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TRNASPLANTING THE SELF: MICROBIOME ANTHROPOPHAGY (2018)
a project by Clarissa Ribeiro

on Instagram search for #psychobiotonic

We live the rise of an era where the human kind is mastering engineering behavior from a molecular level. A growing number of experiments in cells and molecular biology show that the proportion of each microbe species in mammals’ gut doesn't just influence digestion – it has a direct and decisive influence in brain development, cognition, and not easily measurable emergences from micro, nano and subatomic scale events and processes such as personality, mood, and consciousness. A growing number of researches investigating the relationship between microbiota, human brain and behavior, examine the impacts of managing or engineering specific microbial colonies in human hosts.

“Transplanting the Self: microbiome anthropophagy” is an art-sci installation that involves the audience as active participants in an experiment that invites for a reflection about the limits of microbiome manipulation, evoking and exploring ancient practices as the use of young and beautiful virgins’ saliva in the production of ritualistic alcoholic drinks, such as the ‘cauim’, present in rituals of hunting or cannibalism from native Brazilian tribes. Methodologies for manipulating the microbiota can include fecal transplantation, post-, pro-, syn- and pro-biotics, bacteriocins, helminth therapy, bacteriophage, and a constellation of different techniques and procedures. Manipulation of human intestinal microbiome, as an example, is among the most promising therapies of our time to treat diverse diseases, from schizophrenia to inflammatory arthritis.


To help discussing and understanding communicational phenomena that happens in scales not visible to the naked eye, we propose the term Molmedia (neologism i.e. molecular media) referring to the informational processes that are going on in a molecular level within a given living organism, having as interacting emitters and receivers in this system the microbiome microorganisms and the organism actual cells, producing as an emergence in macro scale the self and its behavioral patters that can be visualized by others, appreciated, appropriated, manipulated, cannibalized.   The proposed neologism is a metaphorical reference to the concept of mole, referring here no to the amount of chemical substance but to information exchange processes that are going on at elementary entities level such as atomic, subatomic and molecular, within a given living organism. We take media (plural of medium) as an intervening agency, means, or instrument.


The installation:
Imagine a fictional scenario where you can choose one personality to ‘embody’ a time having access to encapsulated microbiome samples (mixed cultures i.e. microbial associations or communities) of donors that have specific personality types.

Exploring this idea, the proposed art and science work can be considered as a conceptual anthropophagic exercise, inviting volunteers to participate in 2 possible scenarios:

1) Choosing pre-produced drinks containing cultured microbiome samples of real individuals that have a specific expression of it – ‘personality donors’ that have emergent behavioral patterns derived from the chemical interactions and integrations between their body cells and their digesting system microbiome. One can take the bottle of a Psychobiotonic and by ingesting the ‘product’ will start a process of transmutation of the self that evokes human ancient desires and rituals – anthropophagy in a molecular level.

2) members of the the audience are invited to produce their own Psychobiotonic by mixing their salivary microbiome with manioc flour (tapioca) and fermenting it having as a result a kind of pro-biotic before it turns into a drink that is alcoholic, similar to a homebrew. This way one can turn him/herself into a `personality donor`.