Thermoception (as part of the Sensory Order Exhibition, LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art, Poland. HTTP:// WWW.SENSORYORDERS.COM )

Ionat Zurr (Artist), Oron Catts (Artist)

Research output: Non-traditional research outputExhibitionpeer-review


Contemporary biology is increasingly becoming a discipline of isolation and control. Since the set of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rhetoric of isolation and control is extended to the management of the spread of the virus in human society – social distancing, populations’ lockdowns and so on.

In the lab, isolating life from context for safety and/or efficiency reasons seems to bias much of the rhetoric and practice in this field to focus on controlling living systems at the molecular level. The same applies to COVID caused by the less than 30,000 RNA bases SARS-CoV-2 virus. Knowing the RNA sequence of the virus does not tell us much about the economic and social turmoil it inflicted on humanity. SARS-CoV-2 can only be understood in broader context of its host.

Life evolves through the interplay of existing traits’ adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Many organisms opt to keep their insides shielded in near optimal conditions in order to maintain biological function and homeostatic equilibrium. Others life which are removed out of their original context has to integrate into a newfound biological (i.e a SARS-CoV-2 virus hosted in a human cell) or artificial (i.e cells in an incubator) “body” which simulate and regulate the internal conditions of the original body in its many manifestations.

Here we give homage to the underrepresented hosting body rather than the DNA/RNA information. We are using the Thermostat and the Thermometer as sensory objects with changing sensory order:

An incubator is described simply as an isolated environment that controls heat and humidity and in some cases controls factors such as gas content, PH level and other mechanical conditions. A homeostatic, dynamic, surrogate body that shields the fragile life from the external environment. In the heart of the incubator lays the thermostat, known as the (one of the) first (first order) cybernetic devices, in that it allows for feedback control. Invented in 1620 by Cornelis Drebbel, it was firstly used to outsource care for eggs out of bodies - to regulate the temperature for a chicken incubator. The early examples of chicken incubators were often referred to as artificial mothers. While Thermostat regulates the temperatures, the thermometer states them. The thermostat became an evocative and symbolic object these days. It allows us to see whether we became incubators hosting life out of context – the Corona Virus.

Current ruptured time may become a fertile milieu to “incubate” different metaphors about what life is. Metaphors that give centre stage to the sensorial contextual hosting bodies
– the holobionts. We are calling for a more secular vitalist perception of life.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherLaznia Centre for Contemporary Art
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2020
EventSensory Orders - Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Poland
Duration: 6 Nov 202014 Feb 2021


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