Symbiosis: a mother diary

In collaboration with Carolina

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_Symbiosis: a mother diary_ documents the experience and thoughts of two young women and their slime mold child. The diary documents the growth of Vina Garcia Morais, the slime mold we gave birth to, and reflect about this “caring system” that is always expected on us (women). We sign the "family contract" to care, feed, protect and love, putting our efforts to keep them alive and support them in their own journeys.

Being regularly questioned by our families about our plans to have children, specially because our ovules are in their "healthiest phase" at this age we're in, we never know if our ability to take care is something natural of our personalities or if it was imposed on us so we could be better mothers. Considering the diary as a literature genre that gives place to a regular input of honest confessions, we see this medium as an appropriate way to share our thoughts letting it clear that every statement there is profoundly personal and "unfinished".

The diary


For the full-size pdf, see Symbiosis

Relevance

Maternal bond, biological clock, unconditional love are terms inherently attached to parenthood, especially when talking about the mother-child relationship. With this project we question how much the weight of its terms' meanings is on real feelings - and this almost magical environment created around the idea of motherhood - and how much it is actually related to society laws and social pressure.

Technical aspects

During the phase of getting to know Vina (our child) we'll try to understand their preferences such as food, music and space preferences. For example, we already know that Vina loves kinder bueno but is not that into broccoli. With these "experiments" we shall observe our own feelings on the process and the discoveries to share them in the diary.

*Slime mode 
*Medium plastic dish
*Normal oats
*Gluten-free oats
*Kinder bueno
*1 week
*dark spaces

As we didn't have our previous slime molds, we asked Nicolas to be our baby's grandfather and give us a bit of his slime mold. Being always so kind, he provided us not only a whole new petri dish full of a living blob but also a dry one that we could bring back to life with water if necessary.

Aesthetic approach

The diary contains a mixture of Viviane's photographs and Carolina's drawings, both being our point of view about our baby's growth. The journaling experience takes place in a period of one week, being this week what we could call the childhood of the slime mold and the moment where we're having our first steps as mothers. During this time we share our duties so each day one of us is responsible for feeding, observing from time to time, documenting and giving attention in general to our blob.

Within the imagetic documentation, we write down our thoughts and feelings while taking care of Vina.

References

LabLogBook

Inspired by those old Logbooks written by travelers exploring the world, I want to document my experience at the BioLab as a human exploring these unknown beings that I had contact with before but never really paid attention to.

Could I do it without a colonizing gaze?

I don't want to manipulate them but to let them show me the way to discover and understand their own knowledge.


Phase 1: First thoughts

My work at the Lab started on reading the available writings there. A fortunate encounter led me to start reading Tactical Biopolitcs that got to translate my thoughts to words. In reference to Foucault's statement:

"Resistance comes first, and resistance remains superior to the forces of the process; power relations are obliged to change with the resistance"

My very first experiment was on trying to make the slime mold follow the route I built for it with oats. Nonetheless its resistance showed me the unpredictable aspect of nature as it started growing through a different path.

It made me think about our ambitious intentions to manipulate others lives for our own purposes and how it is the first possibility that comes to mind when we talk about experiments.

But what can slime mold teach me? Which signs does it give to me about what it wants?

Phase 2: Crisis

After a few days highly exposed to sunlight, spores started to appear on my first slime molds. The frustration gave place to amazement when Miga pointed out that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing but just the beginning of another life cycle.

Having in mind post-humanist and object oriented studies, this changing of perspective enlightened my research. I understood that what I was seeking was to question this anthropocentric way of seeing even the non-human beings.

As I talked to a friend about my aim to deal with the slime mold in a non-manipulative way, they stressed that any type of Bioart, especially if I am bringing the living matter to the lab or to my house, implies in manipulating the media I am working with. They said that better than avoiding manipulation it would be interesting to work with a symbiotic approach, understanding not just the slime mold's agency on me but also mine on it.

Phase 3: Gestation

Coming back to the very first observation when my slime mold didn't follow the oat path I built, I remembered how much I could relate it to my relation with my mother. In many aspects I feel that I didn't follow the path she wanted me to follow. I grew up following another way.

It was somehow frustrating to me, seeing my slime mold going the other way because I was so sure that the food path would be the best one to follow. It was frustrating as I couldn't understand and also we couldn't talk - we don't speak the same language.

But why did I have this caring feeling about a being that I reproduced in a lab?

I could see some colleagues talking in such a distant position about our experiments, having many ideas on how to work with them but I could only feel this curiosity to understand the relation I stablished with my "babies" (I couldn't help referring to them like this).

Could this maternal bond be my subject to study?

Phase 4: Giving birth and caring

At last, I talked to Carolina and we saw that our thoughts about our projects were going through a similar way. Thus we decided to work together and follow the question:

Could the maternal bond be fabricated?