The 17th Biennale Architettura 2021 curated by architect and scholar Hashim Sarkis on the theme How will we live together? takes place from 22 May to 21 November 2021. Faber Futures has made a contribution from an ongoing project titled Mutupo [totem] to Future Assembly, an exhibition curated by Studio Other Spaces with six co-designers: Carolina A. Jones, Hadeel Ibrahim, Kumi Naidoo, Mariana Mazzucato, Mary Robinson and Paola Antonelli.
Located on the mezzanine of the Central Pavilion at the Giardini, Future Assembly comprises a display of fifty more-than-human ‘stakeholders’ from around the world submitted by the participants of Biennale Architettura 2021. Inspired by the current paradigm for a multilateral assembly – the United Nations, Future Assembly recognises our status as assemblies, from the microbial gut-brain to the human dependence on the hospitality of our shared planet. Just as we give standing to the fictive entities of corporations and the protected entity of the human child, can we not give standing to the life forms on which we humans are utterly dependent?
“Microbial dark matter” refers to naturally occurring organisms known only through metagenomic sequencing. Our nomination for a more-than-human stakeholder in the Future Assembly, Mutupo [totem, Shona], is a dark matter portrait generated by an algorithm we have designed to process an open-source dataset of DNA sequences found in the gut microbiomes of Tanzanian Hadzabe community members.
From the human gut to woolly mammoth remains to the very air we breathe, metagenomic sequencing mines DNA that might one day be used to produce medicines, resurrect extinct species, and even alter human behaviour. Ushering in a new era of scientific research and industrial exploitation, biological big-data will be fought over by private and public interests, with those claiming ownership of the living world and the infrastructures assembled to mediate it determining our future relationship with nature.
Critical of biological surveillance and the extractive relationships it enforces between humans, othered humans, and more-than-human agents, the portrait is an ode to the potential of a living world held in a global commons that might nurture new forms of representation and build reciprocal and ritualised connections with the planet.