Cyano Automaton

We are currently experiencing the worst environmental crisis in history, and we humans are responsible for it. Burning fossil fuels and mining minerals have led behind deforestation, the destruction of natural habitats, and an excessive amount of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Mining has a strong relationship to colonialism. Colonizers saw the territories they occupied as places they could use without any consideration for long-term consequences, exploiting local populations and natural resources. In many cases, it continues until nowadays. There is no way to explain our current ecological catastrophe without past and present colonial practices.

Gold, the symbol of wealth and status, has probably been one of the most sought-after minerals ever. Colonial gold enriched European powers and funded the slave trade. Gold is scarce and that makes it valuable, and extracting it damages the environment by producing excessive carbon dioxide. Its overexploitation, here on Earth, has raised speculations to look for it on other planets. That’s right, it sounds like a sci-fi film.

Gold means economic value, and each year, a percentage of the gold mined worldwide is spent on space exploration. Sending rockets to outer space may give hopes for an interplanetary future, for some, but it’s damaging our planet now, for all.

But enough of this already! The Cyano Automaton, hand-in-hand with cyanobacteria, is here to save the day!

Cyanobacteria are quite multifaceted. Not only are they the first photosynthetic organisms ever, and responsible for the development of all life on Earth. They also stand behind toxic “blue-green algae” blooms, superfood sensation “spirulina”, and a potential source of nutrients for the first colonizers of Mars. Due to their complexity, they are perfect narrators for this intricate story.

The Cyano Automaton is a vessel that cultivates the kind of cyanobacteria we know as “spirulina”, and gives voice to this species to tell a story about exploitation, space exploration, and colonialism. It uses data from NASA’s yearly budgets and intertwines them with statistics from global gold mining and the subsequent production of carbon dioxide.

Through its life cycles, the cyanobacteria inhabiting the Cyano Automaton give us compelling insights on how these huge numbers are interrelated. They also help us realize that the damage caused by human activities, at a systemic level, cannot be just resolved with personal actions. Nobody will ever save the world by using hipster bamboo straws instead of plastic. For the same reason, 5 liters of spirulina cannot produce enough oxygen to cope with the current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There must be a systemic change.

The Cyano Automaton is on.

Cyano Automaton is produced by Super Eclectic.
Concept, research, development: Agnieszka Pokrywka
Design and technical development: Bartłomiej Rey
Production and communication: Humberto Duque

CyanoAutomaton is supported by CreaTures: Creative Practices for Transformational Futures. CreaTures project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870759. The content presented in this website represents the views of the authors, and the European Commission has no liability in respect of the content.

Special thanks to:
Krisjanis Rijnieks for additional digital fabrication.
Anya Muangkote from Spirulina Society for amazing resource and advice.
Arthrospira platensis (aka Spirulina) for bearing with us :)