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Next Exhibition:

Nonhuman Subjectivities
On Animals. Cognition, Senses, Play

Rachel Mayeri   Maja Smrekar

Opening: 27 May, 2016, 8PM
Artists talk: 29 May, 2016, 3PM

Exhibition runs: 28 May– 17 July, 2016, Fri-Sun 2-6PM and by appointment. (24 June open until 9PM)

Left: Maja Smrekar, I Hunt Nature and Culture Hunts Me, 2014, performance and video; right Rachel Mayeri, Apes as Family, 2012, Film

The exhibition On Animals. Cognition, Senses, Play investigates two groups of animals that are closest to us. Primates, our nearest 'relatives', have a complex cognitive proximity to humans, but also differ radically in certain areas. While dogs, with whom we have made a symbiotic contract., have evolved alongside us over the last 30,000 years. The works in this exhibition share Donna Haraway's concept of "cooperative actions": overcoming conventional dichotomies of nature/culture, human/animal or subject/object is all about joint action. The artists, Maja Smrekar and Rachel Mayeri, make use of certain narrative strategies and the phenomenon of immersion, to approach the perspective of a nonhuman counterpart. The works of both artists place the instinct and the senses of the nonhuman at the centre of artistic research, while aiming to translate the nonhuman cognitive ability by means of the performance, film and art/science collaboration.

Maja Smrekar's performance I Hunt Nature and Culture Hunts Me, created during a research residency, investigates the phylogenetics of the wolf, the wolf-dog-human relationship and animal ethics. The implied risk and intimacy of Smrekar's performance with hybrid wolfdogs is contrasted by the reading of cultural texts from Joseph Beuys, Oleg Kulik and Smrekar. A documentary film also explores the complex evolutionary story of the canine.

In her work Ecce Canis she explores the metabolic pathway processes that trigger emotional motifs which bind humans and dogs and let them successfully coexist together. The installation contains serotonin from both the artist and her Scottish border collie Byron, which has been transformed by chemical protocols into an odour - the chemical essence of their human-canine relationship.

The films of Rachel Mayeri are the result of years of collaboration with primatologists. In her series Primate Cinema, Mayeri has made films for (and about) chimpanzees and other primates. In Apes as Family we watch a drama based on a tale of both chimpanzee social customs and domestication. While, as humans, we find the plot emotionally compelling, we also become caught up with watching the reactions of a chimpanzee audience watching the same film on a large TV. Indeed the film is both an example of 'Primate Cinema', that is a film made for nonhuman primates, and the complexities of cross-species understanding. Mayeri's film Baboons as Friends juxtaposes footage of baboons with a film noir reenactment by human actors, who translate a tale of lust, jealousy and deceit from the animal to the human.

Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz (curators)

More on the Nonhuman Subjectivities series
Press text as .pdf

Cooperation partners:

Media partner:

Made possible in part by a generous gift from Michael Schröder.

Last Exhibition:

Nonhuman Subjectivities
The Other Selves. On the Phenomenon of the Microbiome

François-Joseph Lapointe, Saša Spačal with Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik , Tarsh Bates , Joana Ricou

Performance - 1000 Handshakes: 3 February, 7-10PM during the opening of transmediale, House of World Cultures
Opening of the exhibition: 26 February, 2016, 8PM
Scientist and artist talk with PD Dr. Annette Moter and Tarsh Bates: 23 April, 2016, 6PM
Finissage with talk by Felix Navarrete: 30 April, 2016, 3-6PM

Exhibition runs: 27 February – 30 April, 2016, Fri-Sun 2-6PM and by appointment.
(29 April open until 9PM)

left: François-Joseph Lapointe, Microbiome selfie, 2014, center & right: Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj, Anil Podgornik Mycophone Unison, Responsive installation: electronics, sound, and biological material, 2013; Petri dish, detail of installation 2013

Art Laboratory Berlin is pleased to present the new series Nonhuman Subjectivities. Based on current philosophical theories of the object and a critique of anthropocentrism, our attention is focused on non-human actors.

The exhibition, the first of our new exhibition series Nonhuman Subjectivities, presents various artistic reflections on the complex microbial environment found on and within the human body. Scientists say that bacterial cells are as numerous as human cells in our body. The phenomenon of the microbiome also brings forth many complex questions about human identity and our relation to our multiple selves.

François-Joseph Lapointe connects his biological research with performance art. His latest works of art deal with the microbiome in our daily lives and physical connections to others. Lapointe sequences his microbiome to produce metagenomic self-portraits, Microbiome Selfies, which illustrate the metamorphosis of his bacterial self.

