Nicole L'Huillier | Tardigrade Radio

Tardigrade Radio

Tardigrade Radio proposes a way of studying how sonic spaces mediate our material behavior. This is a “Soundspill”, where sound is like water; it is heavy to the body and contains you to deliver its own content. Sound is a porous membrane that not only contains but also spills naturally, becoming part of its environment, becoming part of the landscape, becoming its voice.

This piece proposes to re-appropriate the airwaves space, which has been drastically regulated, privatized and institutionalized. Radio pieces are caught by a “parasitic radio receiver module” built with biolab tools an installed in public spaces. Sonic compositions and narratives are taken from the inside of research laboratories to common spaces, blurring the boundaries between inside and outside, lab and nature, fiction and reality. The first installation consists of 1 “parasitic radio receiver module” and three sonic pieces inspired by the Lab Tardigrade’s story and environment. These compositions are meant to be absorbed in a non-linear narrative dispersed on space. Future iterations consider the installation of many “parasitic radio receiver modules”, creating a large-scale choreography of radio transmitters and receivers. The piece uses radio as a spatial medium for mobile spaces, transversal structures, and build layered invisible architectures.

I have been working in collaboration with researcher Devora Najjar from the Sculpting Evolution Group at MIT Media Lab. She opened the doors of her lab and agreed to collaborate and tell her story. After interviews and field recordings at her lab, the Tardigrade (also known as Water Bear) was identified as an icon of resilience and defiance on these times of genes drive and synthetic evolution. These first compositions aim to understand and tell the Tardigrade’s story. The story of a microorganism that changed the water and moss for samples on a clear plastic case, the story of a strong and badass DNA sequence that allows it to completely dehydrate for years and then come back to life when environmental conditions allow. This is the story of yet another human “Overspill”, where Tardigrades and other microorganisms where sent to space and survived the extreme conditions. This is the story of humans crossing invisible boundaries and contaminating unknown ecosystems.

The 3 compositions are constructed as non-linear narratives. One is a sonic portrait of the Sculpting Evolution Laboratory, exposing the Tardigrade’s new habitat, its new nature, the only one it knows. And then it is brought outside to the real nature by being diffused on the hybrid parasitic radios disseminated all over campus. Other composition reveals a 0.1% of the Tardigrade’s genome sequence scaffold. This is a 5740 characters string of As Cs Gs and Ts that create an arpeggiated sequence in A minor 7 chord. Then, the last composition is a whispers choir that narrates the story of how Tardigrades accidentally became an invasive species in outer space.