The Matriarchive of the Mediterranean playfully and creatively emphasizes matter – be it human, animal, vegetable, technological. Fragmentation, addition, extension: these rules play the game – ma(t)er/mat(t)er(s)/mater-ials. In ‘matter’ there is mater, the maternal; add ‘t’ to ‘mater’, put ‘s’ at the end of the word, and there you have ‘matters’, meaning both ‘questions’ and ‘something that matters’ – as in Bodies that Matter (J. Bulter: 1993) or in Postcolonial Matters (A. Cianelli, B. Ferrara, eds: 2015). This section on Matters wants to provide an open, processual platform where the most urgent priorities, thoughts, theoretical suggestions and reflections, can be shared by the female community that creates and consults the Matriarchive of the Mediterranean. What indeed ‘matters’ to us all is the theoretical debate around waste materials and their use, re-use and re-cycling in artistic practices. What matters is experimentation and border trespassing – with and of disciplines, matters, materials, and bodies – carried out through artistic languages. The question of multiplicity comes to the fore. This question can only be articulated by going beyond the nature-culture dichotomy; the contemporary forms of bio art by women artists bring about ethical, political and social issues, expressing the structure of feeling, the question and contradiction of our historical moment.
Nowadays the social and cultural scenario is increasingly attentive to questions of ecology and to the relation between nature and mat(t)er. Within a global context – where the circulation of people, goods and commodities replicates the accelerated speeds of the digitalisation of data, bodies and information – women artists and thinkers raise the question of the ethical and aesthetical underpinnings of the relation between human, nature, animal and technology. This relation can be found at work in the practices and the objects of everyday life – in the devices that mediate social relations, genetically modified food and bio food, seed banks, drugs, pharmaceuticals, animal testing, etc.). This relation unfolds as a molecular, cellular, atomic, quantum contamination. It becomes therefore necessary to disentangle Nature from any essentialistic reading, which would place it either within or against culture. Alternatively, we must acknowledge the queerness, difference, Alterity, heterogeneity lying at the heart of M-Other Nature.
A matriarch alerts us to this: Ursula Biemann, the international artist and theorist, co-founder with Shuruq Harb of Art Territories an independent platform for artists, theorists, researchers and curators focusing on art and visual culture in the Middle East and Arab World. She investigates and experiments with media(ted) ecologies – on the threshold between the organic, social, and technological milieus – where art engages with chemistry, as in the recent project Egyptian Chemistry (2012). This artwork reconstructs the plurality of ecologies (bio, chemical, hydro, territorial, political, economic, social ecologies) of the Nile area.
This section is inspired by these dialogues and artistic practices. It aims to connect a series of creative works created by women who contaminate arts and humanities through hard science (chemistry, physics, biology, information technology, etc.). It wants to explore the possibility of a creative recycling of approaches, methodologies, ideas, matters, bodies, knowledge, opened to the aspiration and experimentation with new modalities of inhabiting the contemporary space and time – together with the spaces and the times still to come, à-venir.