What has Speculative Life been up to this past year?

On March 31, Milieux Institute celebrated its one year anniversary and we have been busy! In celebration, we’ve taken a look back at some of the research clusters’ most memorable talks, workshops, projects, symposiums, and exhibitions.

Member, WhiteFeather Hunter being interviewed by NZTV.

This past year the Speculative Life Cluster has hosted a number of exciting workshops and speakers. Some of the activities organized by lab technician and principal investigator, WhiteFeather, explored intersections between research clusters, such as with the Textiles and Materiality Research Cluster. We made prints on fabric and paper using pigmented bacteria, trekked through the Quebec wilderness to visit a snow hydrology research station, genetically modified E. coli using CRISPR technology, and are growing cellulose as a biomaterial for fabrication.

We also hosted a public talk on tissue engineering with biophysicist Dan Modulevsky of the Pelling Lab at uOttawa, a talk and workshop on immortality and cell lines with Marta de Menezes, grad student consultations with bioartist Joe Davis, and a talk on “Waste Matters” with bioartist Kathy High.

Working across multiple scales of engagement, from the microbial to the human body to the city and global infrastructure, to questions of the environment and big data, Speculative Life has spent the last year settling in to our new spaces, establishing two labs (bio and ethnography), learning and sharing new and experimental skills though workshopping and building our identity within Milieux as hybrid spaces of research-creation, with a commitment to experimentation, imagination and futurity.

The ethnography lab has been hard at work settling in to our new cluster space in Milieux. Lab members have been mobilizing collective building projects, such as the build of massive wooden conference table, led by cluster member and PhD student Adam van Sertima. The main cluster space has been newly opened and includes “The Living Gallery,” an open and experimental space for ethnographic and curatorial practice.

In the bio lab, a hybrid space for exploring the relationship between living and built systems, MDes student Théo Chauvirey has been growing mycellium on designed scaffolds to be used as building materials for prototype eco-furniture, PhD student Maya Hay has been investigating food fermentation processes such as lacto-fermentation.

Lab member and coordinator Treva Pullen co-curated the exhibition YMX: Migration, Land and Loss after Mirabel that opened on March 30th at the Belgo Building in Montreal. Speculative Life members Orit Halpern, Chris Salter, WhiteFeather Hunter, Ida Toft, Garrett Lockhart, and Thierry Bardini ran workshops and created an exhibit on “Elusive Life” at the Natural History Museum and HKW in Berlin this February, in the context of Transmediale 2017.

A rare and exciting mix of makers, artists, scientists and thinkers, the cluster advocates for hands-on and experimental practices that require getting messy and causing productive disruptions in the wet-lab and our main cluster space.

Next year, the cluster is excited about our commitment to sharing knowledge and facilitating experimental practices though workshops that will integrate art practice, engagements with city infrastructure, sound, photography, science and technology, environmental health and play with technology. Conducting interconnected work amongst our two labs, and collaborating with our incredible student cluster members, the Speculative Life Cluster will be hosting more workshops in the following year, with a focus on student-led knowledge sharing. After posting a call for student-led workshops this year the response was overwhelmingly positive and inspiring. We have received proposals for a series of incredible student-led workshops that we will begin hosting in the coming year.

Text by Treva Michelle Pullen and WhiteFeather Hunter

Member, Chris Salter during the OpenLivingLab Days at Concordia.

Student member, Maya Hey giving a tour of the Speculative Life lab.

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