Welcome to the 2019 Missing Witches Imbolc Special!! At the intersection of Art, Science and Witchcraft, we meet the brilliant and fascinating Witches at Speculative Life BioLab on the campus of Montreal’s Concordia University!!
Speculative Life BioLab instagram
Jacqueline Beaumont instagram
Alex Bachmayer instagram
Great article (in English) about GynePunk.
[00:00:00] White Feather: You aren't being a proper woman, therefore you must be a witch. You must
be a witch. It's the Missing Witches
Witches in masks,
[00:00:21] Risa: Happy Imbolc!
This is the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. We made it. The light is coming. We're awakening from slumber, we're stretching our couch bums out, we're stretching our souls out, we're going back outside. So we're dedicating this special to a coven of witches we met who are working in a lab here in Montreal at Concordia University, um, and they're just doing the beautiful good work of connecting, um, craft and ancient craft and ideas, traditional ideas with, uh, modern science and biology. I think you guys are going to Fucking love these queens. They're just so powerful. Every word they dropped, we were clutching our hearts,
[00:01:14] Amy: our throats and laughing.
Yeah, um, the, the quote that always comes up for me is this one, um, from, uh, Migene Gonzalez Wipler and her book, The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies, and Magic. You should definitely check it out. It's a great book. We'll, uh, Put a link in our show notes. Myjean Gonzalez Whipler says, I don't believe in the supernatural.
I believe in nature and all things natural. Everything that happens in this world always happens through natural channels and in accordance with the immutable cosmic laws. All things, both real and surreal, are part of the cosmos, where everything has a place and a reason for being.
[00:01:55] Risa: Here's our conversation with Speculative Life Biolab.
So we're in a beautiful sunlit lab in a corner of this building in Concordia in downtown Montreal. You can see the snow and the blue sky outside and this building is a meeting point intentionally. Between art and engineering, art and science, and, um, we were so thrilled, Amy and I, reading emails, um, after season one finished of the Missing Witches podcast, to get an email from White Feather Hunter saying, uh, you guys need to do witches in labs.
we were so excited, I think in part because for us... The type of witchcraft that we've sort of improvised and practiced and what drew us to the idea of it really is a celebration of the meeting point of art and science. Um, and we think that science and nature are fucking magical and that was our entry point.
And so, So, we have a hard time sometimes having these conversations with people who think that we um, are just very superstitious or that are sort of afraid of the language of witchcraft coming from that perspective. So, to get an email from somebody that was like, come to a lab, come meet witches in labs, come hear about how we think about it was super exciting.
So, maybe you could introduce yourself and your work and then your team could introduce themselves and we can go from there.
[00:03:27] White Feather: Sure. So, I'm White Feather and I am a practitioner. I'm a practicing bio artist and my entire practice is rooted in craft. I come from a craft background, uh, specifically textiles, but I also have a history of personal spiritual practice with witchcraft.
And there are some really obvious, um, intersections between textiles and spinning yarn and witchcraft already. Uh, but when you start to get into the mythology that's behind that, you start to realize that textiles And witchcraft are all about manipulating natural materials and the forces of nature. And so there's a convergence that happens there.
But also, I haven't just worked with wool and, you know, silk and things like that. I've worked with body materials a lot in my textile practice. And so, you know, I've worked with bone. I've worked with flesh, um, and this, this preference for body materials. I've worked with my own body materials a lot too, uh, and this led me into the world of bio art.
And so the difference in working with biological science and art is that you're working with living systems. And so that's another place where witchcraft intersects with bio art is it's a manipulation of living systems towards a desired outcome. So that's. That's where all of these worlds converge for me, and it's obviously a very feminist practice, and that's sort of the culture that I've worked to foster here in the lab.
A really inclusive, intersectional, not just queer friendly, but queer loving, um, vibe, I guess, where we can explore all of these themes of, you know, working with the living world and natural materials, um, towards this future ethic of care for the planet and for all of the systems on the planet. So that's really where we're rooted here.
And So this is our little bio art coven. Amy and I are tearing up. We're trying to go
[00:05:59] Amy: care. We're really trying to be quiet over here. I'm squeaking.
[00:06:07] Risa: That's emotional for us and super exciting. Thank you for all the work you've done to get to a point where you can do that work and also explain it in a way that's so resonant and so exciting.
