nimiia cétiï - Jenna Sutela

22 Jul 2020

Jenna Sutela’s audio-visual work nimiia cétiï is the latest in our PAUSE series, a mid-week moment to connect with an artist’s work in full. It’s inspired by experiments in interspecies communication and aspires to link with a world beyond our consciousness.

The video installation, made in collaboration with former Studios resident Memo Akten, and Damien Henry, Head of Innovation at the Google Arts & Culture Lab, was part of Google Arts & Culture’s artist-in-residence program n-Dimensions.

Documenting the interactions between a neural network, audio recordings of early Martian language, and footage of the movements of space bacteria, the work uses machine learning to generate a new form of communication.

In the work, the computer is a shaman of the modern days, a medium, articulating messages from entities that cannot otherwise speak. Interpreting Martian originally channelled by French medium Hélène Smith in the nineteenth century, the machine simultaneously engages with the movements of an extremophilic bacterium called Bacillus subtilis which, according to recent spaceflight experimentation, could survive on Mars.

n-Dimension's was the first “remote” artist-in-residence program launched outside of the Google Arts & Culture Lab. During the four-month residency at Somerset House Studios, Jenna worked with the engineers in Paris to explore on computer generated glossolalia - teaching machines to channel spirits instead of algorithms. 

Mixing wetware and hardware, the project also portrays the computer as an alien of our creation.

About the artist

Jenna Sutela works with words, sounds, and other living materials. Her installations and performances seek to identify and react to precarious social and material moments, often in relation to technology. Sutela’s artwork has been presented at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Serpentine Marathon in London, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, and The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. Last year, she edited Orgs: From Slime Mold to Silicon Valley and Beyond (Garret Publications 2017), an experimental survey of decentralized organisms and organizations, expanding on her collaboration with Physarum polycephalum, the single-celled yet “many-headed” slime mold.


The making of nimiia cétiï

With thanks to Kieran Bates from the Institute of Zoology at Imperial College London, Adam Laschinger for sound recordings, and Manus Nijhoff and Leith Benkhedda for animation. The work includes Miako Klein in contrabass recorder and Shin-Joo Morgantini in flute, with sound production by Ville Haimala.