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Guattari`s Bat – Designing an Ecology of Care


In his book The Three Ecologies, Félix Guattari addresses the ecological catastrophes of our times by connectingthe large-scale environment with social and mental spheres. The philosopher and psychoanalyst proposes that critical cross-sectional thinking, which he calls ‘transversality’, and ‘ecosophical renewal’ can set cycles thathave come to a standstill back in motion (Guattari, [1989] 2000: 29). His ‘ecosophy’ is an attempt tomake the environment, social relations and human subjectivity work together as affective intensities. Environment is understood less as an outside, of what is in the world beyond the self, and more assomething “that passes transversally through worlds” (Gerosko, 2009: 102–115). The large does not have greater importance than the small; paradigms do not change with a bang but with a whimper. Guattari’s most original contribution to the theorisation of ecology is his search for new forms of subjectivity. His intention is to change subjectivities, motivate social groups and foster creativity (Guattari, 1996a: 264).Today, an ‘ecology of technology’ is spreading as the digital revolution accelerates. Guattari looks at this process from an aesthetic, ethical and political perspective. His ́transdisciplinary ecology’ does not seek totranscend but to transform (i.e., it creates the conditions under which life and subjectivity can unfold). Ecology is linked with not only the aesthetic paradigm but also the demand on all areas of society to engage in an unsecured compulsion to innovate, as is characteristic of art (and, one could add, architecture). For him, the subject is not an individual person but rather a ‘terminal of heterogeneous and multiple components’, ofhuman groups, socio-economic entities, informational machines, etc. (Guattari, 2000: 36). Driven by the radical mutation of subjectivity in the ‘era of planetary computerisation’, he is looking for ‘new coexistences’ (Guattari, 2000: 45). The theorist has recognised that information and communication technologies have an impact on human subjectivity “not only within their memory and mind but also their affects and unconscious fantasies” (Guattari, 2014: 9). His ecosophy searches for ‘lines of flight’ that lead to a new relationship with the Earth, using the terms ́substantial territory’ and ́ecology of care’ for this new orientation. The best way to understand his approach is to take a concrete example, for which architecture serves perfectly.

MAEID, the office for architecture and transmedia art run by Daniela Mitterberger and Tiziano Derme, works on projects that critically locate new multi-species communities and ‘transversally’ link different disciplines. The result of their ‘performative living architecture’ is not an ecological equilibrium achieved by artistic means but rather a dynamic and unstable media-ecology terrain for the redescription of ecology, aesthetics and technology. What does the construction of new subjectivities mean in the context of the general cybernetisation of our livingworld? How can architects confront the radically new evidences that create human and non-human subjectivities? What might a performing living architecture look like? What is media ecology? MAEID's artworks are media-aesthetic experimental arrangements that include plants, animals and technologiesin their interface. They are arrangements in which the relationship between different actors and process levels is modulated and actualised. As experiments they always raise new questions, or rather ‘questioning of questioning’ (Mitterberger, 2022). They are not primarily determined by new technologies but are rooted in ‘nature’, which as a level of ‘material immanence’ consists of difference and produces difference: it enables a constant breaking open and ‘becoming different’ (Zepke, 2022). Nature, in this context, is a moment of contingency. Contemporary eco-technological life is no longer solely mediated by information but rather constituted by it. The eco-logic of ‘and’ refers to the medial activity of connecting (i.e., ‘becoming medium’). From a media-ecological perspective, media and technologies are also informal and material ecologies that involve actors. Incontrast to conventional media theory with its focus on representation and function, media ecology focuseson subject-constituting and active moments. Looking beyond the purely technological, it can be attentiveto additional modes of existence, that of animals, plants and other non-human actors. The relationship between organism and environment is then no longer fixed against the background of an anthropological difference, however drawn. ‘Culture’, ‘human’ or ‘nature’ do not exist in themselves but are something produced ordesigned in a reciprocal process. They are something ‘medial’, because media do not express the world but produce it (Vagt, 2016: 19–32) …