Interspecies Sonification: Deleuze, Ruyer and Bioart

In A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari famously argued that becoming is a non- linear connection between heterogeneous elements. As they point out, “we oppose epidemic to filiation, contagion to heredity, peopling by contagion to sexual reproduction.

… Bands, human and animal, proliferate by contagion, epidemics, battlefields, and catastrophes… Unnatural participations or nuptials are the true Nature spanning the kingdoms of nature… These combinations are neither genetic nor structural; they are interkingdoms, unnatural participations.” Deleuze and Guattari create a methodological ground for these kinds of “unnatural participations” by invoking such concepts as becoming, multiplicity, or inclusive disjunction. However, when it comes to the point where it is necessary to give some specific example, usually they refer to modern literature (Kafka, Melville, Lovecraft) and modern cinema (Mann). Deleuze and Guattari’s theory is never accompanied by scientific research in biology. In this respect Deleuze’s predecessor Gilbert Simondon elaborates a more nuanced theory, based on the knowledge of physical, biological, human, and technological systems, which are all related on the basis of so-called “analogical paradigmatism.” The analogy of different systems is based on the notion of transduction, which is defined as a “physical, biological, mental, social operation through which an activity propagates gradually within a domain, by founding this propagation on a structuration of the domain that is realized from one place to the next.” In this respect, transduction can be applied to different regimes of individuation. Following Deleuze and Guattari’s and Simondon’s insights, this paper will discuss some “unnatural participations” in the field of bioart.

The  paper will concentrate  on  a  specific  example of bioart, namely, Aurelia  1+Hz / proto viva sonification (2015) by Robertina Šebjanič (Honorary Mention Prix Ars Electronica 2016). The artwork uses bioacoustics (sounds, produced by Aurelia aurita, of a moon jellyfish, which were recorded at a marine station) to interrogate the interspecies communication between humans and marine animals. Aurelia aurita is an ancient species, having rudimentary sensory nerves that allows it to perceive light, smell, and orientation. Its gravity receptors, containing calcium crystals, are similar to our Vestibula system. In this sense, the artwork creates a certain “analogical paradigmatism,” which makes it possible to examine its cohabitation with other living systems. The interactive performance features live transmitted sound generated by Aurelia aurita; this sound is navigated by the performer Robertina Šebjanič, thus creating interspecies sonification as a kind of “unnatural participation.” The paper intends to examine the analogy between human and non-human species and to investigate a specific sonic assemblage created by the performer and marine animals.

Aurelia 1+Hz / proto viva sonification contains a tracking system that follows the interaction between the jellyfish and generates locative media. The jellyfish are tracked by a raspberry pi camera. The camera measures the data of contraction,  movement, and interaction between the jellyfish. The data captured by the camera in real time is transformed into information that provides navigation in the program of the sound archive containing recordings of previous experiments, such as sound data of jellyfish that was produced during the project, entitled Deep Blue, at the Institute of Marine Science and Technologies in Izmir, Turkey. The sound navigated by the performer/artist Robertina Šebjanič has been gathered by hydrophones recording underwater jellyfish bloom on the shores of Izmir in February 2014. The jellyfish used in the frames of the project are from the species of Aurelia aurita or moon jellyfish. It is the most common jellyfish found in seas and oceans worldwide and, at the same time, is a modular organism in laboratories for jellyfish research.