A Body in the Form of a Planet: Gaia and Philosophy

Over the next few weeks, TANK will be featuring interviews and films from the panellists and artists contributing to As Above, So Below celebrating Gaia Theory and the life of biologist Lynn Margulis. 

As Above, So Below is a two-day programme, 21-22 April at the Science Gallery, by Ignota in collaboration with Gaia Art Foundation and Science Gallery. 

Image: Asad Raza, still from Ge, 2020-ongoing.

A Body in the Form of a Planet: Dorion Sagan's Introduction to Gaia and Philosophy

‘Gaia is a body in the form of a planet. Gaia describes a living Earth, an idea with precedents in natural science and philosophy for 2,500 years, and longer in many indigenous belief systems. The basis of the Gaia hypothesis is that Earth’s atmosphere is as complicated as the blood or skin of an animal... The evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis (1938–2011), my mother and longtime writing partner, helped turn James Lovelock’s hypothesis into a full-fledged theory: she posited that specifically gas-exchanging microbial life, which has been present on Earth’s surface for billions of years, is responsible for giving our planet the character of a living body.’

In this excerpt, Sagan places Gaia theory within its historical and scientific context, considering its continued relevance in our current era of dramatic environmental upheaval.

Read the full extract here.



Interview with Kyriaki Goni

‘For me, all organisms can... act as messengers, in the sense that they are interconnected in this planetary ecosystem. If one listens carefully, all parts of it can share information about the past, the present, or the future. It was a conscious decision not to draw upon human examples but rather to underline the intelligence and presence of the world that includes us.’

Kyriaki Goni's film The Mountain Islands Shall Mourn us Eternally (2022), the second chapter in Goni's Data Garden series, imagines how, in a world stripped of its natural resources and corrupted by surveillance capitalism, plants may be used as a means of storage, operating outside of humanist paradigms of communication. Ahead of Mountain Island's screening at As Above, So Below, a two-day programme hosted by the Science Gallery celebrating Gaia Theory and the life of biologist Lynn Margulis, TANK speaks to Goni about fighting extractive practices and the need for collaboration within process.

Read the full interview here.


Image: Asad Raza, still from Ge, 2020-ongoing.

Interview with Asad Raza

‘[Margulis's work] contains very personal accounts of her motivations, her rivalries, her successes and failures, in addition to beautiful descriptions of the living world and her account of the power of symbiogenesis, direct symbiotic exchange of DNA, as a major driving force of evolution in addition to competition. All of it is incorporated into a beautiful, non-separable form, like a leavened dough.’

Asad Raza's polymorphic, ongoing video project Ge (2020-) considers how weather, time and other elemental interrelations contribute to our perception of nature. Ahead of Ge's screening at As Above, So Below, a two-day programme hosted by the Science Gallery celebrating Gaia Theory and the life of biologist Lynn Margulis, TANK spoke to Raza about his recipe for soil, nature’s sublimity and how his upbringing in Buffalo, New York affected his views on intimacy.

Read the full interview here.


Image: Image: Perilla Galoxalide, high density foam, resin, and urethane paint, 36 x 48 x 4 in. (91.5 x 122 x 10 cm), 2020. © Anicka Yi. Photo: Joerg Lohse. Courtesy of the artist and 47 Canal. 

From the Tank archive: Interview with Anicka Yi

In early adulthood, Anicka Yi set out to lead the curiosity-driven existence of an international vagabond, a quest that at the age of 35 she began to refine into an interdisciplinary scientific and artistic exploration of different forms of life. Her non-hierarchical approach dethrones sight as the highest human sense and instead addresses the less noble smell with sometimes challenging ‘scentscapes’. Through her long-term collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Yi has discovered a respect for bacteria and viruses, other kinds of intelligence that, like AI, may well survive far beyond our own presence on Earth. In 2021, Yi turned the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern into an “aquarium of machines”, a habitat for her floating creatures that she says were meant to give visitors the friendly feeling of swimming with humpback whales and, as the title of the show explained, encourage them to fall ‘in love with the world’.

Read the full interview here.