Seems legit, so be it.
Tricky Walsh. July 2022.
You’ll find things have changed a good deal since your time.
I doubt that.
We’re not flying blind here, you know. This is United Systems military, not some
greedy corporation. The potential benefits of this race go way beyond urban pacification.
New alloys, new vaccines … there’s nothing like this in any world we’ve seen.
You should be very proud.
She laughs, bitterly.
Oh, I am.
And the animal itself is wonderous. They’ll be invaluable once we’ve harnessed them.
You can’t teach it tricks. 
It’s the SCOBY spinning around in the repurposed plastic container that gets me.
In 1907, chemist Leo Baekeland created Bakelite and the lineage of plastic began. There are now thousands of different kinds of plastic, not eight (as the identification symbols of the side of any container will suggest.) Thousands of different polymer configurations to which tens of thousands of chemicals are added to give plastic its many new superpowers. Heather Davis in Plastic Matter discusses how “plastic was one of the first materials to be chemically engineered, through the manipulation of molecules, representing the first instance of producing matter and form simultaneously.” (9) This simultaneous production of matter and form is the thing. It’s here that we began augmenting nature in a very particular way. We brought something into existence and crowned ourselves kings. Plastic is the most human thing we’ve ever made.
Plastic is magical. It is light. It can be opaque or transparent. Can repel heat or cold and it can be used to make any form. It is used to make our wildest dreams and most pedestrian of desires. It begins as a liquid and hardens under pressure and is essentially immortal. It is also omnipresent. While the geologists are still arguing about whether we’ve done enough damage to the planet to earn our place on the chronostratigraphic chart, we’ve been enthusiastically coating it with plastic like a grandmother wrapping leftovers at a barbeque.
Plastic is everywhere. We cut it from the stomachs of dead birds and fish. It has formed a watery soup in most parts of our ocean. It is everywhere and it has also been changing us. “The proliferation of plastics is now driving evolutionary processes. Given these conditions of longevity and evolution, plastic and its associated bacteria can be understood as nonfilial human progeny, bastard children that will most certainly outlive us.” (82)
Our bastard children.
I love this.
As a non-reproducing, non-gender conforming queer I’m happy to embrace the damage we’ve collectively done as a necessary step in the evolutionary snakes and ladders. My new anarchic material kin messes with your hormones. We eat it every day without realising, (body of christ) and it is slowly shrinking our toxic binary-thinking heteronormativity into a barren wasteland. Our primordial soup is now optimized, and thicc as fuck, and who knows what we’ll be by the time we finish crawling out of it. But if “plastics contribute to queerness, causing mutations and inhibiting sexual reproduction.” (89) then perhaps we’ll have to start looking at what constitutes life in a very different way.
Eventually we will either develop the technology to stay, or our line will run out.
Either of these things work for me because it implies that we will have amended our ability to live in an
ever-increasing landfill, we will have cleaned up our act, or we will slowly but surely become the next eventual pit of crude oil for some (hopefully) more considerate species further along the arrow of time. They’ll have a name for that reservoir a kilometre under the topsoil. If they’re unimaginative they’ll probably just call it the Anthropocene, and for once, it’ll be justified to centralise us within our stupidity. It will take thirty million years to get there, which sounds like enough time to salt the earth and begin again.
The golden light emitting from the bioreactors lined up against this wall makes me think of Alien 4. (the queerest Alien from the franchise. Not because of the post-human self-loathing, body-part love tokens, giant alien orgy, rampant fluid worship or intermittent orifice poking. But because of the Android meets Genetically-reconstituted-hybrid-human-alien interspecies love story that we all know it truly is.) Specifically, I keep thinking of that moment when Ripley is confronted with her alternate clone selves, bobbing up and down, suspended in the amniotic fluid of their artificial wombs. What results is a dance of fury and destruction as she burns it all down and tbh I know how she feels. But I am standing here in an artificial gym, next to an artificial caféteria, looking at these oddly figurative non-human cultures bobbing or spinning inside repurposed water cooler containers and it is like witnessing a microcosm of ourselves. They are thriving. For the most part, for the recorded and televised part, so are we.
