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Two artistic interventions and a contagious takeover of the Experimental Field

They are everywhere - above the clouds, deep in the ground, at the bottom of the ocean, on our skin, in our guts, on the tiny dust particles that we suck into our nostrils with the air we breathe. In 1683 Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was the first person to observe bacteria. He isolated them from plaque. Today we know that bacteria, viruses and other microbes make up the largest number of living beings on earth and 100 trillion alone are at home in and on each of our bodies. Most of them live in peaceful coexistence with us. But not all of them.

In his laboratory in Wolsztyn in 1876, Robert Koch gave the first scientific proof that bacteria can cause diseases. He identifies Bacillus anthracis as the cause of anthrax. Wendell M Sturgies did not provide this proof for viruses until 1935. Both researchers are awarded the Nobel Prize.

The influenza virus triggered a devastating pandemic at the beginning of the 20th century. The so-called "Spanish flu" claimed about 50 million victims worldwide. One hundred years later, public debates on vaccination show how far medical progress has pushed the dangers of infectious diseases out of our consciousness.

KOEXISTENZ, together with artists*, scientists* and citizens*, would like to initiate a new debate on the relationships between humans, animals and viruses within the framework of the Contagious Cities project developed by the Wellcome Trust.

Simon Faithfull

An Arbitrary Taxonomy of Birds

Derived from the ancient Greek word táxis for order, the term taxonomy stands for the classification of objects. It is an essential part of our scientific research and the starting point for recognizing and describing connections and differences.

Simon Faithfull has always been fascinated by birds. His drawings, which he has been making since 2000, have always led him back to these animals, which he describes as everyday and yet strange - a parallel species that share an immediate habitat with us in our cities. During his wanderings through the Museum für Naturkunde, Faithfull was drawn to the field of taxonomy and, following J. L. Borges' "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins", he has created his very own classification of birds, including a category for ‘those who transmit avian flu’. In his work, he draws attention to how our relationship with nature is shaped by the way we name and categorize it and challenges us in a playful way to engage with this coexistence.

Sybille Neumeyer

Voicing encounters - a narrative cartography of virus (Artistic Walk & Map)

Stories about people, animals and viruses are stories of encounters, environments and relationships. On Sybille Neumeyer's artistic walk - a physical and an acoustic map - places in and around the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin become a storyboard for facts, concepts and questions about influenza pandemics and virology. It does not follow a linear history of infection, but rather traces multidisciplinary, cross-species and entangled stories of influenza, pandemics and viruses. In her search for the different layers and marginal events of this narrative, she gives both living and inanimate actors a voice. As part of their tour, the participants will have the opportunity to take on different perspectives, such as those of vectors, hosts and the virus itself. This kind of vocalization and polyphonic observation serves as a method to break through a purely anthropocentric perspective and invites reflection on coexistences.

The program

During the term of coexistence, the Experimental Field for Participation and Open Science  is also infected by the topic and serves as a space for exchange and debate around the coexistence of humans, animals and viruses.

Following the course of all coexistences, we first perceive the existence of the other by establishing contact with various scientists* who research this coexistence. We now know about existence and have to classify and name the other. How does this work in science, what is a scientific taxonomy?

After the naming follows the getting to know and the exchange. For this purpose, dialogue events and opportunities for interaction with scientists* and artists* are offered.

And finally, we report on the encounters and tell stories. Different perspectives develop in writing workshops and other interactive encounters.

Here you will find all the dates for coexistence. Subject to change without notice.


Artistic tour

06.06.2019, 15:00 Artistic Walk with Sybille Neumeyer

06.07.2019, 15:00 Artistic Walk with Sybille Neumeyer

08.08.2019, 15:00 Artistic Walk with Sybille Neumeyer


Events in the experimental field

11.07.2019, 16:00 Artist Talk with Sybille Neumeyer, Terry Jones and Tahani Nadim

09.08.2019, 16:00 Artist Talk with Simon Faithfull (in English)

21.08.2019, 16:00  Museum Salon

30.08.2019, 16:30 Performance Lecture with Simon Faithfull (in English)

04.09.2019, 19:00 h Performance Lecture with Sybille Neumeyer and Till Bovermann