The exhibition features new works from his performance in 1000 Handshakes which was realised on 3 February, 2016, the opening night of transmediale. During the evening Lapointe shook 1001 hands at the Berlin House of World Cultures. Every 50 or so handshakes, samples were collected from his palms for DNA analysis of the microbiome. The results demonstrate how the contact with others shapes our microbiome and changes us.

To create his artistic works Lapointe has used a next generation sequencing platform and network visualisation software developed for bioinformatics. In contrast to the analog microscopic analysis of previous generations, Lapointe is working here with a digital DNA record. Both the video work and the six prints constitute the final step of the analysis: the network analysis, It is noteworthy that Lapointe, in his artistic aesthetic production, deletes the systemic context (numbers, data). The pictures show a microbial profile during the interaction with the microbiomes of others. It is fascinating to think back to the essential gesture of his performance: the handshake, a basic and ancient act of networking.

Spačal together with Mirjan Švagelj and Anil Podgornik are interested in the contrast between the oneness of the human body as biological entity and the multiplicity of the human microbiome. In their installation Mycophone_unison the artist-scientist-designer collective has developed a sound map of intra-action between their microbiomes and the recipient. By leaving a fingerprint the viewer sends a signal to the map that processes it through the central 'celestial plate' to the microbiomes. The polymodal sonification stresses the multiplicities of the makers.

The three petri dishes on the 'celestial plate' are cultured with samples from the work's three creators. These cultures, in their multiplicity and complexity, defy any monolithic or unitary definition of being. But in their ever-changing resistance to an electrical current, these cultures microbiomes create, together, a unison of tone with the participatory aid of visitors.

Left: Tarsh Bates working in the science lab for artistic production, School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of Western Australia, 2015
Right: Joana Ricou, Other landscape no. 1, microbiome of the artist and environment, C-print, 89 × 140 cm, 2014

Joana Ricou's works blur the fundamental boundary between organism and environment, taking the shape of photographs of microbial paintings or performance. Ricou collected samples of her own microbiome and that of her environment and cultured these in the lab to visualise them. Out of this two portraits emerged: Other-self Portrait, a composite of cultures derived from her body, and Non-self Portrait, a composite of environmental cultures. Ricou, an émigré, began this work questioning whether her new environment was changing her microbiome, and if so, asking what is the border between self and 'non-self'.

Her series Other Selves is a series of microbiome portraits that Ricou has carried out over the last few years, in which she has cultured samples from the belly buttons of over 400 people, resulting in an amazingly diverse range of bacteria, fungi and archaea. These portraits, in turn, challenge our traditional view of the self as solitary, or solely human.

Tarsh Bates artistically explores what it means to be human when we recognise our bodies as composed of over one trillion cells, of which only around half are human. This new work Surface dynamics of adhesion, created here in Berlin, resembles a model of flocked wallpaper. Sealed in a series of acrylic boxes in agar based on the blood of the artist, living Candida parapsilosis grows in a pattern based on the first drawing of its relative, Candida albicans, by Charles Philippe Robin in 1853. It was also the Victorian era when awareness of hygiene was rapidly increasing. This complex installation includes furniture from that time and invites visitors to sit down and read more about Tarsh Bates and her artistic research on Candida.

Her video work Ereignis, Gelassenheit und Lichtung: A love story shows, in time-lapse video, Candida albicans developing in the laboratory, whilst mixing with serum collected from the artist.

Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz (curators)

More on the Nonhuman Subjectivities series

Original press release (10-2-2016) as .pdf

Press/exhibition text as .pdf, publishes on 16 April 2016 von Alice Bardos BODY // Nonhuman Subjectivities: Humans Can Learn from the Political Make-Up of Our Bacteria, published on 5 March, 2016 by Claire Braun, BioArt : What is our True Relationship with the Human Microbiome?

art-in-berlin-de, published 3 March, 2016 by Inge Pett, Die Kunst des Händeschüttelns. Eine neue Ausstellung bei Art Laboratory Berlin

The Daily Mail, published 2 March, 2016 by Abigail Beall, The beauty in your BELLY BUTTON: Artist uses fluff and bacteria from navels to create works of art that are 'unique as fingerprints'

Delo, published 27 February, 2016 by Mojca Kumerdej, Poleti bi lahko brstela v triindvajsetih identitetah published 26 February, 2016 by Jennifer Ouellette, Your Belly Button Lint Makes a Beautiful Portrait as Unique as Your Fingerprint

iflscience! published 25. February, 2016 by Tom Hale, Petri Dish Portraits Of The Belly Button's Bacteria

