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OOloI spacesuit

Published onSep 27, 2019
OOloI spacesuit

-view of installation

-view from camera inside the bubble

This project is proposed by the Umami Assemblage, an artist collective and second-year graduate students of the Art, Culture, Technology program. Our art practice questions the grounds that science and technology are laid upon, engaging critically with its histories and conditions. As we create bold and exciting technologies for the “new space age” what kind of narratives should be deployed alongside? Will there be space for all voices to be heard, including ones that are consistently silenced under the many forms of dominant and oppressive configurations?

The proposal is for an origami soft robotic space suit made out of bacterial cellulose that unravels under microgravity as a performance of multi-species living in space. A scaled down model that is actuated will be contained in a bubble, and a sleeve is worn under the zero g flight suit. The suit uses only biodegradable material, consisting mainly of plant cellulose and bacteria cellulose harvested via fermentation. For Umami Assemblage, fermentation has become a metaphor through which the paradigm of domination is analyzed. Fermentation as a practice of co-living embodies building with communities of humans, “less-than-human” and “othered” humans. This re-conception of the spacesuit is inspired by Octavia Butler’s fictional character the Oankali, from her Xenogenesis trilogy, whose skin is covered with long sensory organs. At the tip of each organ appendage is an heirloom seed that functions as a living archive/seed bank, holding the latency of life. Thinking with post humanist scholars like Donna Haraway, Eduardo Kohn, Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, we treat our relationship with the environment as relationships of care, tenderness and empathy. We find it urgent to import this relationship into imaginaries of the interplanetary ecologies we might one day be part of.

Video documentation of this piece in performance will be integrated into our previous works to create an installation that brings together works that touch upon the matter of kindred living from different perspectives and scales, aiming to put in dialogue and create bridges that need to be made between post-humanities in the paradigm of extraction and domination.

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