Art and Science have been intertwined since Science decided to lay claim over the natural world. Most western historians will assign the beginning of this intersecting interest to DaVinci, but now, surely, we can admit that for tens of thousands of years we have been telling stories and recording them, making marks to represent the things we learn and see and know. Though technology lays claim to the realm of discovery, all it has really done in a practical sense, is to examine this world in both closer and farther contexts. It has shifted our focus, and occasionally, our vision. Always on the hunt for the next new shiny thing, we turned our attention to the trappings of biology. We played comparisons between our bodies, and then to things which were not bodies at all, but because we had based the standard on ourselves, we lacked the consideration to see their value.
Art and Science started to share an aesthetic. Following the lead of museums everywhere, a man cut up animals and stuck them in tanks so that we could see their hidden insides. We have been cutting up anything with or without a pulse since the third century AD, but one man decided to indulge our carnivalesque fascination for anatomy by “plasticising” human forms and displaying them in the world’s ghastliest exhibition. Another man grew an ear on his arm a decade after someone grew one on the back of a mouse. All of this research to try and figure out how to delay mortality when we could have just looked at the nearest rubbish dump. We are finally achieving immortality. Disembodied, though it may be.
These rooms with their intentional artifice are searching for a different ground from which to locate our next springboard. Acknowledging our interdependence to everything else living on this planet while recognising that the cradle we emerge from is one that is no longer porous.
That we are the absorbent matter.
This [not quite as blue as it once was] spinning marble we call home is the birthplace of all our matter, the source material and its derivations. It’s hardly surprising that so many of our early interests were based on the stars, for we are a species focussed on the What Else? We can blame the insidiousness of Capitalism for the position we are in now, but it is foremost this human quality, of being able to perceive things that do not exist that feeds our voracious hunger for the new and the never-before-seen.
This insatiable curiosity meant that the first glimpse of a rainbow rapidly shifted from momentary wonder to rigorous inquiry. Then we discovered optics and prisms which could replicate its majesty at will, and no longer had to wait for light and rain and chance. We discovered its place in the electromagnetic spectrum, and consequently bombarded and colonised a territory that we cannot touch. We have filled the invisible air, configuring a constant stream of information which now churns through our every device and screen.
The end-product has arrived as a pair of pride-themed nike sneakers, limited edition. 50% off in July.
We held on to that initial wonder for a long time, which is a comfort. Eventually we separated the objects and subjects of curiosity so completely that we started to perceive ourselves external to them. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and familiarity breeds contempt. Perhaps we should have investigated a little less and preserved some magic. But we have long been a species obsessed with getting to the truth of things. Somewhere along the way we forgot that truth was a wonder too, sometimes as intangible as a rainbow looked at from the wrong position.
We forgot it was a perspective thing.
Davis, H., 2022. Plastic Matter. Duke University Press.
 Alien: Resurrection. 1997. Screenplay by J. Whedon.
 It is, like us, chronically adaptive and suffocating.
 Also, for money. Damien Hirst.
 Also, for money. Possibly also to satisfy a truly grotesque curiosity. Gunther von Hagens, where did you get all those bodies, you sick fuck?
 Stelarc. 2006.
 The Vacanti mouse. Charles A Vacanti. 1996. Because why.
Tricky Walsh (They/Them) is a non-binary artist living and working in New Norfolk, Tasmania. Increasingly they are working with the language of speculation to imagine alternative pathways and worldviews. They use a diversity of media (architecture, painting, sculpture, installation, radio, augmented reality, animation, text) in a concept-led practice which incorporates material experimentation. They run the gallery Haus of Vovo, a space which works with artists to enable their visions, centred around installation and spatial practice. They see this, and the notion of community and shared resource as central to their practice.