Artist Spotlight: Zia Álmos Joshua

Our fourth artist spotlight is on Zia Álmos Joshua [X] (neutral pronouns) who has a unique position on the Dysbiosis project as the only member of the team who has joined remotely for both R&D weeks. Currently doing their PhD in Texas, Zia has been our academic consultant and human encyclopedia on the project.

Photo credit: Milo Miller (insta: @milo.z.miller)

Can you give us a quick intro to yourself, your research and your creative practice?

I am a researcher, educator, writer, performer, and activ-ish, born and raised in Brixton, London, UK, currently studying for a PhD at Rice University, in Houston, Tx, USA. My research is focused on posthumanism, and the social, political, and philosophical dimensions of taxonomy, ecology, biology, emergent technology, and consciousness, with these also shaping my creative work (autotheory; poetry; prose; performance art). I am dedicated to teaching and education, and spent the 6 years prior to my PhD at the Linnean Society of London and Wellcome Collection, working in science communication and public engagement.

What does ‘dysbiosis’ mean to you?

Dysbiosis to my mind is a complicated term; it technically means a dysregulation in the/a microbial community (the microbiota or microbiome) of the human body, one that we ordinarily live in a mutualistic-symbiotic relationship with, but for whatever reason is out of wack, and so the health of the body is compromised. How I like to think about it, is imagining the Earth and its ecosystems as kinds of bodies with well-regulated mutualistic-symbiotic relationships, and that we are presently entering a stage of existence where a lot of human-related activities and processes have pushed the boundaries of what those various bodily entanglements can tolerate, and the planet itself, or various parts of it, are entering into dysbiosis, ecosystems out of wack, spiraling out of balance.

How does a queer lens help us understand or appreciate nature (if at all)?

The natural world has often been framed and understood through particular normative lenses; because (some) people thought heterosexuality and the gender binary were “normal” and “natural”, they imposed those ideas on every human and on a lot of phenomena in the rest of the biological world as well. Queerness has helped us as humans understand the diversity of sexuality, sexes, and gender within our own species and cultures, but it has also alerted us to the ways science itself has been biased by these ideas of cisgender heterosexual normativity, and that if we are actually attendant to the natural world its a lot more unusual, unique, and queer than we have been taught to believe.

Were any aspects of the project new to you, and how was that experience?

As I’m physically/temporally distant, assisting with the piece is an interesting challenge, particularly as so many of the artists and creators involved I think already have many of the theoretical tools I might supply, so it’s been new for me to figure out how best to help out from afar but fun nonetheless!

Could you share with us something that has stayed with you from your work on the project so far?

We’ve been talking a lot about rest, inaction, and sharing food as a kind of healing activism for the planet, and I love that, as someone who presently identifies as “sleepy”.

Are there any recent developments in ecological thought that you’d like to see explored in the project?

I’m very much interested in non-human subjectivities and sensory experiences; how do crows, or squid, or bees think, perceive, and feel? How could we start to design a world where those experiences are considered as radically related (evolutionarily) to human experiences whilst recognising their branching differences? If aliens came to Earth to talk to the Earthlings, would they set up meetings with just humans, as sci-fi would have us believe, or would they want to talk to parrots, or whales, or conifer trees, or oyster mushrooms, as well, or exclusively?

Can you recommend a book/theatre/music recommendation that relates to Dysbiosis’ themes

I’m currently reading Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, and some unpublished notes towards a book called Parable of the Trickster by Octavia Butler; both imagine scenarios where humans have finally made it into interstellar space and onto other planets, then tried to build a community there, and both of them are about how ecologically ill-equipped we are to survive on a planet other than Earth; the argument of both is that we’re fundamentally bound, our very health and well-being, to the organisms we live in symbiosis with, so that leaving feels like a “planetary amputation” (Butler), and is essentially poisonous to us; in other words, space colonisation is dysbiotic!


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