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Planetary Times: Bioreactors and Biospheres

The Planetary Workshop Series is an integral part of the Planetary Scholars and Artists in Residence Program. Each semester, the visiting scholars and artists prepare a workshop of one or more days with reference to the Fellowship theme and their own focal points. The thematic orientation as well as the organizational design of the workshop are left entirely to the Fellows, and thus the Planetary Workshop Series features exciting content, creative formats, and unusual perspectives. Here you can find information on all past events of this series. 


The Planetary Times Summer Workshop is realized as a collaboration between Kunsthalle Giessen and the Panel on Planetary Thinking


Download the detailed program in PDF form here.


...From the origin of life to the emergence of complex species, the evolution of life on earth has been driven by a corresponding evolution in the way that information is stored, transmitted, and processed. The recent emergence of computation builds upon this evolutionary lineage, weaving together biological and technological domains through informatic feedback loops. In this planet-building endeavour, a two-day workshop will be initiated by Californian media artist  & Planetary Times summer Fellow Connor Cook and the synthetic biologist Darren Zhu.

In the first part of this two-day workshop, we engage with the theory of an “Informatic Evolution of the Planet” through a transdisciplinary roundtable discussion. In an intensive workshop session on the second day, we aim to replicate this planetary dynamic on a micro scale, using a Raspberry Pi-enabled bioreactor (Pioreactor) to create immersive audiovisual worlds. The Pioreactor can cultivate, monitor, and control cultures of algae through real-time two-way communication with a computer. By algorithmically adjusting and monitoring the balance of light, nutrients, carbon dioxide, and algal growth, the Pioreactor acts as a simplified planetary model, illustrating the intricate interplay of biological matter, energy, and information within the Earth system. Registered participants will act as mediators, using the real-time data produced by algae as input to create live audiovisual worlds using the game design software Unreal Engine.



Workshop Program

Tuesday, May 28th | 15:00 – 18:00 | @ Kunsthalle Giessen  | Berliner Platz 1 |  35390 Giessen

15:00   |  The Informatic Evolution of the Planet: Introduction and Roundtable

16:30   |  Break

16:45   |  Film Screening and Discussion

  • “Xenoplex: The Informatic Evolution of Planetary Computation” (Zhu and Cook 2023)
  • Preparatory remarks to the workshop
  • Closing discussion & finger food reception


Wednesday, May 29th | 10:00 – 19:00 | @ Kunsthalle Giessen | Berliner Platz 1 | 35390 Giessen

10:00   |  Morning Session

  • Workshop Kickoff: Introduction into the state of research on the topic and into the conceptual framework underlying the workshop
  • Introduction to the Pioreactor and Unreal Engine project setup
  • Learning how to design audiovisual worlds 

13:30   |  Lunch Break (food provided for workshop participants)

14:30   |  Audiovisual Worldbuilding 

  • Intensive development session with 1-1 support by the artist

17:30   |  Break & Setup for Evening Event

18:00   |  Experiencing and Engaging with the Bios-Technosphere

  • Time to view the workshop outcomes
  • Audiovisual performance by the artist
  • Artist’s talk 
  • Cocktail and fingerfood reception.


Jochen Blom

Jochen Blom studied 'Computer Science in the Natural Sciences' at Bielefeld University and completed a PhD project on 'Comparative genomics on gene and single nucleotide level' in 2013. At the end of 2013, he moved to Justus Liebig Univeristy Gießen to start a PostDoc position as the coordinator of the M.Sc. course 'Bioinformatics & Systems Biology'. In his cientific work, he continues to work in the fields of 'comparative genomics' and 'phylogenomics'. Further he also maintains the analysis software 'EDGAR' which is used by scientists worldwide.

Christina Lu

Christina Lu is an AI researcher and technologist based in London. She is a doctoral student of Computer Science at the University of Oxford and formerly a software engineer at Google DeepMind. Her work combines rigorous technical research with speculative philosophy to instantiate a more viable future with synthetic intelligence.


Cécile Malaspina

Cécile Malaspina is the author of An Epistemology of Noise (Bloomsbury, 2018) and principal translator of Gilbert Simondon's On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). She is directrice de programme at the Collège International de Philosophie, Paris (Ciph) and Visiting Research Fellow at King's College London and at the University of the West of England, where her program for the Ciph is hosted by the departments of  Department of French and Philosophy. 

Would you like to be a part of the PLANETARY TIMES SUMMER WORKSHOP?

The working session on Day 2 (10:00 – 18:00) is for pre-registered participants only, whereas no registration is required for the other parts.
Register via for Day 2 of the workshop by May 21, 2024 as the number of participants is restricted to 25 people.