• Posthuman Art Network

Agata Szymanek

Agata Szymanek lives and works in Mysłowice, Poland. She studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, where she obtained a doctorate. She is a certificate student at the New Centre for Research and Practice. In her art practice, she focuses on the many phenomena and stimuli shaping human relationships with the rest of the animated world. Her broader purpose is to dissect linguistic and cultural images of nature. Recently, she looks for ways to engage the viewer into her art practices through visual riddles and conceptual games implied into painting, self-publishing zines and workshop scenarios. Agata Szymanek is an author of the research publication Spiritual Exercises published in 2020 by the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice. The book contains interviews with artists on magical and esoteric motifs in their artworks, shedding new light on these topics on the Polish art scene.


Website:

agataszymanek.com


Proposal:

While we have an almost detailed representation of the topography of the continents, the oceanic abyss is still, luckily, a great mystery. An abyss is an absorptive and open space; it is a place that embraces memory, preserving but also mutating it. It has existed for a very long time, but its ability to diversify and recondition its internal parts tends towards the future. This unfathomable container, fertile for the practice of a milieu-specific philosophy, can be a useful tool for speculation on different, non-terrestrial models of existence. The oceanic abyss is truly unknown, and unknowing can be a rare resource. In this realm of meaning, causality and intelligibility of organic processes are obfuscated by masses of liquid, noisy material. Here, the enormousness of space seems to be an obstacle to human penetration. In effect, this obscure gap in our model of the Earth arouses the poetic imagination. Working with the underwater world lets us encounter otherness, and is a good starting point for the imaginative process. The vampire squid is a deep-sea cephalopod that lives in the aphotic depths of mesopelagic and bathypelagic waters, 600 to 3000 m below sea level. These layers of ocean are perfectly dark and under very high pressure. The vampire squid inhabits the oxygen minimum zone, which makes it unique among complex organisms. Its relatively small body, reaching about 13 cm, resembles a jellyfish. Thanks to photophores scattered on its skin, the latter acts as a screen transmitting color messages addressed mainly to individuals of the same species. Using the analysis of the vampire squid presented as the antithesis of humanity in Vilem Flusser and Louis Bec’s publication Vampyrotheuthis Infernalis, the mobile app Vampy seeks a countermodel and transgressive example in the animated world in order to create new interrelated modes, structures and categories meditating the human encounter with other species. The mobile app works much like Tamagotchi, where one has to perform actions to communicate with and take care of a virtual vampire squid. The application will be made for Android and iOS using Flutter. An additional idea is to use the phone as a beacon, which would allow phones nearby with the Vampy app installed to send messages to each other via Bluetooth.

Vilem Flusser and Louis Bec dedicated their philosophical fable “Vampyrotheuthis Infernalis”, published in 1987, to the intelligent aquatic animal, and created a context of critical displacement in order to enable comparative analysis of humans and the vampire squid. The environmental background of vampyrotheuthian existence is crucial to keep in mind when developing a perspective that is almost the opposite of the human existence in the world: “We would be crushed by the pressure of its abyss, and it would suffocate in the air that we breathe.” According to Flusser and Bec, the materiality of the environment influences modes of orientation in the world and impacts knowledge production. The mobile application Vampy is a subversive strategy that uses new technologies and the schema of popular gameplay to smuggle in reflection on inter-species relations. It simulates an encounter in which Vampy is a parasitical actor. By floating in the depths and controlling the water, the vampire squid proposes terrestrial detachment and freedom. As an invincible underwater villain, the animal expresses vital and powerful energies of the underwater world. At the same time, Vampy is petted, carried, caressed, and babysat. Moreover, Vampy offers affection and emotional engagement, but in fact the animal is not real and because of that probably cannot be trusted. Interaction with Vampy, a flawed mediator, exposes the fact that the relationship between species was established on wrong principles, but on the other hand, that interspecies connections are always complex and full of vibrations. Thinking about these issues helps us not to dwell on established realms and to look for other ways to reconnect with other species.

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