Located in the Amazonian forests of Colombia, Forest Mind unites diverse strands of knowledge on the metaphysics of plants, on plant-human relationships, and the coding of life with its form of storing information. Drawing on scientific as well as shamanic perspectives of engaging with the world, the video takes an ecocentric worldview in search for the intelligence of nature. 

With modern science adopting a predominantly mechanistic take on the living world, and indigenous peoples experiencing an animate natural territory imbued with a spiritual dimension, these distinct cosmologies were considered vastly incompatible for the longest time. “Forest Mind” locates itself at the convergence of scientific and colonial histories in view of decolonizing indigenous knowledge and bringing it into a common reading with modern science, as for instance plant neurobiology quantum biology, the anthropology of science, ethnobotany, and philosophies engaging with the life of plants. Likewise, indigenous cosmologies are brought into dialogue with western philosophies. On the aesthetic level, I am also exploring new scientific methodologies by which the digital code of sonic files can be converted into DNA codes and stored for eternity.

The traditional medics in the Amazon insist on the existence of animate essences which are common to all life forms. This principle has been confirmed in the 1950’s by the discoveries of DNA as the molecule of life that is the same for all species. DNA technology is the Western approach to understanding the all-encompassing interconnection of life.  DNA emits ultra-weak but highly consistent light waves (biophotons), which are currently at the limits of measurement. Science speculates that consciousness could be the electromagnetic field constituted by the sum of these emissions. In their practice, shamans take their consciousness down to the molecular level, interacting with and gaining access to information of wave-emitting DNA, which they call “animate essences or spirits” (Jeremy Narby). Many phenomena, which in the past would have been considered supernatural, now lie within the fences of science. 

A recent breakthrough made at ETH Zurich unlocks new ways of using DNA knowledge that may have a bearing on how artists will work in the future. The technology allows for binary digital codes of 01 to be converted into DNA codes of ACGT (nucleobases). The New Materials lab made experiments with sonic files that were transcoded and stored as DNA sequences, then processed into chemical molecules and finally encapsulated in unperishable microscopic glass pearls. This technology, which requires a fraction of space, material and energy, may well replace any current storage medium usually outdated in a matter of a generation. Written in humanity’s own code, this form of storage will always remain decipherable. 


Forest Mind is a commission by Maria Belén Saez de Ibarra, Art Museum at UNAL Bogota. 

Forest Mind will premiere in the exhibition Earth Beats at the Kunsthaus Zurich in October 2021 and will be exhibited at the Cuenca Biennial in Ecuador in December 2021. 

I gratefully acknolwedge the generous support of Coincidencia–Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, UNAL Art Museum Bogota, Kunstgesesschaft/Kunsthaus Zurich, Erna und Curt Burgauer Stiftung, Turbobeads-ETH Zurich.

Performances : Flora Macas, Waira Nina Jacanamijoy, Rubiela Mojomboy, Carlino Muchavisoy

Camera : Richard Décaillet and Yann Décaumont

Sound Design : Patrick Codenys

Inspired by 
Anil Seth, neuroscientist 
Mark Van Raamsdonk, quantum physicist 
Jeremy Narby, anthropologist
Emanuele Coccia, philosopher
César E. Giraldo Herrera, anthropologist
Monica Gagliano, evolutionary biologist
Stefano Mancuso, neurobotanist
Aluna Ash, medium
and the Inga sabedores