This year, the eighth annual Garage Art Experiment features immersive installations and workshops by Russian and international artists, scientists, biohackers, and engineers, exploring questions of ecology and future survival. Developed at the intersection of art, science, and technology, this multidisciplinary project allows visitors to experience various imaginary perspectives for our environment and get directly involved in “hacking” life sciences by taking part in alternative biological, genetic, and robot-engineering experiments.

Science fiction is not prescriptive; it is descriptive.

(Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness)

Artist Anastasia Potemkina, a member of the Moscow-based collective Urban Fauna Lab, and the art group Where Dogs Run from Yekaterinburg, propose two radical scenarios, which take visitors to a not-so-distant future. In the world of Potemkina, ancient pagan beliefs in nature and witchcraft are at the forefront of knowledge that is necessary for the survival of a society in which a new ecological thinking has replaced the urgency of politics and technological progress. For this proposition, a range of plants and herbs—some with medicinal powers and believed to have been used by witches in magical potions—were cultivated in the gallery space, grown with the help of specially-built hydroponic stations filled with meltwater from snow collected in Gorky Park, where Garage is located. Fish kept in the tanks the plants grow in will provide additional nutritious elements for the roots which, in turn, purify the water for the fish. These self-sufficient ecosystems explore the possibilities for an alternative, productive relationship between humankind’s current technological drive and the new ecological thinking of the generations to come.

In the scenario proposed by Where Dogs Run, humans have embraced to the extreme the technological turn we are witnessing today. The chosen ones lose their biological shell, are transformed into digital data, and become obsessed with finding a new Perfect Number. Through a three-part interactive installation—with no clear hierarchy between the various elements—visitors can contribute to this process. Taking part in the Internet Cargo Cult, they receive “premonitions or revelations” generated by a “living sculpture” that constantly translates Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy into electric chains. The signal produced by visitors helps to feed the chicks, whose cheeps form part of the logical scheme for discovering a unique key, part of a blockchain which links the various events and artefacts in Dante’s text, with its tale of life in the afterworld.

All the installations are accessible throughout the exhibition, which also include a series of workshops (see schedule below) tailored to different age groups. Led by some of the most thought-provoking artists, scientists, biohackers, and engineers from Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, they combine cutting-edge science with DIY aesthetics and lo-fi materials.

Participants: Paul Granjon, Hackteria, Anastasia Potemkina, Where Dogs Run, Adam Zaretsky