With words, sounds and living organisms such as bacteria and slime mould, Jenna Sutela works across different media, including sound, video, sculpture and performance, to identify and respond to the precariousness of material and social moments by bringing together technology and biology. Her interest in science fiction and the ability of art to generate an image and an experience of the present and the future has led her to create works, spaces and devices that carry the viewer into parallel worlds.
Inspired by experiments in interspecies communication, nimiia cétiï (2018) aspires to connect with a world beyond our consciousness by using machine learning to generate a new written and spoken language. Interpreting a Martian language, originally channelled by the French medium Hélène Smith in the 19th century and now voiced by Sutela, the computer simultaneously engages with the movements of an extremophilic bacterium called Bacillus subtilis natto, which, according to recent spaceflight experimentation, could survive on Mars. Portrayed by the project as an alien of our creation, the machine is a medium channelling messages from entities that cannot usually speak. A video shows a computer watching footage of the bacteria under a microscope and generating a script based on an analysis of what it sees. Also on view is a brain-like illustration, or a map of what is happening in the bacterial video, from the computer's perspective as well as illustrations of bacterial movements created by the computer using a future prediction algorithm as a source for optical flow.
nimiia cétiï was created in collaboration with Memo Akten and Damien Henry as part of n-dimensions, Google Arts & Culture’s artist-in-residence programme at Somerset House Studios, London.