“I wondered who benefits from immortality and whose mortal contributions are erased?”
MIT’s List Visual Arts Center has a new showcase and it’s both exactly what we’ve come to expect from an exhibition hosted by one of the world’s leading scientific research institutions and like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
It’s called Symbionts: Contemporary Artists and the Biosphere.
The exhibition, which opened Oct. 21 and runs until Feb. 26, 2023, explores “the critical interactions that give shape to our world and the interspecies entanglements that evolve it.” Exhibits include mushrooms grown with the “distilled communal piss of the people hosting the work” and a room crawling with 20 daddy longlegs.
Although the exhibition is about the way humans coexist with Earth’s other species, it’s also about all the ways in which we fail to.
“The extractive mentality and practices of colonialism and late capitalism has brought the world to existential crisis on a number of related fronts: biodiversity, climate, political, and economic,” exhibiting artist Alan Michelson wrote in an email interview. “If limits are not enacted and balance not restored through coordinated efforts on a global scale, the world may become uninhabitable.”
Along with symbiosis, the works tackle subjects including medical ethics and the displacement of indigenous peoples—topics of dire importance during the planet’s climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, Michelson and fellow artist Crystal Z Campbell said.
“I wondered who benefits from immortality and whose mortal contributions are erased? Whose stories and personhoods are valued and considered worthy of foreverness, of testimony, of an archive?” Campbell wrote.
More info about the show’s hours, talks, and symposiums at listart.mit.edu