Making It Up

11ème Parcours d’art contemporain en vallée du Lot
présenté par la MAGP centre d’art, du 3 juillet au 4 septembre 2016

(Photographie : Yohann Gozard ©)At Falmouth University Thursday 22 March 11.30-13.00 giving the keynote presentation in the Research Students Symposium. How do we make something from nothing? How do we get from the blank page to the book or the artwork? I will focus on the development of my future fiction, Meanda, set on a water planet. The symposium is open to the public, with other presentations by postgrads. Places are limited. If you would like to attend please contact Image shows an extract from Meanda installed on the GR36 Compostella path in the Lot Valley, France. Photo by Yohann Gozard.

Writing algae and other life

William Blake, Newton, 1795.

William Blake was critical of the rigid, reductive influence of Newton’s ideas, of his insensibility to vision and ethical restraint. Describing Blake’s portrait, Alan Moore remarks that: ‘Newton sits in single-minded concentration, crouched above his calculations and immune to the more fractal charm of blue and orange lichens spattering the rocky backdrop, his chill bench has the distinct appearance of a bidet or commode. Enthroned, a god of knowledge showers his pearls of wisdom on the species through a process of mere peristalsis, heedless of the fact that mankind’s dream-life is thus rendered a materialist latrine.’

A few months ago I went to Iceland in search of the fractal charm of lichens and algae in the Future Fictions Summit. Researchers met at the Asbru Enterprise Park, Reykjavik – the former NATO naval and military base – to exchange ideas and generate narratives of future multispecies co-existence. The summit included a field trip to the slippery algae beach on Hafnir shore led by Eydís Mary Jónsdóttir.


The summit culminated at Reykjavik Art Museum with Jennifer Gabrys’s lecture on lichens, bioindication and environmental politics, discussing the lived effects of pollution as experienced by nonhuman organisms; a future fiction performance-lecture; and algae culinary exploration with Hinrik Carl Ellertsson from DILL Restaurant.

[Extract from a future fiction text on human-algae symbiosis research]

‘Obs.: Enhanced taste capacities in salty range; pigmentation shifts, thickening of skin which is demonstrating patches of heavily whorled textures….Stage 2. Subjects developed holdfast feet complexes. Under-skin vesicles developed, particularly clustered around collar-bone area. Arms have lengthened and are tending towards frond-like flagellata….Rhythmic shifts in verticality and horizontality observed i.e. Subjects are erect during sea immersions and layered horizontally in periods of air exposure….the mouth can function as a knowledge sensor….Nothing intelligible yet, however embodied sensory dialogue with algae appears increasingly likely….Subjects are able to taste impacts from chemical and other marine contaminants….Some subjects demonstrate adaptation to tidal and seasonal rhythms. Greatly enhanced consciousness of interscalar and trans-systemic relationships are being recorded. Prolonged rhythmic immersions are resulting in reflexive consciousness, a form of self-archaeology….Visions of new ecologies glimpsed. Confronting light is the darkness. The awe-ful rainbow.’

Text developed by Tracey Warr in collaboration with Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, Kristopas Sabolius, Nikola Bojić, Lucas Freeman, and other researchers at the Zooetics Future Fictions Summit, Iceland, October 2016.

algae2The Future Fictions Summit was the most recent instalment of Zooetics – a project exploring intersections between the human, non-human and poetic knowledge spheres. A full summary of the project and Jennifer Gabrys’s lecture are on the OH Project site. An interview with Jennifer Gabrys by Viktorija Šiaulytė will be published later this year. A collection of my zooetic fictions will be published later this year as part of Frontiers in Retreat.

What comprises non-human life?

Photo: Nomeda Urbonas
Photo: Nomeda Urbonas

An article and extracts from my novella MEANDA have just been published on the Zooetics website. Zooetics is part of the 5 year Frontiers in Retreat art research project. With artists Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas and curator Viktorija Siaulyte, I have been exploring radical future potentialities for interspecies relations and notions of Nature.

Inspired by JG Ballard’s fictional living plant technologies, the Zooetics team has been working with mycelium – the extraordinary mushroom roots network. In MEANDA I made water one of the protagonists in a future fiction story set on an exoplanet.

Zooetics is a word coined to gesture at poetic, artistic, fictional, playful approaches to all life. Mycelium is certainly living. Is water?

I’m currently working with HIAP curator, Jenni Nurmenniemi, to develop a seminar which will take place in Helsinki in September and consider the question of non-human life within the context of the Museum of Nonhumanity.

The role of the writer in contemporary society

141113_Zooetics_press_NEW10I did an interview in Lithuania late last year and thought it worth posting a link to it today since the interviewer, Aldona Steponavičiūtė, asked some excellent questions about writing and contemporary society:

If that whets your appetite at all do hunt around the Zooetics website which is a rich resource on imagining future biosphere-friendly, organic technologies. There is a glossary, bibliography, links to podcasts and to the Zooetics Facebook site.

Writing Award

GwendraethI am very pleased to be one of 25 recipients of this year’s Literature Wales Writers’ Bursaries. The Bursary has been awarded for work on my new novel, The Water Age, which is set on the triple river estuary at Carmarthen Bay. It has a historical strand in the 12th century, focussed on Nest who was the daughter of the southern Welsh king, Rhys ap Tewdwr, and a future strand set in the 23rd century. I am currently researching the history and the Welsh castles that will feature in the story including Pembroke, Llansteffan, Carmarthen, Cardiff, Narberth, Carew, Kidwelly and Cilgerran. Also doing lots of research on water which will be significant in both parts of the novel, and on climate change and sea level predictions for the future story.