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Maria Cynkier

Maria Cynkier is a curator and creative practitioner working in the fields of art, ecology and digital culture. In her practice, she is concerned with the social, political and material impacts of new technologies on humans, non-humans and the environment. She often works within the framework of speculative storytelling and worldbuilding tactics that enable critical dialogue.

She worked in curatorial and communications roles with Call For Curators, NN Contemporary Art, Maxim Gorki Theater, Furtherfield, The Wrong Biennale, Tate Modern and MoCDA (the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art) among others. Maria’s writing about art appeared in Hyperallergic, Artmag UK, Furtherfield and MoCDA.

Project Proposal:

The residency will offer me a chance to pursue a new direction in my research on the entanglement of human and nonhuman cognition in a shared environment, a phenomenon described by N. Katherine Hayles as a “planetary cognitive ecology.” I intend to create a film to present my findings towards the end of the residency period. This research will be a continuation of my earlier 2022 lecture performance "Planetary Worlding. Cybernetic Weaving. Interspecies Kinship".

The discourse of cohabitation and respect towards nature and non-humans have been represented by the likes of Donna Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles and Rosi Braidotti, however, with the rise of new cognitive technical agents, we need new models for our co-existence. In such a context of embeddedness and codependency, humans have the responsibility of realigning the technological prowess of the planet with its natural resilience.

I would like to focus on researching cognition beyond human agents, especially the notion of cognition occurring in planetary-scale computation, including artificial intelligence. I believe that our relationships with technology are fundamentally rooted in our approach to geology and the exploited resources used for both production of technology and the systems maintaining it. Although much of the infrastructure supporting contemporary connectivity is invisible, our media has always been geological, chemical and environmental. Technology is not, and never was, made entirely by humans but it does depend on the affordances of non-human things.

While easily-available artificially intelligent software such as personal assistants, chatbots etc. are already participating in our daily lives, they are merely machine learning models programmed to overtake trivial tasks. My focus is not to explore these agendas deeply; rather, I'm interested in the larger planetary systems governing our lives and deciding our planet's future. Our planet has truly become a single computational organism, profiting and using computation as prosthetics, a “planetary cognitive ecology” made of data centres, extracted minerals and satellite systems.

To take the aforementioned concept by N. Katherine Hayles further, I propose to explore it through the lens of “cosmotechnics”, a notion coined by philosopher Yuk Hui to describe how technologies are always embedded in cosmology. Yuk Hui’s examination of technologies highlights the need to reconsider the Western, anthropocentric approach to the new, emerging forms of technical non-human cognition and increased technodiversity. To examine technical non-human cognition through this lens, I would like to explore the non-dominant histories surrounding human relationships with non-human kins originating from non-dominant models, as well as to look into speculative fiction for lessons which can be learned from it.

I intend to present my research in a moving image work using speculation and worldbuilding to critically examine the topic. The film will cross genres between a documentary and a science-fiction tale, inviting the viewers to familiarise themselves with my research as well as draw their conclusions. To create it, I will use archival footage found online, my video recordings documenting the process, 3D animation and, if possible, recorded interviews with other participants. Through my research project, I hope to construct a bridge between creative experimentation, critical theories of technology, cognitive studies and neuroscience. The film, the end product of my residency will attempt to showcase that technological and scientific paradigms can be challenged by creative language and world-building.

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