Living Matter, Re-Attaching, Speculative Design

8th May

11:45am – 12:45pm

The project panel "Living Matter, Re-Attaching, Speculative Design" seeks to diversify the conversation about the thematic strand "Living Matter". It will focus on the contribution of design to matters of care through the design practices of the DGTF community and related fields.

Emile De Visscher, Cluster of Excellence »Matters of Activity«, HU Berlin
We are Fluids – A Quest to Design Life Forms with Electrons

The present project concerns the development of a new method of manufacturing Extra-Cellular Matrices (ECM), i.e. the structure of vital organs such as the liver or the pancreas. If the designer is usually oriented towards the conception of prostheses, adding multitudes of artefacts to our imperfect bodies, he is confronted here with a subtractive procedure, which raises profound ethical, social and cultural issues. The method used to create these vascular structures for ECM consists of electron irradiation and instant discharge within a biocompatible bulk material - itself questioning the relations between life, irradiation, fluidity, dendrites, electrons and healing.

Viola Ahrensfeld, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar
A Critical Cut Into a Designed Thing. A Study of Oblique Matters of Design.

Emilia Tikka, Aalto University/ Martin Müller, Cluster of Excellence »Matters of Activity«, HU Berlin
Matters of Care in Synthetic Biology: Xeno-Optimizations, Neglected Natures, Liv(e)able Futures

Synthetic biology and CRISPR have become hegemonic discourses and practices of technosciences by projecting ‘living matter’ as a field of engineering. Both focus on what George Church calls the „radical redesign“ (Church et al. 2019, 1) of life itself in the Anthropocene. While some theorists and historians have hailed this as the dawn of a "synthetic age" (Preston 2018), we are instead experiencing anthropogenic escalation of the modern episteme of the hylomorphic domination of nature by molecular means and genetic-code-techniques, resulting in the claim that the Anthropocene crises should be ‘fixed’ by bio-engineering (Neyrat 2018). We argue that a majority within synthetic biology ‘cares’ for a set of things that actually don’t contribute to livable and liveable planetary futures: acceleration of capital surplus enabled by tabula rasa concepts of optimized nature. Instead we follow the “necessity of care as an open question [as] a requirement to constructivism: cultivating a speculative commitment to contribute to liveable worlds. As a transformative ethos, caring is a living technology with vital material implications for human and non-human worlds.” (de la Bellacasa 2011, 100)
Drawing from this background, our common project aims on a speculative reformulation and re-design of the nature-human-technology relations in the field of synthetic biology. Martin Müller will present his research on the epistemological and historical dimensions of the thematic. Emilia Tikka gives an insight on her on-going collaboration with Finnish Sàmi reindeer herder Oula Valkeapää on thinking-with reindeers. The project aims to develop speculative design as an inclusive practice, introducing plural voices and understandings of nature to the technoscientific discourse.

Moderator: Michaela Büsse, HGK FHNW

Panel Speakers

Emile De Visscher
Viola Ahrensfeld

Emilia Tikka
Martin Müller

Michaela Büsse (Moderation)