Feral Bodies, Synthetic Rituals

[feral – untamed, beyond human control and domestication, seeding unexpected relations, challenging the dominant normativity]

The Uroboros festival is an annual gathering of artists, designers, and researchers experimenting with diverse means of living with and caring for more-than-human ecologies. Attending to ‘more-than-human’ as inclusive of both multispecies and algorithmic agencies (nature and technology), the 2023 Uroboros invites critical-creative inquiries into feral ways of stimulating eco-social change.

We explore feral as a quality to appraise open-ended, situated, embodied, and unexpected encounters that unfold beyond the bounds of human control, in relation with other-than-human knowledge and experiences. Feral can serve as a lens to develop a better understanding of entanglements and tensions in more-than-human ecosystems and question the differential power relations inherent in their formation. Engaging with feral ways while working towards positive social and ecological change (whether on a personal, local, or broader scale) can aid the decentering of human knowledge and the shift from making sense about to making sense with the more-than-human worlds we share and inhabit.

Becoming familiar, growing new relations, and making sense with feral bodies – whether bodies of water, soil, microbes, trees, myths, dreams, codes, data, or algorithms in AI media synthesis – can cultivate our capacities to understand what change might be needed, and what matters to whom. In times of climate collapse and multiple social crises, when the fracturedness of human-led strategies for planetary survival becomes intensely apparent, ferality may be seen as a timely and necessary intervention.   

The festival unfolds in two acts, starting in 2-4 November in the premises of Petrohradská Kolektiv, just before the venue gets demolished to soon re-emerge as a residential complex. This sudden and unexpected context is significant for the festival that is conceptually shaped around the symbol of Uroboros – a serpent consuming itself in an eternal cycle of life and death, new beginnings and ends, re-creation and change. Situated in Petrohradská, the first festival act itself takes the form of a polytemporal feral body: liminal, shapeshifting, and oscillating between multiple fluid genres and uncertain space-times. The Petrohradská act is an invitation for a collective exploration of feral ways of sensemaking with places and spaces that are in transition and undergoing change.   

The second Uroboros act happens on 7-9 December as a collaboration with art-design venues in Prague interested in feral-synthetic experiments with more-than-human agencies (nature & technology). We organise four co-creative workshops together with the Fresh Eye platform exploring the feral nature of synthetic media in the context of multispecies AI co-creation. At the fifth workshop curated with the Fotograf festival, feral AI technologies will work together with local other-than-human creatures to help participants explore the possibilities of their own ferality by shaping the identities, norms, assumptions, impositions, and binaries they wish to dispute, reject or simply leave behind.

Presented in this collaged format, the 2023 Uroboros offers a hybrid (on/offline) program of performative rituals, dérives (drifts), multispecies enactments, sharing circles, listening encounters, temporal installations, and other experimental engagements addressing themes in more-than-human care, synthetic sensing, algorithmic agencies, ocean literacy, feral data, forest futures, and more. All festival events are participatory and open to creative engagements of anyone interested in these topics.