The Guardian, published 24 February, 2016, Navel gazing: portraits of the bacteria in our belly buttons – in pictures

RTE (Radio Television Ireland), published on 12 February, 2016 by Luke Clancy, Cultural File: Hacking a Microbiome
as .mp3 (from 2'22")

BZ- Berlin, Published on 3 February, 2016 by Philipp Pohl, Haus der Kulturen der Welt: Künstler will 1000 hände schütteln

With the generous support of:

Cooperation partners:

Media partner:

Made possible in part by a generous gift from Michael Schröder.

Last event:

François-Joseph Lapointe, 1000 Handshakes, Performance, 2014

3 February, 2016, 7PM - 1000 Handshakes by François-Joseph Lapointe
Performance during the opening night of transmediale/conversation piece

Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures, John-Foster-Dulles Allee 10, 10557 Berlin)

5 February, 2016 5-6.30 PM Talk: 1000 Handshakes – Towards an Aesthetics of the Microbiome
at transmediale/conversation piece,
(House of World Cultures, John-Foster-Dulles Allee 10, 10557 Berlin)
François-Joseph Lapoint withRegine Rapp and Christian de Lutz (Art Laboratory Berlin)

As part of the opening of the 2016 transmediale festival of art & digital culture at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Art Laboratory Berlin will present the performance 1000 Handshakes by François-Joseph Lapointe, curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz.

During this performative experiment Lapointe will shake hands with people, gradually changing the invisible microbial community in the palm of his hand. The DNA of this microbiome, whose samples will be taken from his skin during the performance, will then be analysed to reveal how our contact with others shapes the microbes between us, how it changes who we are. The performance raises awareness through physical and social engagement, through acts of participation and exchange on social, individual and microbial levels. The handshake is a basic and ancient act of networking, forms the beginning of a social, scientific and artistic collaboration between the performer and the public. The results will form part of the exhibition The Other Selves. On the Phenomenon of the Microbiome opening later that month at Art Laboratory Berlin.

During the transmediale there will also be a talk with François-Joseph Lapointe and curators Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz (Fri. 05.02.2016, 17-18.30, More information).

Podcast of the talk

Press release for 1000 Handshakes (English on p.2)

BZ- Berlin, Published on 3 February, 2016 by Philipp Pohl, Haus der Kulturen der Welt: Künstler will 1000 hände schütteln

In cooperation with transmediale art&digitalculture

With the generous support of:

Last exhibitions and events: (click here)


[macro]biologies & [micro]biologies. Art and the Biological Sublime in the 21st Century. Ed. by Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz, Berlin 2015.
More information
Press release as .pdf

Online Publication:
We are proud to share with you our online-publication of the international interdisciplinary 2-day SYNAESTHESIA-Conference, held by Art Laboratory Berlin in the summer 2013:
Synaesthesia. Discussing a Phenomenon in the Arts, Humanities and (Neuro-)Science

Art Laboratory Berlin Awarded Prize for Project Spaces

We are pleased to announce that Art Laboratory Berlin was one of the winners of the first Prize for Art Project Spaces and Initiatives in the Field of Visual Arts awarded by the Berlin Senate Office of Cultural Affairs in 2012-3.

The award honours the commitment and work of those operating project spaces and initiatives. "The award serves" according to the Senate Office of Cultural Affairs, "to support them, to secure the existing diversity and to make the activities of art project spaces and initiatives in Berlin more visible."

A complete statement from Art Laboratory Berlin on the award can be found at:

art-in-berlin Berliner Projekträume und –initiativen

Kunst Magazin - Berliner Kulturverwaltung zeichnet Projekträume aus von Julia Schmitz

Berliner Morgenpost - Eine Klassenfahrt mit Baby und Urkunden Von Gabriela Walde

Zitty - Das erste Mal: Der Berliner Preis für Projekträume wird vergeben

Taz - Attraktiv und den Preis wert Von Marcus Woeller

Neues deutschland - Echte Berliner Spezialität. Selbstorganisierte Kunstinitiativen kämpfen ums Überleben
Von Tom Mustroph

Tagesspiegel - Küsschen, Kaffee, Kohle von Claudia Wahjudi

Information about Art Laboratory Berlin:
Art Laboratory Berlin (as.PDF)


If you have any questions or wish material about the exhibition, please contact

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