Susanne M. Winterling
Planetary sensing: navigations below the surface, 2018–
planetary opera in three acts, divided by the currents,

2018. Image courtesy of the artist and Empty Gallery. Photo: Michael Yu
AHF Jamaica

Planetary sensing: navigations below the surface is an artistic research project on bioluminescence. This ancient natural phenomenon – the old magic and weapon against the colonial oppressor in some indigenous cultures – is now an alarm system for the future of an ecosystem in peril. The project is a prototype building and aims to counterbalance environmental violence with conservation and artistic means for non-humans and humans. Planetary sensing aims for a biosphere protection application to UNESCO as an umbrella for the ecosystem of Oyster Bay in Jamaica. With this specific habitat of bioluminescent dinoflagellates as a starting point, a scientific research and learning hub, biosensors and citizen science in a multispecies world are some of the other nodal goals. 

As an art installation Planetary sensing will refract the interrelationships that create bioluminescence, a phenomenon found in various bays in the Caribbean. It experiments with an ethical principle for natural rights that disregards the distinction between living and non-living matter.

A feminist formulation of social justice provides the basis of a collaboration involving an interdisciplinary group (philosophers, social scientists, marine biologists, microbiologists, quantum physicists, astrophysicists, management scholars), community organizations, and members of the local community, which will collaborate in all aspects of the project. Drawing from Donna Haraway’s notion of chthulucene, Elizabeth Povinelli’s notion of geontologies, and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s notion of deep implicancy, the project embodies an ethical program without distinctions between the human and nature or the private and public as these distinctions support the gender stereotypes behind gender discrimination, in particular in science, community work as well as ecological care and education. Instead, the three concepts above purport a view of the world in which humans are inseparable from other inhabitants of the world, at the quantum-level (Ferreira da Silva), biological level (Haraway) and the geological level (Povinelli). Planetary sensing proposes deep implicancy as the ethical concept that captures this worldview, which privileges social attributes such as supportive, cooperative, and creative, which have been associated with as well as devalued as feminine. The project as a microspace will embody this feminist principle of deep implicancy that guides conception and the creation of the art installation. It is the institutional, organizational, managerial model designed to address economic, ecological as well as gender inequality in the community that is connected to the bioluminescent bay.

Beyond the aspect of an art project, Planetary sensing looks especially into biosensors as a concept and hands-on project and integrates citizen science as a community and sustainable method to support local women and girls. A knowledge translation experiment that includes gathering scientific knowledge from collecting monitoring data and citizen science to community structures, while taking advantage of the power of the arts drawn from science, ecology, and computer programming, poetry and video games or ecological gardening and arts/crafts. Thus it implements more diverse practices and forms of knowledge exchange that can not only sustain but expand. It uses art and imagination as a catalyst.

Planetary sensing comes out of long-term research by Susanne M Winterling and started with her being kidnapped by dinoflagellates in Puerto Rico in 2014. The first Planetary sensing assembly at Falmouth (Oyster Bay) and Portland (Alligator Head Foundation), Jamaica took place in January 2020. Led by Susanne M Winterling the assembly brought key collaborators on-site together for a state of the art assessment. The gathering and site visit at Oyster Bay was a crucial step to move forward with preparing the biosphere protection proposal and to establish a research and education hub lead by and for the community in Falmouth. 
Susanne M. Winterling