Biomedialuminescence: Towards an Ecology of Appearing

Towards an ecology of appearing: biomedialuminescence

My research was built around a luminous encounter. The human being was confronted with bioluminescence, with the technical, aesthetic, epistemological and ontological stakes carried by this minor luminosity. This is the story of James Cameron’s films, from ABYSS (1989) to AVATAR (2009), via his underwater documentaries. It is the contemporary history of the moving images of the ocean (from scientific research to animal documentaries). It is also the story of the genesis of cinema as the art of light, since in 1900, during the Universal Exhibition in Paris, cinema, electricity and bioluminescence were brought together like so many curiosities that would build the human future. It turned out for me that bioluminescence constituted a real counter-light to cinema, and that through this counter-lighting, it became possible to construct a biomedialuminescent theory of cinema that is less interested in its history than in its phylogenesis. Cinema can be thought of on the scale of the evolution of the living in that it constitutes a form of luminous expression that dialogues with those that manifest themselves everywhere in the living world. My question then is: what remains of the bioluminescent heritage in the ontogenesis of contemporary moving images?

I return to the intuition of the historian and media theorist Vilém Flusser expressed in a strange treatise dated 1987, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis. In this half-scientific, half-speculative proposition, the abyssal cephalopod Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, according to Flusser, embodies a perspective symmetrically opposed to ours, allowing us to see ourselves from the perspective of another. In particular, the bioluminescence of Vampyroteuthis provides the media theorist with a powerful counter device for reading our own media existence.

“Thus, by denying our biological condition from the opposite point of view, we contradict each other, and this is precisely where we correspond. Each tends to reflect to the other what he has denied. It is in this somewhat diabolical sense (diabolical = confusing) that we can recognize each other and find ourselves in the other. »

Flusser 1987

Epstein, one of the first mystical epistemologists, or lyrosophist, of light, saw in cinema a perspective of the devil. Now in my work it is indeed a question of adopting radically other perspectives than human ones in order precisely to think about this complex knot between light and light that is played out in the luminous figure in cinema. In my Phd thesis I constructed notions such as figurative ecology and figural ethology in order to think of the luminous figure at the intersection of aesthetics and biology. My aim was to demonstrate the heuristic power that can be drawn from the analogy between figurability and morphogenesis, both for thinking about images and for thinking about the living.

My objective is to propose a field of research in aesthetics that will allow us to think about images as much as about the living. Contemporary health and ecological crises show to what extent our anthropological future is bound to our capacity to receive the world and the other-than-human beings that populate it as so many patterns, figures and signs (virtualities with a strong deterritorializing potential) with which we must come to terms. This composition, or anthropocosmorphism, is an opportunity to enrich our experience of the world, in other words, to think of aesthetics truly in the present, with all the others who inhabit the world.