With her series of works presented as Dance of Encounters Anaïs Senli focuses on microscopic processes and examines in poetic fashion the multitude of encounters that occur between microbes, bacteria and other entities that constitute the extraordinary variety of life on planet Earth.
Senli’s imagery resonates with the research of microbiologist Lynn Margulis, who in the 1970s posited, that evolution at a cellular level occurs through the symbiosis of bacteria and entities of different origin, with different abilities rather than through random mutations. This means that creatures who would otherwise kill and consume each other, might end up living in symbiotic entanglements (that is for example inside or on top of each other), thus creating more complex organisms through mutually beneficial forms of coexistence. Altering the conception of living matter in such a way, these observations also affect our idea of what constitutes a subject. “We and all other organisms made of nucleated cells, from amobae to whales, we are not only individuals, we are aggregates. Individuality arises from aggregation, communities whose members fuse and become bounded by materials of their own making.”1 Science philosopher and ecofeminist Donna Haraway shares common ground when proposing: “To be one is always to become with many. (…) those who are to be in the world are constituted in intra- and interaction. The partners do not precede the meeting; species of all kinds, living and not, are consequent on a subject- and object-shaping dance of encounters.”2
With the main diptych of the series named Filamentous growth in zoosporangium 1 and 2 Senli takes inspiration from microbiological and genetic illustrations.3 Abstracting them she places elements of different, often reoccurring shapes into messy constellations suggesting forms of intra- and interaction. Terrapolis is the place where all of these figures meet.A composite noun combining the Latin terra for world with the Greek polis for city or citizens, it describes a place where the chthonic ones reside, those who belong to the Earth and the underground. While opening up the gates for an imaginary between fact and fiction, the term likewise acknowledges the agency of numerous tiny creatures that star as the main characters in an alternative history of life, of evolution, one in which the human kind is neither centre stage nor point of culmination. With A single living zooid 4 as well as other works from the series Senli stages one of the many possible narrations of symbiogenesis, that is the origin of a new species from another. The realm she explores with her images and related forms of storytelling decidedly moves away from an idea of human exceptionalism, from Anthropocentrism to what Bruno Latour describes as a new form of geocentrism.5 Here the image of the Earth is active down to the ground, the biota, the living surface of the planet brimming with activity, from plants to animals, to fungi, protists, procaryotes and bacteria, a constant noise in a Universe whose unimaginable extension otherwise surrounds us in perpetual silence.
Anaïs Senli (*1980, Barcelona) currently lives and works in Berlin. With a background in painting, she has come to expand in recent years to video art and installation, while at the same time engaging in curatorial projects. The themes she explores throughout the various branches of her practice are rooted in feminist theory, ecological thought, and science philosophy.