Epiphyte. Pollinating (Con)tact

Bioinspiration and Politics and Poetics of the Future

Thursday, 27 April 2023 - Check programme
Side Thinkers, Epiphyte. Pollinating (Con)tact, image generated by artificial intelligence, 2023
Side Thinkers, Epiphyte. Pollinating (Con)tact, image generated by artificial intelligence, 2023
Raquel G. Ibáñez and Vanesa Viloria
Organised by
Museo Reina Sofía
Inside the framework of
TIZ 9. Relational Ecologies

Epiphyte is a project, nurtured by the cultural association Side Thinkers and directed by Vanesa Viloria, which investigates new forms of facing the eco-social crisis by observing the plant world as a way to learn of other ways of life, community and future. On this occasion, the Museo Reina Sofía welcomes Pollinating (Con)tact, a programme structured around two artistic proposals and two conversations with agents and professionals linked to environmental humanities, artistic creation, science and climate activism.

Starting from the hybridisation of languages and disciplines, this activity seeks to move beyond the hegemony of academic language as a medium to transmit knowledge, shining a light on other narratives such as fiction and poetry and focusing on the senses.

Bioinspiration and Politics and Poetics of the Future, the subtitle to the activity, foregrounds the pillars with which the activity is built. The first is bioinspiration, related to how, through listening and being mindful of our environment, we can open up new imaginaries and find antidotes to the stages of collapse. This is followed by politics and poetics of the future: two interwoven and co-dependent terms because, bearing in mind the new landscapes of future desolation, there is a need to invent new narratives that flow beyond their roles and move into gestures, actions and delicacy, using the words of poet and vet María Sánchez. In the political gesture, as in the poetic gesture, simplicity is perhaps the most complex articulation. The most powerful and challenging aspects when observing the future is the desire to break down the discourse of survival to reach a liveable life.

The order of the different activities that configure this programme are fastened together as an immersive passage, a fluctuation of “from outside to inside language” and vice versa. Thus, the approach entails playing with the very logics of the narrative, where the native territories of three acts — beginning, middle, end — are eroded to make way for oscillating temporalities with which to look at, from different perspectives, different notions and future possibilities that lie in wait.


Clara Brea develops her work at the intersections of sound art, phonography and electronic music. Her interest in field recordings stems from the impulse to link her music practice to environmental and social issues, using the acoustic environment as a tool to transmit her concerns and affects with the world that surrounds us. She has participated at events such as CALMA, Eufònic and DC Listening Lounge, and has been artist-in-residence at Matadero Madrid.

Paco Calvo lectures in Logic and the Philosophy of Science and directs the Minimal Intelligence Lab (MINT Lab) at the University of Murcia. His research interests broadly span cognitive science, particularly plant intelligence, ecological psychology and situated cognitive science. Moreover, he has collaborated with the Office of Naval Research in the USA, researching sources of plant inspiration for robotics and artificial intelligence.

Malú Cayetano is a landscape architect who works on different projects related to the social transformation of habitat, urban regeneration, ecological restoration and artistic and cultural production. She employs participatory methodologies and formulas to activate public commitment by making visible natural processes in urban contexts. Furthermore, her interests centre on debates around people’s position in relation to the biosphere and the capacity of artistic practices as mediators between citizens, ecology and territory.

Elena Lavellés is a visual artist, film-maker and researcher. Her theoretical research work and fieldwork explore correlations between social strata and geological layers. She has been part of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (New York) and has received different awards, grants and international residencies. Furthermore, she has participated in solo and group exhibitions at MeetFactory (Prague), CalArts (Los Angeles), Museo Alberto Mena Camaño (Quito), the Institute of Contemporary Arts of Singapore (Singapore), Centro Cultural de España en México and Matadero Madrid.

Raquel G. Ibáñez is an artist and curator with an interest in thresholds and/or liminal spaces, and sound as a form of writing or dismantling the word, and its confrontation with the visual image. She is the co-founder of the collective El Banquete and the music platform Possible Others, and is currently a resident at Matadero Madrid as a member of the study group Una fiesta salvaje. She has also developed projects for Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M), Azkuna Zentroa, La Casa Encendida, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), TEA Tenerife, Hangar and hablarenarte.

Ainhoa Hernández Escudero is a choreographer who is part of the Twins Experiment collective and the curatorial project Saliva. She has shown her work at Frascati Amsterdam, Come Together, Bâtard Festival in Brussels, La Casa Encendida, Gessnerallee Zürich, Museo del Chopo, Espai nyamnyam and La Caldera, and has received the 3Package Deal of the Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst Prize (AFK) in the Dance category, and the support of the International Choreographic Arts Centre (ICK), Fonds Podiumkunsten / Balkonscènes, CA2M, Injuve and Centro Coreográfico Canal.

