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This year's RIXC Art Science festival with the title Symbiotic Sense(s) will take place from October 24-26, 2024, in Riga, Latvia, exploring art, technology, and collective Intelligence from the perspective of sensual perception and extended cognition. The  Symbiotic Sense(s) festival, positioned at the intersection of symbiotic art aesthetics and visionary scientific paradigms, aims to embrace symbiotic thinking, inspiring cultural conversations on collaboration and fostering collective action towards a more symbiotic future. 

Symbiosis, originating in biology, denotes the collaboration among different species, shaping the course of evolution. From Lynn Margulis's pioneering work on symbiotic systems to contemporary discussions such as extended cognition (understanding that our brains, bodies, and environment are tightly intertwined) or holobionts (formed by the association of different species that become an ecological unit), the understanding of interconnectedness across species has expanded. In this context, the Symbiotic Sense(s) festival seeks to explore the intersections of art, technology, and collective intelligence.

This symbiotic coexistence, rooted in the shared habitat of the biosphere, underscores the role of sensory perception in facilitating non-linear, indirect communication and collaboration. However, the intricacies of living together are upheld within a complex socio-technosphere, built upon advanced intelligent technologies that prioritize the brain as the centralized mechanism for decision-making. This emphasis tends to exclude that sensing-based learning, knowing and decision making based on sensual experiences and other 'intelligent' and cognitive processes beyond the brain, which are extended throughout the human body, in non-human worlds, and our planetary systems.  

The so-called sixth sense, based on a symbiotic understanding of sensual perception, has been chosen to outline the axes around which new speculations and utopias for a symbiotic future will be built. But it's not just a metaphor; new scientific discoveries also inspire the search for a symbiotic understanding of our worlds. We are aware that the five human senses are perceived through the use of sensory organs. But what about the elusive 'sixth' sense? Recent scientific studies suggest that it may indeed be a 'symbiotic' one, indicating that bacterial communities, for example, on animals play a significant role. One such 'sense' is "magnetoreception," enabling some organisms to detect a magnetic field for navigation purposes. Birds, fish, and other creatures thought to possess this sense may use the Earth’s weak magnetic field to navigate. Another 'symbiotic' sense, "solarception," as described by Douglas Kahn, synchronizes us with the planetary system cycles (circadian rhythms). He argues that our eyes, beyond providing vision, also serve as solar sensors. These senses are even more pronounced in the plant world, where their bodies are very different from humans and animals; they are 'externally sensory systems' without organs, facilitating intelligent behavior despite lacking brains. Hence, symbiotic senses are crucial for understanding extended cognition serving the fundamentally new perspective towards living together on our planet.

Focusing on symbiotic senses as a key perspective, this year's festival will explore its relation to extended cognition and collective intelligence ideas, calling for the urgent need for new visions, artistic and utopian projects in cultural evolution. The idea posits that symbiosis defines our existence, highlighting our complete interdependence on our environment and planetary system. As Caroline A. Jones has put it: 'The sooner we discard the notion of selfishness—whether individual or genetic—the better.' Collaborative sensing of our dependence on planetary systems is crucial for our consciousness and survival. If we fail to adapt, extinction may be our fate.

In this tension between challenging traditional notions of individuality in Western culture and other historical trajectories, the festival seeks new ways of nurturing symbiotic relationships to shape our future. If the individualism dominant in Western culture faces criticism, urging its abandonment for symbiotic evolution, then conversely, in other (Central-North-Eastern) European cultures, influenced by historically imposed collectivism, exemplified by Latvia, the festival's host, seek revised forms of mutual cooperation by looking back to excavate best practices of our past and collaborating with indigenous, traditional, and minority cultures with different backgrounds and historical paths. In the context of current global conflicts and political polarization, these divergent viewpoints between these historical parallels of development offer fertile ground for new ideas and visions towards a more sustainable future based on symbiotic coexistence.

Drawing inspiration from these tensions between parallel developments—ranging from the original proposal of symbiosis as an evolutionary theory in biology to the contemporary idea of holobionts as a complex entity of organisms living in close association with each other—on one side, and from early visions of 'human-computer' symbiosis to contemporary 'sensing machines' on the other,  the festival will provide a platform for artists, scientists, technologists, and theorists to engage with these concepts.

Symbiotic Sense(s) invites participants to reconsider the boundaries between self and other, human and machine, and natural and artificial. The festival, positioned at the intersection of symbiotic art aesthetics and visionary scientific paradigms, aims to embrace symbiotic thinking, inspiring cultural conversations on collaboration and fostering collective action towards a more symbiotic future. By giving prominence to our senses and metaphorically understanding the sixth sense as an extension of cognition beyond the human, we aim to explore new ways of sensing and envisioning our future coexistence. 

Through exhibitions, performances, workshops, and conference discussions, the festival will explore themes such as: extended cognition, externally sensory systems, naturally-artificial environments, sensing machines, artificial life, symbiotic sciences, nature-cultures, and collective intelligence.

 

Curators: Rasa Smite, Raitis Smits

Organizers: RIXC Centre for New Media Culture 

Support: State Culture Capital Foundation, Riga City Council, this year's exhibition has been supported by the European Commission in the framework of the project EMAP Expanded, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia. 

Contacts: rixc@rixc.org; 

+371 26546776 (Rasa Smite); 

Adress: Lenču iela 2 - 60, Riga, LV 1010, Latvia

Further information:
https://festival2024.rixc.org/

CONTACTS

rixc@rixc.org

+371 67228478 (office)

+371 26546776 (Rasa Smite)