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Experimenting with fabricating forms of life has driven many of the most innovative practices in the life sciences. At the same time, these techniques have raised a series of concerns regarding the ethical limits of experimenting on living things. Such reactions have especially been directed toward what some see as a distortion between life and the forms it may or may not be able to take. It seems that pushing and bending the parameters of what counts as life keeps bringing us back to the essential question of what life is in the first place.
In this conversation, historians of science Luis Campos and Sophia Roosth take a look at experimental construction in the life sciences. The construction of narratives and histories that are fundamental to the definitions of life, form, and origin is a focal point for this conversation.
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.
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, 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