2019, Thu, Apr 25

Idealized Forms

Sophia Roosth with Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Xavier Le Roy, Scarlet Yu and performers

In order to establish hypotheses via scientific experimentation, scientists must rule out variables, contingencies, and false causes. But how much of this process is related to preconceived ideas about what counts as a valid parameter for scientific research and what does not? This conversation unpacks how established notions of life and form direct epistemic practices and their impact on social structures.

Anthropologist Elizabeth A. Povinelli explores notions of inclusion and exclusion within contemporary geopolitical landscapes and how these landscapes are governed by our understandings of life, living, and death. From the history of science perspective, Sophia Roosth refers to how metaphysical—that is, idealized—notions of vitality often become attached to the understanding of what counts as life, both in scientific and social terms.

The constant reconfiguration of the Earth situates humans within a constant negotiation concerning the meaning of life and form. Even in the life sciences, one paradigm after the other has transformed the interpretations of what life could be, and constantly reoriented how life has been and is studied in the first place. The conversations between historian of Science Sophia Roosth and various contributors attest to this ongoing problematic by demonstrating how the approach one takes toward understanding life has enormous ramifications on what it could be and in what forms it can manifest.

Temporary Title, 2015, Carriageworks Sydney | © Peter Craig

Temporary Title, 2015, Carriageworks Sydney | © Peter Craig


During Life Forms, choreographers Xavier Le Roy, Scarlet Yu and a team of performers will transform the space of the event through shaping physical relations and collaborations between each other and their surroundings. The shape of the planet is a constant negotiation between earth processes, human culture and the technologies that they produce. In the tensions they create with one another, transformations abound, recombinant and irreversible. Le Roy’s and Yu’s work questions the dividing lines between human / inhuman, object / subject, transformation / transition / modification. While at first sight it can appear as something external to contemplate, its durational quality transforms it into a landscape in which the audience and participants find themselves, a situation to live, a space where our perception can be faster than the actions; a situation where maybe time can wait. Within this landscape of constantly forming and deforming assemblies of speakers, performers and audience, a situation can be generated where oscillations between recognizable and unrecognizable forms frame research conversations on different approaches to the notion of lifeforms.

Choreography based on Temporary Title, 2015, concept: Xavier Le Roy, artistic collaborator: Scarlet Yu, with Alexandre Achour, Jorge Alencar, Saša Asentić, Christian Bourigault, Sherwood Chen, Christine De Smedt, João dos Santos Martins, Ben Evans, Zeina Hanna, Alice Heyward, Becky Hilton, Hélène Iratchet, Neto Machado, Sabine Macher, Julia Rodriguez, Salka Ardal Rosengren