[Anti]disciplinary Topographies

Microbes Performing in Zoom

Klaus Spiess (AT), Lucie Strecker (DE)

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Uncertain Co-Authors

There is not only a decline in linguistic and phonetic diversity but also in the diversity of the microbiomes. Both the monopolisation of languages and the spatial distancing in digital communication exacerbate this decline.
Spiess&Strecker’s performance counteracts the simultaneous decline of microbial and linguistic diversity by presenting a vision of language as an ecological process. The artists induce an interaction between spoken words and oral microbes that should benefit both the diversity of language, media communication and the microbiome.
In their performances the artists expose the oral microbiome harvested from a present interlocutor to a alphabetically orchestrated choir of zoom participants. The participants’ voice spectrograms drive pumps which add pheromones without a mate, until the microbiome recognizes and memorizes that a pheromone does not necessarily indicate the presence of a mate. This exposure generates an ecological adaptation of the oral flora which remains upright when exposed to the spectrograms after the pheromones had been phased out. The choir finally orchestrates an alphabet that has been rearranged by microbial ecology.
This transcendence of historically distinct ontologies not only reflects on the simultaneous decline of microbial and linguistic diversity but also challenges hybrid layers of media communication.


Performance Research 25:3:51-57 (2020)
Performance Research 25:5:122-128 (2020)


Klaus Spiess (AT): Directs the Arts, Science and Biomedia program at the Medical University of Vienna, where he is Associate Professor and Chair of Vienna LASER Leonardo talks. Together with Lucie Strecker, he has developed transdisciplinary performances and installations about biopolitics (Beall Center for Art&Technologyl, Irvine; Bemis Center of Contemporary Art, Omaha; Click Festival, Helsingør; ISEA; Muffatwerk, Munich; Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin; Onassis Cultural Center, Athens; and at the Prix Ars Electronica). He has published about his work in Leonardo, Performance Research and The Lancet.

Lucie Strecker (DE): Vienna and Berlin based artist, performer and researcher, works across various media, exploring experimental systems in art and science. Performing and exhibiting internationally, she has taught Performance Art and Experience Design at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. A Fellow of the Berlin University of the Arts, she holds a senior postdoc position at the Art & Science Department of the University of Applied Arts Vienna, conducting the Elise-Richter-PEEK project The Performative Biofact, funded by the Austrian Science Fund. She is a Senior Artist at the University of Applied Arts Vienna Angewandte Performance Laboratory (APL).


Jürgen Ropp, Ursula Rauter, Katherina T Zakravsky, Christoph Müller, Bozhidar Baltov, Mark Rinnerthaler, David Bosch, Stefan Gschroefl

Supported by

Medical University Vienna, Center for Public Health; Wien Kultur; Federal Ministry Republic of Austria Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport