itself. After all, I could thaw them and grow them, at least for a while, documenting this life and collecting its physical evidence. Laboratory reality is a network of relationships between human and non-human actors. This thinking became the basis of the ANT (Actor Network Theory) put forward by Bruno Latour. In his opinion, the creation of knowledge and social reality is based on the coexistence and co-activity of various actors. An actant is an actor in action, causing the action of other actors. Accepted abbreviation: ANT in English translation means ant, which in an interesting way relates to insect social systems. Insects can be replaced by other actors in the post-natural spectacle. You just need to see them. Realizing this seems to be the first step towards abandoning the dominance of the human "me". As Donna Haraway suggests, "I" should be replaced by "we".

    The natural collection of the Upper Silesian Museum, mainly entomological, was the starting point for the project. Natural collections serve to preserve the memory of the existence of specific species. Why not do the same with laboratory organisms? Genetically modified, they constitute a new species of a kind. Museum display cases and petri dishes have quite similar aesthetics. Dishes with yeast and bacteria, grown, but not used in experiments are sometimes stored in the laboratory cooler for months, just like the natural collection in a museum The difference is that the dishes are usually not viewed by anyone except the laboratory staff, so it is worth letting them be visible.

    Many thanks for help in the implementation of the project for: Jakub Piątkowski from the Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw, Urszula Mikoś and Waldemar Żyła from the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom and the entire team of the CCA Kronika.