Collection: Moderna galerija, Ljubljana.
The term ‘vegetariat’ describes a collection of bodies, human and other-than-human alike, which find themselves in the gaze of the algorithm. The vegetariat is the stuff of social and financial credit scores, carbon offsets, smart watches, biometric passports, Monsanto GMOs, and Google street views. While surveillance capitalism flourishes by mining every possible aspect of the vegetariat’s being, essentially equating biopolitics with (bio)labour, these bodies are waking up to an alien landscape and asking themselves not only how to survive, but how to thrive under these totalizing circumstances. Through this installation, the vegetariat begins to explore its contours and probe avenues of resistance.
The #plantsofinstagram perform ecosystem services.
The neuron-like excitation signals, which travel along stems and transmit sensations through plants’ bodies, are in this case split with a minimally invasive plant-machine juncture. Here, the organically generated voltage transitions into its amplified metallic double, which operates the mechanical trigger of the drill machine.
Attached to each drill machine is a smart watch, diligently noting every step and turn of the user-laborer and transmitting it as an endless stream of data to the gluttonous Big Others in China and USA.
Despite their predominantly subtropical origin, the #plantsofinstagram have an extraordinary capacity to become invisible within contemporary indoor environments, while they withstand poor light conditions, inconsistent watering regimes and general neglect. Given the opportunity, these faculties make them great workers towards persistent, low-key, low-maintenance representation of other-than-human entities in the sphere of total body surveillance.
In a flattened ontology established through the gaze of the algorithm, the vegetariat has the prerogative to choose allies regardless of their color, race, size, systematic classification or feeding habits.
Špela Petrič is a Ljubljana and Amsterdam based new media artist who has been trained in the natural sciences and holds a PhD in biology, currently working as a post-doc researcher at the Smart Hybrid Forms Lab at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her artistic practice combines the natural sciences, wet biomedia practices, performance, and critically examines the limits of anthropocentrism via multi-species endeavours. She envisions artistic experiments that enact strange relations to reveal the ontological and epistemological underpinnings of our (bio)technological societies. Her work revolves around the reconstruction and re-appropriation of scientific methodology in the context of cultural phenomena, while working towards an egalitarian and critical discourse between the professional and public spheres. Petrič received several awards, such as the White Aphroid for outstanding artistic achievement (Slovenia), the Bioart and Design Award (Netherlands), and an Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica (Austria).