Artist Profile – Jenna Sutela

Extremophile, Jenna Sutela, 2019.
ACT at MIT

Jenna Sutela is a Finnish, Berlin-based artist who works with words, sounds, and other living media. She engages with both futuristic and ancient materials in audiovisual pieces, sculptures, and performances. Sutela’s work seeks to override aspects of culture based on a survival-of-the-fittest narrative in favor of symbiotic relationships between all life forms, both organic and synthetic.

As a bio-artist, Sutela’s microbial collaborators include Physarum polycephalum, the “many-headed” slime mold with a decentralized nervous system, and the extremophilic Bacillus subtilis nattō bacterium. Recently, she has also collaborated with artificial neural networks.

In 2017, Sutela launched the publication Orgs: From Slime Mold to Silicon Valley,” which presents her research into the slime mold along with decentralized organizations to explore unknown possibilities for future life on Earth.

In an excerpt from “Orgs: From Slime Mold to Silicon Valley and Beyond,” Sutela writes:

“Like in cyberpunk, Orgs: From Slime Mold to Silicon Valley and Beyond explores the dystopic terrain of mega corporations mixing with artificial or biological intelligence—only the focus has shifted from Neo-Tokyo through Silicon Valley to early Earth, from hierarchical models to self-organization and “genetic” algorithms. At stake are the ethics of organization…. Consider this book as a roadmap to solarpunk: an accessible eco- technological utopia for all of Earth’s life-forms.”

In 2018, Sutela produced “nimiia cétiï” in collaboration with Memo Akten as part of n-Dimensions, Google Arts & Culture’s Artist-in-Residence Program at Somerset House Studios in London. This audio-visual work utilizes machine learning, audio recordings of an invented Martian language, and the movements of the nattō bacteria, to generate a new form of communication that aspires to connect with a world beyond human consciousness.

Shown above, “nimiia cétiï,” Jenna Sutela, 2018.

 

In 2019, Sutela released “nimiia vibié,” an audio accompaniment to her work “nimiia cétiï,” on the record label PAN. This work included sounds of machine learning and interspecies communication. 

Shown above, “nimiia vibié,” Jenna Sutela, 2019.

 

Currently, Sutela is producing a performance art piece entitled “Extremophile” that considers the idea of embodied cognition on a planetary scale, presenting an audiovisual and narrative zoom from outer space to inside our gut. Understanding oneself as interconnected with wider environments marks a profound shift in subjectivity, one beyond anthropocentrism and individualism. Key concepts include extremophiles and panspermia. 

 

Shown above, audio from the performance “Extremophile,” Jenna Sutela, 2019.

“Extremophile” is included in the ACT’s Fall 2019 Lecture Series: The Inexplicable Wonder of Precipitous Events, with a live performance by Sutela on Monday, November 18th, 2019.

More information about the performance can be found here.

More information about the ACT’s Fall 2019 Lecture Series: The Inexplicable Wonder of Precipitous Events can be found here.