Radical Speculations: Artificial Biology and Robotics Meet Art and Architecture

By | Aurora Del Rio | Laura Beloff

Radical Speculations, exhibition view. Photo: Aurora Del Rio

Following the ABRA-project workshop in August, the exhibition Radical Speculations was inaugurated on September 13th in Dipoli art gallery, Aalto University, Helsinki, curated by Edel O’Reilly and organized by Pia Fricker and Laura Beloff. 

This exhibition represents a milestone in the ABRA project: the artworks have been ideated and realized by collaborative groups of artists, scientists, biologists, and experts in robotics who met each other in the two workshops organized by the ABRA project. The last one, “Transdisciplinarity and Sustainability”, was hosted by the Aalto Fablab, which provided the best environment for new approaches at the cross-section between art, technology, robotics, biology, and architecture to be tested and finally realized. 

Radical Speculations, exhibition view. Photo: Aurora Del Rio

The aim of this exhibition was that of providing a testing ground in which new ideas could be collaboratively developed and visualized, to prepare for the final exhibition of the project which will be hosted by Art Quarter Budapest next May 2023. However, the exhibition became more than a mere showcase of ideas, presenting many interesting approaches that could be considered fully developed artworks.

Radical Speculations, exhibition view. Photo: Aurora Del Rio

For example, the collaborative work Harvesting Estrogen from wastewater as an instance of community-based and self-determined act of (health)care by Johanna Lauritzen (Aalborg University, DK), Aska Mayer (Aalto University, FI)

From the wall text: 

“Estrogens, both natural and synthetic, are considered some of the most potent and common hormonal compounds. They are used to regulate and disrupt hormonal balance, making them an essential part of trans and female healthcare. Estrogens are commonly detected in wastewater. Currently, conventional wastewater treatment is not able to effectively remove estrogens, so the hormonal compounds make their way into the greater water supply, exposing both humans and wildlife to them.

We plan to develop and test a protocol for the extraction and purification of estrogen from local water supplies, resulting in the production of a transdermal hydrogel, by which the harvested surplus estrogens can be used. Combining the two realities of the bio-technical and the bio-political, we understand this process as counteracting institutionalized “healthcare” and speculate on possible chances of those protocols for community-based forms of self-determined medical care. We imagine the protocol as a centerpiece, around which a community can gather to offer each other mutual care.”

Radical Speculations, exhibition view. Photo: Aurora Del Rio

The other exhibited projects (in alphabetical order) are:

ARBA - Aurora Del Rio and Katri Naukkarinen (Aalto University, FI). With the spiritual contribution of Carlos Gomez (Aalborg University, DK)

Co-Ability / Aberrant behaviour in system aesthetic - Renata Dezso, (Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, HU)

EMPATH: A true Intelligence, artificial or not, comes from embodied knowledge - Hege Tapio (Oslo Metropolitan University)  and Yu-Han Tseng (Aalto University, FI) 

Harvesting Estrogen from wastewater as an instance of community-based and self-determined act of (health)care - Johanna Lauritzen (Aalborg University, DK), Aska Mayer (Aalto University, FI)

If the Flower Were Not Bee-Like - Dániel Szalai (Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, HU)

Mind Meets Machine: Immersive Data-Interaction - Pia Fricker, Professor of Practice and Vice Head of the Department of Architecture, Aalto University

Pissing Point - Laura Beloff, Assistant Professor, Head of Doctoral Education & Vice-Head of Department of Art & Media, Aalto University

Protonotations; choreography-driven exploration of protocells movement - Maros Pekarik & Elisa Pettina, Trento University (IT)

Rabarba - Marija Šumarac (Aalto University, FI), Edit Blaumann (Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, HU), Sólja Holm Mortensen (Aalborg University, DK)

Radical Speculations, exhibition view. Photo: Aurora Del Rio

Workshop participants: Laura Beloff, Edit Blaumann, Cynthia Blanchette, Judit Boros, Lorena Cebolla Sanahuja, Aurora Del Rio, Renáta Dezső, Pia Fricker, Carlos Gomez Cubero, Martin Michael Hanczyc, Sólja Holm Mortensen, Anca Horvath, Elizabeth Jochum, Kaan Ünlü, Johanna Lauritzen, Markus Löchtefeld, Aska Mayer, Timothy Robert Merritt, Katri Naukkarinen, Maros Pekarik, Elisa Pettinà, Christopher Porterfield, Matthias Rehm, Marija Šumarac, Daniel Szalai, Hege Tapio, Karina Vissonova.

Radical Speculations will run until November 18th, 2022 closing with a finissage event at 14:00.

ABRA - Aalto Exhibition Team:

Pia Fricker (ARTS - Architecture)

Laura Beloff (ARTS - Art & Media)

Eva Tordera Nuño - Graphic design 

Myriam Gras - Photography, video

Kaan Unlu - Photography, video, logistics

Aurora Del Rio - Photography, video

Edel O’Reilly - Curator

Radical Speculations, exhibition view. Photo: Laura Beloff