Interview with Millicent Hawk
February 2018

A series of interviews with SPACE Art + Technology artists in residence

What were you doing in the year leading up to the residency?
I’ve been reading, making and collaborating around specific research areas, which, more generally, focuses on the relationship between organic matter and mechanisation, the process of accelerated ‘civilisation’ from the use of techno-tools and their associated ecocidal effects. Of course, animals, plants, human, rock, simple and complex organisms, the whole industrial predicate, are co-dependent conditions to climate. 

Within this complexly interwoven system, arguably the biggest cost to environment is owed to the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and most of my work hinges around this – to the scientific, political, economic and social conditions of it. It’s because of my interest in deep ecology and whole systems that my work looks to draw on these entangled relations, to the connections between things - sometimes delineating proximity between seemingly unrelated things.

Thinking about interconnection and belonging, there’s a struggle presented in Darwin’s work - sadly lesser peddled than the competitive struggle for existence in which only the fittest survived - which is between organisms and the environment, one where mutual aid is one of the most effective means of survival. So, through my work I’ve been examining systems that suck and those that support, and looking towards ones that can do the latter. One of my works, Hard/drive, is pretty central to this research.

Hard/drive, in part, is a conjecture on complex ecologies, contouring the relation between PDC drill bits (that bore hardrock to allow fossil fuel extraction), Teredo navalis (shipworms), trade routes, power, tech, economics, phallocentrism, extinction and crude oil (formed from dead sea creatures and plankton). Hard/drive cultivates a scientific imperative - holding interconnectedness as everything - as the precursor to life. Donna Haraway’s statement, ‘Nothing comes without its world’ is really pertinent to me. 

It’s because of my interest in whole systems design, deep ecology and economic reform that my work, particularly over the last few years, has been exploring ways that cultural structures and labour can form regenerative ecologies. So much of my work grows from, and around, this.

Over the last year I’ve continued curating group exhibitions at Avalanche, an artist-run lounge in Peckham I started a few years back.  Avalanche’s exhibition and events programme is very much part of my work and relates to this research. 

What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’ve mostly been working on -PLANES- which I’m researching and developing in a cross-disciplinary collaboration as part of the HereNow Art+Technology residency at SPACE.

-PLANES- is a digital ecology that develops autonomously, as with mathematician John Conway's 'Game of Life', which was the first computational form of life (the pre-conditions for which were set by John Von Nuemann). It is also responsive too - influenced through interaction with others - an organic and random element to the work. 

Through mathematical abstracti ons, the ecology (seen as a cross section on screen but which is on an infinite plane) mimics drifting aquatic life and organisms - such as transgender algae (Volvox), a freshwater ciliate with up to seven sexes (Tetrahymena thermophila), and the immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrniI).

The public workshop at SPACE Mare street - QUEER ECOLOGIES ϟ DIGITAL PLANES - on Thursday 22 February, will explore key themes concerning this work.

How have you found the residency so far?
Great!  Everyone at SPACE has been really welcoming and supportive, and it’s been lovely to meet and work alongside interesting artists on this residency and develop critical conversations with them both inside and out of our studio space. Thank you

What’s coming next?
I’ll be continuing to work on -PLANES-, it’ll be great to get to the final stages of development where the work is at an interactive stage - so I’m looking forward to that! The work will be shown in the HereNow Residency outcome exhibition at SPACE in April.

I’ll be working on a second and very ambitious work with my collective, SUPERCELL, an amorphous and experimental art and technology collective forming decentralised social networks with mutual interests as the basis of function. This second work, surface, is an immersive digital installation, a real-time simulation of a fluid world, where drifting microscopic organisms are given maximum presence and echo their human correlatives’ movements and formation in space. 

I’m also planning a group exhibition and coinciding text called Intercooler. The exhibition and text will explore interdisciplinary forms of art spanning politics and science over the last fifty years that have affective political function regardless of artwork status.

Working on these projects I’m pretty excited about the year to come!