CENTO is a global, participatory art project in immersive video and augmented reality focused on a bioengineered future creature that is presented as an experimental, living test for evolutionary fitness in the face of the sixth extinction. We are rapidly entering a moment where synthetic biology is progressing from hypothetical to incarnate– with gene editing, GMOs, biomimetics, and bioprospecting deployed in a variety of contexts. Many of these experiments serve controversial militaristic, capitalistic, or socially/environmentally controversial purposes. Decoupled from such extractive interests, the question Cento asks is, would a creature imagined as a collage of human, cephalopod, microbiome, avian, mycelial, marine, and machine attributes fulfill or even exceed basic evolutionary requirements? What traits will ensure survival and could we find hope in a blended future creature? What would a bio-ethically produced transspeciated self look like and how might it move through space? How might we reconsider what Rosi Braidotti calls “the embrainment of the body” when a body contains multiple types of embodied knowledge? Could species egalitarianism exist in the body politic of a new hybrid creature?
The focus of the interactive AR component presented in the immersive video is the collective responsibility required in the task of survival. People all over the globe can participate in CENTO's co-creation and survival by adding feathers through the 4th Wall app to the creature, each one endowed with a different property to ensure evolutionary fitness. When viewers add their respective feathers to the creature, Cento will change and grow stronger in real time on site at the Whitney, growing evolutionarily more fit with the engagement of an ever expanding collective of participants. My hope is that this morphing over time will underscore the necessity of collaborative action, and materialize species interdependence and biological inextricability. Also featured is CENTO's imagined future habitat—a blended nest, lair, network captured in the immersive video below.
Special thanks to Caleb Craig and Shaking Earth Digital.