Ecologies of Thought
Multimedia Anthropology Lab. (UCL-MAL) + Schoolf of Botany (SP) + University of São Paulo + Federal University of Santa Catarina + Slade School of Fine Arts
Supported by UCL Global Engagement Fund
Fabiana Assis Fernandes
The ecologies of thought project established an international and multidisciplinary partnership with the Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous communities to investigate the ecological thinking from the relationship between sound and plants. The project proposed dialogues between different types and conceptions of technology, from traditional chanting and cultivation to the use of micro-controllers and data analysis.
We developed two experimental strategies. The first one focused on the creation of virtual reality worlds that, through generative art processes, explored the Guarani and Kaiowá cosmology in its cosmotechnical aspect. Using traditional sounds and elements such as the Chiru, the sacred staff that sustains the world, and white corn, the food that sustains life, we sought to investigate fundamental subjects of the cosmology through experience rather than narrative representation.
Generative art can be defined in different degrees of complexity, it is associated with a system that has some degree of autonomy, in which the artist and the system exercise a series of operations that result in the final work. Seeking ways to relate to Guarani and Kaiowá mythologies while respecting their characteristics, the generative art methodologies seemed not only to fit the ontological qualities of the cosmology, but also to privilege an investigation and audiovisual production that could maintain a cosmotechnical fidelity. Since both, the Guarni and Kaiowá cosmology and generative art, are emergent, non-linear processes, with repetitive elements that are in constant transformation.
The second strategy was the use of micro-controllers to transform plants from the Guarani and Kaiowá food culture into tactile sensors, so that when activated they would emit a sound. In this experiment we used corn, potato and manioc, with sounds of traditional instruments, the mimby (whistle), the taquapu (bamboo) and the mbaraka (rattle). Through this, we were able to draw lines between plants and sounds, deepen conversations about these extra-human ecological relationships, and better understand how we can engage with and present this kind of knowledge.
More broadly, this project seeks to undermine the romantic and colonial notion of preservation, which does not consider the indigenous presence a digital presence, able to act and think about technical processes since its conception. This means, beyond an illustrative representation of what is believed to be the material and immaterial cultural heritage of the community, to collaboratively build a digitalindigenous territory, a digital Guarani and Kaiowá tekoha where a new technological ontology is established, in a way that the very conception of contemporary technology is affected by indigenous cosmotechnics.
Collaboration, interdisciplinarity, and the investigation of creative processes - rather than the proposition of representations - allows us to arrive at questions related to the level of existence, so that, in the anthropocenic era of the absence of futures, we can compose a cosmotechnic for a viable, virtual and actual, reality, based on a poetics of care and more-than-human relations.