Surrogacy is a sound sculpture, which visualizes and sonifies the decline of nurturing symbiotic bonds between vanilla plants and fungi via seeds DNA translation.

Vanilla planifolia, the source of delicious vanilla aroma, is a plant native to Mexico belonging to the orchid family. The vine is an epiphyte growing on the surfaces of trees with roots forming a symbiotic relationship with fungi and its flowers pollinated by the male euglossine bees. The vanilla orchid needs abundant interspecies support to thrive and yield the praised spice.

Food production industries are transforming and avoiding plant interdependencies with cloning, culture media germination and manual pollination. Orchid symbiosis is thus morphing into a spectrum of capitalistic surrogacies that provoke metabolic rifts in plant populations, such as the fact that only seven clones of Vanilla Planifolia are grown in Mexico.

Surrogacy, part of Symbiosis Studies Series, is a sculpture of vanilla seeds visualising and sonifying loss of biodiversity via DNA translation of vanillin formation. Symbiosis is considered as any type of close and long-term biological interaction between two organisms, be it mutualistic, commensalistic, or parasitic. Each seed is an aspect of vanilla’s existence: from biological symbiosis with fungi, to synthetic production of vanillin, to slicing of its numbers into slow disappearance.

The period in which we live has been named Anthropocene, meaning a human-dominated era of Earth’s history. Climate changes, loss of biodiversity, widespread pollution, depredation of resources and other alarming changes mark current life on the pale-blue dot. This scenario is a consequence of an ossified ideology of humans’ dominion over nature, not seeing the potential of abundance that might emerge if the planet would be recognized as a complex interconnected system. Through artistic investigation, Saša Spačal researches how humans are evolutionary processes, just one of many beings in the entangled metabolisms of the planet.

Surrogacy, 2022
Symbiosis Studies Series
Saša Spačal

Concept, sculpture, composition: Saša Spačal
Sonification software and composition: Pim  Boreel
Genetics consultant: Tadej Markus
Technical support: Mirjan Švagelj
3D modelling: Matija Milkovič Biloslav
3D printing: HEKA laboratory
Construction: Scenart
Sound Art in Public Spaces, curator Raquel Castro, Arhus Botanical Gardens, Spor Festival, Arhus, Denmark [April 2022]

Symbiosis Studies Series
Saša Spačal

Sonic sculpture