Alejandro Rivero Vadillo studied Modern Languages, Translation and English Studies at the University of Alcalá, and is also a researcher at Instituto Franklin, part of the same university. Furthermore, he is assistant editor at the magazine Ecozon@, a member of Grupo de Investigación en Ecocrítica and the Laboratorio de Estudios del Futuro. His work approaches post-humanist philosophy and thought around ecology and technology reflected in literature, music and film.

Emilio Santiago Muiño holds a PhD in Social Anthropology and is a scientist in the Institute of Language, Literature and Anthropology at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). He also researches the anthropology of the climate crisis. From 2016 to 2019, he was technical director of the Environment at Móstoles Town Council. He has lectured at the Autonomous University of Madrid, the University of Zaragoza and on the Independent Studies Programme at MACBA, and currently co-directs, with Jaime Vindel, the research project Humanidades Energéticas (Energy Humanities).

Vanesa Viloria is a cultural manager and curator with an interest in urban commons, collective creation and self-representation and their power to dismantle hegemonic mechanisms. She has worked at Matadero Madrid and the COTEC Foundation for Innovation. She directed Side Thinkers since its founding, up until her recent role as a cultural policy advisor. Currently, her concerns are related to cultural ecology and the right to culture.


Actividad pasada Thursday, 27 April 2023
Session 1

5pm Solidarities of Light and Darkness: Imagining Post-human Futures
— by Alejandro Rivero Vadillo

Rooted in environmental humanities, this conversation casts light on new ways of imagining the future of Homo sapiens in the Anthropocene. Be it through the techno-optimist prism of solarpunk or the “profound” nature of the eco-poetics of black metal, new imaginaries of the future have, in recent years, emerged which demonstrate that not only is there more than one unique horizon of possible climate scenarios, but also that these horizons do not have to become the apocalyptic territory and ecocide traditionally forewarned in twenty-first-century science fiction.    

5:40pm Break

6pm Epiphyte. Plants, Seeds and New Imaginaries
Performance lecture
— by Side Thinkers

A presentation of the project Epiphyte and its rationales, contextualising the activities that form the backbone of the programme. Adopting ecological thinking which fosters the well-being of the entire planet means to recognise the intimacy between human beings and the non-human, and accept their differences. A way of inhabiting or approaching those spaces of vulnerability is a poetic exercise, in addition to observing how this is entwined with territory, animality, the plant world and feminism. As writer and environmental activist Terry Tempest Williams asserts: “I want to feel both the beauty and the pain of the age we are living in. I want to survive my life without becoming numb”.

6:20pm Pollinating (Con)tact. Bioinspiration and Politics and Poetics of the Future
—Participants: Paco Calvo, Malú Cayetano, Elena Lavellés and Emilio Santiago Muiño
—Moderated by: Maria José Parejo

This conversation is guided by concepts explored in Epiphyte and those which run through the guest participants’ lines of research. Its starting point is the notion of future: Is it possible to imagine without a clear notion of future or does the imagination create it? How are our perception, language, desires and fears altered by a notion of the future riddled with crises — epistemological, climatic, economic, border crises, among others?

Nouvel, Auditorium 200

200 people


Free, until full capacity is reached

Actividad pasada Thursday, 27 April 2023
Session 2

8pm Wetland Adrift
Sound Journey
— Conducted by Clara Brea

A journey that moves through the Museo from the lobby of the Nouvel auditoriums to the Garden, setting forth a drifting listening exercise from an excerpt of Wetland, a sound piece composed and recorded in September 2019 in Delta del Ebro, one of the environments most at risk through climate change in the Iberian Peninsula. Through her work, Clara Brea draws inspiration from soundscapes and advocates the act of listening as a possible tool of reflection and change.

8:15pm Sorbito
— By Ainhoa Hernández Escudero

Sorbito is a project in which stage language expands to a collective body, breaking every barrier between artist and audience and encouraging a collective experience through ingestion and the relational. It puts forward a collaboration with medicinal herbs as a form of exchange, imagining the encounter of human cellular membranes and the cell walls of plants. Sorbitos (sips) are small drinkable and aromatic samples, each one with a specific materiality and made with a herb with specific properties. The project sets out from the study of herbalism and pre-modern healing traditions, resituating these practices — historically associated with women’s knowledge — in contemporaneity. 

What would happen if, as Sepideh Ardalani posits, we thought of the plant-human relationship not as unilateral but as an interaction between two agents that find one another to co-perform a process? And what if we consider that in the process of boiling, smelling and ingesting a herb its knowledge is also incorporated into us? How can we think about pre-modern healing practices from tools which give us contemporaneity?

Meeting Point: Nouvel Building, Auditoriums, Lobby

60 people


Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior registration by filling out the following form until 25 April