GOSH Community Member Profile of Paula Pin: “The laboratory as a network of affective connections”

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Source: Gathering for Open Science Hardware

This is the sixteenth post of a series of profiles on GOSH community members who were featured in the GOSH Community Events Framework. You can access the framework, along with this profile in its original format, on the GOSH website at https://openhardware.science/gosh-community-events-framework/.

By Marcela Basch, independent journalist, Argentina. Twitter: @marbasch

Paula Pin is an artist and a biohacker. 

She studied Fine Arts, and while producing performances she began to incorporate sensors, elements related to haptics and science fiction. She has undertaken residencies in experimental art and tech production centres such as Hangar in Barcelona, Summer Lab in Gijón and Interactivos at Medialab-Prado, in Madrid, among others. “I’ve always had a very strong connection with free technologies. From Hangar I got to know the contexts of free technologies in Barcelona: I had already fallen into the pot. I really liked building sensors and spending hours reading papers,” Paula says. “I was generating the intersection of technological hacking with gender collectives. That’s where transhackfeminism in the Iberian peninsula came from, also in contact with the ecosex movement of Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle. In retrospect, biohacking emerged in 2010 in Medialab-Prado. I had been interested in visuals for a long time. I had been in a group with Maria Mitsopolu, Transnoise, where we worked with noise and transgender performance, as well as with non binary corporealities: building other bodies with recycled rubbish, dealing with the ideas of cyborg, of the organic and the inorganic, in processes of collective creation”, she recalls.

“I won a bio-art prize, Vida, with what I called at that time Photosynthetica “expanded performance”: a bit outside of anthropocentrism, I proposed to expand the body and their interactions with the ecosystem through sensors,” she says. “I had a connection with plants, with data, and so I was very interested in photosynthesis. Through a lot of research into photosynthesis, in 2012 I ended up meeting Andy Gracie and Marc Dusseiller, from Hackteria. In 2013 we started organising workshops together. In 2014 we put up one for 200 people in Indonesia”.

At that time Paula lived in Calafou, a community in Catalonia that defines itself as a post-capitalist eco-industrial colony and promotes the use of free and open technologies. “The hackmeeting was there”, she says. “At the beginning it was quite computer-based. In 2012 we integrated a microscope to look at the river and find out why the water smelled bad. I put up a transdisciplinary bioelectrochemistry open lab called Pechblenda, because that had fascinated me while working with plants and bodies: identifying what it’s like to be in the ecosystem. And also, I was concerned about repairing, and trying to make sure that there were many of us doing so. We are not going to save the planet, but we can make small repairs”, she states. “With that illusion, the desire emerged and this lab was born. It was also a collective space, an expanded hack, because we were working with appropriate technologies: the sensors were very nice, but we needed a heater. It was a time of full-on experimentation on laboratories of the commons, in a place that was a ruin, where everything was to be done”, she sums up.

DIWO Biotranslab

Through Marc Dusseiller and Urs Gaudenz, Paula was part of GOSH 2018 in Shenzhen, with a mobile DIY transfeminist gynecology lab. In her session she taught people with vaginas how to handle speculums to get a quick HPV test using vinegar. Some of the participants’ vaginal cells were checked under DIWO microscopes. “These are sensitive issues for people who are not in contact with transfeminist contexts. It’s socialising information that I already have naturalised very much. I look for ways to make it understandable for everyone. There is a lot of translation work there”, she says. “One of the things I’ve done the most is translating science, making it more chewable. I’m a trans-sister, a transducer of information. There was a moment when I got very emotional, I had to leave the room for a second, because the participants took the floor, they told of their experiences at the gynecologist’s, a discourse that was repeated in different places… We could see that everything that happens with the body is not so open”.

The body, open hardware

“In GOSH I tried to talk about the body as open hardware,” Paula explains. “I did it to decolonise a science that can be considered heteropatriarchal and reductionist. We are here to bridge the gap of access to technologies, so that science integrates all identities. It is a matter of bringing other visions together, from a feminine point of view of science, like Lynn Margulis’ vision of endosymbiotic theory, of cooperative action: that we evolve if we share. How to make all these voices present in the discourse, and not be mere replicants of the system we already have. I wanted to de-normalise and de-binarise, to speak from all those voices, to queerise the code a little, to make noise with the whole scale of greys and dissonances”.

Paula reflects: “Why do we develop machines? Either because they don’t exist, or because they are privatised, expensive and difficult to access. Open and free technologies allow us to broaden access to them and to be creators of our technologies, rather than mere consumers. From a pedagogical point of view, making, documenting, distributing and sharing are the reasons why a space like GOSH exists. It is about being able to understand how things work from a shared, transversal, horizontal knowledge, and for the greatest diversity of people to have access to it. It would be key to be able to develop this in schools, in free education, and to be able to generate our own tools,” she enthuses. “The idea is thinking about what we want to do, what we need and want to build together. It’s always nice and fun to be able to discover how things work, to share it, to build. It generates excitement, people get affected by being there”.

“I work in transdisciplinarity. I understand the laboratory as a relational aesthetic, beyond hacktivism or performance”, Paula rounds off. “The idea of the laboratory of the commons is hyper-relational: the feelings, the affections, the networks that are generated are more important than the piece of hardware that is made there. What is generated is already an entity, it has its own presence in that network of affective connections between the material, the personal, the physical, the tangible and the intangible”.

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