As has been proven, the human body is composed of a significantly higher number of microbial cells than human cells. Bacteria, fungi, and viruses co-inhabit our body, giving it life and allowing it to function. We are a consortium of critters that constitute much more than an individual body; we are a portable ecosystem that constantly exchanges matter and energy with its surroundings—a holobiont. Collaboration and symbiosis are therefore key to understanding life, evolution, and consciousness. Emerging evidence also points to the fact that our microbiome not only supports our metabolism, bodily functions, and evolution, but it may also directly affect our thoughts and feelings, ultimately influencing the way we act. If our thought processes and emotions are affected by other life forms that co-inhabit our body, then, is our mind ever really acting on its own? Or is the human mind merely a small component in a much larger planetary assemblage of more-than-human minds who are collectively shaping a cosmic intelligence—something that we may not yet be able to grasp and describe?
Connections between the microscopic and the telescopic are drawn in Metahaven’s film Capture (2022), a cinematic search for what perception and sensing can entail today, with sound composed by Espen Sommer Eide. Including archival footage from the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) and newly-created cinematic scenes from a variety of cameras and sensors, the work plays upon observation, entanglement, sci-fi, science, and poetry. In Jenna Sutela’s audiovisual work Milky Ways (2022), the bodies of terrestrial organisms are explored as connected aquatic environments, drawing particular attention to the role of sugars contained in breast milk that communicate with babies' gut bacteria and seems to shape the development of babies’ nervous systems. Under these considerations, the transfer of breast milk from mother—or (m)other, as Sutela spells it—to baby is only partially an act of feeding; most significantly, it is an act of worldbuilding across generations and interspecies. The way memory allows for a string of data to be passed through matter across time is further developed by Lundahl & Seitl’s virtual reality experience and installation Eternal Return: the Memor (2019–2022, with ScanLAB Project). Drawing multiple connections between living matter and geology, the work crafts an experience of time-travel from earth’s deep past as unicellular cyanobacteria to its post-anthropocentric future. Their work Symphony of a Missing Room – Sternwarte choreographs a sensorial experience of the Archenhold Observatory; we become receivers of the light that travels from the stars, and attempt to make contact with a signal that reaches us from a multiple light-years distance.
A large part of Other Minds' storytelling concentrates on vegetal intelligence, fungi and plant teachers. Throughout history, in fact, the symbiotic relationship between humans and psychoactive plants, mushrooms, and even animals, has opened up new modes of seeing and sensing the real. This may bring us closer to notions of oneness and the planetary, holistic agency, beyond an idea of fragmented functioning. The dissolution of the “I” that can be experienced when psilocybin compounds enter our metabolism may equally enable a temporary comprehension of the functioning of holobionts and more-than-human agencies. It has even been argued that psilocybin mushrooms may have had a crucial role in the rapid development of the human brain, which tripled in size in just two million years. The mushrooms would not have provoked a sudden shift, but they may have been a subtle and considerable factor in the evolution of the brain by acting like “hackers” of the human mind and contributing to its expansion into a neurologically modern hardware for thinking. The connections between the human brain and psilocybin plants are explored and dreamed up by Grace Ndiritu in Becoming Plant: the Experience (2022), Viktor Pedersen and Ingrid K. Bjørnaali in To See Without Man (2022), and Patricia Domínguez in Matrix Vegetal (2022). These works emphasize the mind-expanding potential that could be unleashed if we established a symbiotic connection with the vegetal mind, thus expanding posthumanist notions of planetary entanglements into cosmic consciousness. Can thinking about the leaf as an energy-processing surface help us to revise our current extractive practices, which are leading to an anthropogenic depletion of resources? Can photosynthesis provide a speculative framework for imagining a future in which the human body has learned to process starlight directly and has partly become vegetal?