Jenna Sutela, Extremophile. Still.

Update: November 15, 2019
This event has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Please join us on Monday, December 2 for Naeem Mohaiemen’s lecture, A Missing Can of Film.

CAST Visiting Artist Jenna Sutela’s performance of Extremophile at MIT, marks the US premiere of her work that was co-comissioned by the Serpentine Galleries and Goethe-Institut. The performance will be followed by a conversation with Jenna Sutela; Tanja Bosak, Associate Professor of Geobiology; and Stefan Helmreich, Professor of Anthropology; moderated by Caroline Jones, Professor of the History of Art.  Extremophile 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.

During her residency at MIT hosted by Professor Caroline A. Jones of the History, Theory and Criticism section of the Department of Architecture at MIT School of Architecture and Planning, Sutela is pursuing her interest in biological and computational art, making use of organisms such as Bacillus subtilis nattō bacteria and the “many-headed” slime mold Physarum polycephalum. Through her work with living materials, Sutela questions how humans and microbes relate to each other, exploring possibilities for interspecies communication. For example, Sutela’s previous work invites considerations of how the decision-making mechanisms of social amoebae could be the preferred model for constructing artificial intelligence (AI).

With a practice in sculpture, installations, sound art, and video, Sutela’s residency impacts several areas of MIT, stimulating curiosity-driven research in labs as well as providing new perspectives on organic and synthetic life for students and other community members who experience her class visits and performance.

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.


Seating is limited for this performance. Please register here in advance of the event.

Please arrive to the venue 10 minutes before the start of the event. At 6pm, remaining seats will be released. There will be no seating during the performance.



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.

Sutela’s work has been presented internationally at locations including Guggenheim Bilbao, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, and the Serpentine Galleries in London.

Past projects include nimiia vibié, sounds of machine learning and interspecies communication, released summer 2019 on the record label PAN; and the audio-visual work nimiia cétiï, completed in early 2018. nimiia cétiï was produced in collaboration with Memo Akten as part of n-Dimensions, Google Arts & Culture’s artist-in-residence program at Somerset House Studios in London. Using machine learning, audio recordings of an invented Martian language, and the movements of the nattō bacteria, nimiia cétiï generates a new form of communication that aspires to connect with a world beyond human consciousness.

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

For more information on Jenna Sutela and her residency, please visit CAST’s website.


  • act cube
    Wiesner Building
    20 Ames Street
    Cambridge, MA


  • date Nov 18 2019
  • time 6pm to 8pm
  • cost
    Free and Open to the Public

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