An Integrated Bhiobrid Reality: Degenerative Cultures

Cesar And Lois

Artist Statement

Degenerative Cultures is a composite nature-based and AI-driven experiment that allows fungal organisms and their digital counterparts to corrupt texts on humanity’s project to dominate nature. The multimedia installation consists of a living fungus alongside a digital fungus and their degeneration of predatory texts. The microbiological culture consumes the text of a physical book that describes the human impulse to control and reshape nature. The living organism’s growth is followed by a digital fungus whose growth is based on cellular automata and natural language analysis. This AI “organism” searches the Internet and decomposes texts with similar predatory approaches to nature. The fungal readings are tweeted by the twitter handle @HelloFungus, which responds to twitter users with new digitally degenerated texts.

A hybrid of artificial and biological intelligences drive the logic of the installation. Physical books documenting the compulsion of people to direct nature are used as the substrates for fungi. The text is destroyed in a physical sense, and this destruction is visible through the redaction or disappearance of legible text on the surface of the pages by the biological agent. Just as the physical book is consumed by the microbiological culture, the digital database is corrupted by the degenerative algorithm. In the “bhiobrid” network, the bio-digital fungi respond to Internet users’ mentions, engaging others in the spreading of “digital spores.”

In Degenerative Cultures, living microorganisms, digital networks and artificial intelligence work together. Replicating the logic of so-called intelligent microorganisms (Physarum polycephalum) and blurring the limits between biological and artificial intelligence, the artists build a “bhiobrid” agent. By mapping and corrupting the predatory knowledge frameworks that have consistently driven how humanity deals with nature, the artists’ goal is to learn from the bio-hybrid interactions across biological, social and technical networks. The resulting system makes visible those entropic patterns in human culture that have carried us into the Anthropocene.

Project Website

↳ http://cesarandlois.org/digitalfungus

Video Documentation
Artist Bio

Cesar & Lois is a collective that formed in 2017 and probes the evolution of humanity’s relationship to nature by advancing intersections between the parallel networks of technology and biological systems. Cesar & Lois posit new systems that integrate natural and technological networks. They create fungal systems that tweet and posit nature-based economies, subverting algorithms and infusing art with nature’s data. Cesar & Lois is a collective that creates microbiologically based digital systems in order to ask questions about how our systems grow societal frameworks for thought and value. Spanning two continents, Cesar & Lois invite viewers to renegotiate their interactions within systems, challenging our societies’ inherent logic models. Cesar & Lois nurture bhiobrid cultures, ranging from the fungal colonization of books to microbiological mappings, with the objective of learning from the overlapping patterns of human-based knowledge and the wisdom of nature’s growth algorithms. Cesar & Lois draw on biologists and undergraduate researchers to push their art in new directions. In 2018 Cesar & Lois exhibited at the L.A.S.T. Festival at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford, CODAME in San Francisco, ISEA in Durban and the Brighton Digital Festival in the 2018 Lumen Prize exhibition. 

Cesar & Lois creates microbiologically based digital systems in order to ask questions about how our systems grow societal frameworks for thought and value. The collective formed in 2017 and probes the evolution of humanity’s relationship to nature by advancing intersections between the parallel networks of technology and biological systems. Spanning two continents, Cesar & Lois invite viewers to renegotiate their interactions within systems, challenging our societies’ inherent logic models. Cesar & Lois nurture bhiobrid cultures, ranging from the fungal colonization of books to microbiological mappings, with the objective of learning from the overlapping patterns of human-based knowledge and the wisdom of nature’s growth algorithms. Consisting of artists Lucy HG Solomon and Cesar Baio, Cesar & Lois draw on biologists and undergraduate researchers to push their art in new directions. Artist Jeremy Speed Schwartz and biologist Scott Morgans contributed to Degenerative Cultures. In 2018 Cesar & Lois exhibited at the L.A.S.T. Festival at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University, CODAME in San Francisco, ISEA in Durban and Brighton Digital Festival. Degenerative Cultures, which crosses nature and human systems, was the recipient of the 2018 Lumen Prize for Artificial Intelligence.

Additional info at cesarandlois.org.