Choir of Kin (2023)

Transformative Narratives (Lena Kuzmich & Tony Wagner) in collaboration with Gerard Valls Montaño, Cris Anutoiu, Martin Eichler

Installation View, Photo: Lena Kuzmich
Installation View, Photo: Lena Kuzmich

Choir of Kin is an audio-visual performance by the collective Transformative Narratives combining topics of ecology, biology, queerness and music theory to queer notions of kinship and our relation with the environment. Based on scientific research on symbiosis and collective lifeforms, the project aims to question concepts of individualism and proposes strategies of mutualism, sympoietic world-building and radical care. Focusing on polyphony and tone clusters a speculative bio system is created, using sounds from a variety of life forms. This Choir of Kin acts as a dissonant, resilient defence system for dealing with generational and environmental trauma.

After two residency periods at Antre Peaux as part of the EMAP program, Transformative Narratives have produced a sound and video work based on their observations of lichens in the forest, giving rise to a multi-species process of exploration and creation. The formation of lichens is the result of symbiosis – it is the permanent merging of two heterogeneous entities – between algae and fungi. These organisms cohabit with a cyanobacteria that promotes the development of a resilient ecosystem. If the fungi makes up the majority of the “body” of the lichen, it offers protection against drought and ultraviolet light to the algae and cyanobacteria which, in exchange, produce sugars that are the lichen’s primary source of nourishment through photosynthesis. This symbiotic cooperation between fungi and photosynthetic life has existed for over four hundred and sixty million years. Inspired by this convolution, which has been especially elaborated upon by the biologist and feminist philosopher of science Donna Haraway, the collective explores, through the formation of multi-species organisms, the processes of negotiation for survival and coexistence.

With Choir of Kin, they have produced new performative, plastic and sound narratives at the intersection of worlds that are usually considered to be distinct. They expand the notions of human identity by establishing a more-than-human relationship to
life. During its residence at Antre Peaux, the collective focused on the development of an experimental musical notation technique and the creation of programs adapted to a scientific method which was applied to the observation of populations of lichens. Lichenography is the process of sequenced tracing of the body shapes of the lichens that proliferate on trees and stones. Thanks to this process, which is often used by lichenologists in order to follow the cycles of growth of individual specimens and the decline in biodiversity, the bodies of the lichens were manually transferred one by one by
the collective into a MIDI editing program – a digital musical instrument interface – in order to compose the musical score. This was then run through a modeling and creation process in order to generate a new immersive visual landscape. Choir of Kin is conceived as a malleable and modular system that can be reconfigured to suit each specific context in which it is displayed. It can take the form of listening sessions, of an audio-visual performance or as an installation, as in its initial presentation
at the Haïdouc. Drawing on queer reflections on kinship applied to the fields of biology and ecology, the installation inscribes itself in a vision of a new relationship to what we call Nature, with a particular focus on the diversity of intersections, inter-relations and shifting identities that [re]link human and non-human communities. Through this installation, a new symbiosis
is at work, between constituent common principles of groups and of those individuals usually considered as alien – foreign – and exogenous of our own corporality. The discourse, as much as the protocols employed by the collective for this artwork, functions
symbiotically, interweaving landscapes and projecting themselves toward the creation of a sympoietic world. That is to say, a world made up of multi-species interdependencies. Choir of Kin acts as a “deviant” defense system, borrowing from the researcher Cy Lecerf Maulpoix’s thinking, taking forking paths which lead to new sources of fertile imaginary in the face of the collapsing environmental conditions which affect all life forms.

Art And Science
Arts And Visual Culture
Body And Human
Media And Communication
Nature And Environment
Power And Politics
Society And Culture
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