Representing 12 contemporary Czech artists. The artists were selected in direct collaboration with five Prague galleries Lucie Drdova Gallery, hunt kastner, Kvalitář, Polansky Gallery, Berlinska Model and Double Q gallery based Hong Kong.
What exactly does an autonomous individual mean in na ture or in the universe? Where does one organism end and another begin? Organisms can never be understood in isolation, for they are a set of active agents that make up our environment and which are studied by the science of ecology. The extent to which some living forms can coexist is perfectly illustrated by an organism that covers more than 8 % of the globe – the lichen. This organism and its unique concept of survival is the loose inspiration and leitmotif for the entire con cept of the exhibition at the Hong Kong Arts Centre.
We are gigantic colonies of symbiotic genes*
Lichens have been the subject of heated scientific debate since the nineteenth century, and they continue to confound our notions of identity to this day. A lichen is a symbiotic community formed by a fungus (a mycobiont) and an algae or cyanobacteria (a photobiont). Thanks to their relationship, the two counterparts can live in places where neither could survive alone. It is a beneficial and fortifying parasitism. The entire system of operation of this organism even contradicts Darwin’s theory that species arise by growing away from each other so that their evolutionary lineages branch out like the crowns of trees. In this case they have run together.
Symbiotic partners rapping metabolic songs
For the study of lichens, an entirely new terminology had to be invented, and so in 1877 the German botanist Albert Frank coined the term SYMBIOSIS, which would not bur den the described relationship of two or more entities in an organism with preconceived notions. Thus, a new biologi cal principle emerged from the study of lichens. Evolution is not competition and conflict. Evolution is not a football match or a war in which one side tries to defeat the other: lichens, by confirming the hypothesis of duality, thus crea ted a basic model example of positive cooperation not only between species but also between kingdoms.
The whole is much more than the sum of its parts
Many inhabitants of our ecosystem still think only in terms of “me or them,” with surveys showing that up to a third of the people on the planet do not cooperate with others. Of
course, lichens also have their destructive mechanisms – for example, through etching they can eat away at the sto ne or concrete on which they grow. But after they die, they decompose and form the first soil in the new environment, and it is thanks to them, for example, that minerals can en ter the metabolisms of living beings. Most of the minerals in our bodies have in fact probably passed through lichens at some point. The art of cooperation – of proximity to stran gers – based on coexistence in a particular environment is therefore always ultimately constructive and strengthens, among other things, the dynamic resistance of all living things, their so-called resilience.
In his book Down to Earth, Bruno Latour remarks: “We must agree to define a dwelling place as that on which a terrestrial depends for its survival, while asking what other terrestrials also depend on it?”
Sources: *Richard Dawkins, Merlin Sheldrake: Entangled Life;
Bruno Latour: Down to Earth
Photographer: YC Kwan
Curated by Richard Bakeš
Symbiosis 2.0 is a loose continuation of the Co-Exist exhibition that was realized at the Prague House in Brussels.