[00:06:19] White Feather: I think and so there's, there's a whole group of us in here now when, when this lab first was getting up and running about two and a half years ago, I guess it was just me working in here. Um, as well as I was working with Tani Duff, who is the founder of the lab. So we worked together to set the space up.
And at first. sure if it was going to continue because it took a while for, for the idea of bioart and also this feminist ethic within the biotech world to actually take root here and for people to see it as something that was really important. But now you can see around you. We have some pretty amazing women rock in the lab here.
So, you know, maybe
[00:07:11] Risa: introduce how you connected with these women came to be part of your lab. And then maybe you guys could talk a bit about. Your intersection with this work. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:07:22] White Feather: So, uh, going around from my left is Alex Bachmeier and Alex is a collaborator on one project, but she's also just taken over as technician of the lab because I'm leaving.
So she gets to carry the torch, build the coven. Um, and then to Alex's left, we have Vanessa Mardarossian. Uh, Vanessa is also part of a team that Alex and I, a research team that we're working on a specific project that we can talk about in a bit. And then, uh, next to you, Risa, is Jackie Beaumont. And Jackie is like...
The next generation of lab, which happening here. Jackie's a new lab member. Um, and so, yeah, we, I don't know. It's we're trying to bring in more people who share this same ethic, and it's really, really important to bring this ethic into the world of biotechnology, I think, because for so long it's been completely sort of startup culture.
Dude, bro, you know, so we're providing an alternative to that. And there is a precedent for this. There is a slight precedent for this. Uh, there's a group, this really, really exciting group of researchers called Gynapunk. And they are... We're having some reactions here. Gynapunk are amazing. They, I believe they're from Poland.
Um, but they're called the Cyborg Witches of DIY Gynecology. And so, they teach workshops, they teach workshops on how to, you know, uh, 3D print your own speculum to do your own gynecological exam and culture your own microflora. So, you know, we're not alone in this. This is a growing global movement, I think.
But we're right on the crest of a wave. And so it's super exciting to talk about this. You know, so, yeah. Yeah.
[00:09:25] Risa: Grab your mic, girl. get into it. Hello. Why, why this lab? Why this work? I'll say hi. Hello.
[00:09:35] White Feather: Yeah, I guess it all kind of started
[00:09:39] Alex: when I was doing a science undergrad about, I started about 12 years ago.
I was going to McGill. I was studying neuropsychology and environmental science. And I had kind of an art science background before moving to Montreal from Vancouver. And I kind of ended up going down this straight science path, kind of thought I wanted to be a doctor or a researcher, was really into what I was studying, but finished and something just didn't feel, by the time I was done, it didn't quite feel like the environment for me.
And I felt like I didn't have enough time to have my art practice and I just hadn't found some way to kind of like reconcile these two worlds at the beginning and then took some time off and then ended up kind of enrolling in. Uh, an art program at Concordia, so then I came here to study computation arts, and I was doing electronics and installations, but also started working with textiles, but it still felt like there was something I felt like there was like a way that I could reconcile these two, these worlds that I was kind of like hovering and combining.
And then, I think it was probably about a year and a half ago, maybe even more at this point, maybe almost two years ago, I started coming to workshops here and was like, Oh, like this is something, this is a way that I can tie in all this work, the science work that I was doing and electronics and, I don't know, find
[00:10:58] White Feather: this
[00:10:59] Alex: community where we all kind of are on the same, the same path.
But yeah, it was really wonderful. After doing a few workshops here, we started, came up with this project, which I guess we'll talk about maybe in greater detail after we've kind of gone around. Why don't you give
[00:11:13] White Feather: us a little intro? Yeah, talk about
[00:11:14] Alex: it. Yeah, sure. Yeah. I mean, we, uh, we had this idea, we were, I mean, the workshop that I came to first was working with this incredible bacteria, which we also can talk about more, was, was serratia, which is, I don't know, you probably could even tell, talk a little bit more about it, better than I can, but yeah, actually.
[00:11:30] White Feather: So serratia is a pigment producing bacteria. Okay. And so, we're interested in using these bacteria that produce pigment as textile dyes, as, you know, exploring alternatives to a very toxic dye industry. Um, but also looking at ways... to work with living systems. Uh, so yeah, Serratia was the first bacteria, but this is where it ties into witchcraft as well.
Is, it is also nicknamed the blood of Christ. Because, this bacteria is responsible for, um, statues of saints crying tears of blood. Cause it's red. And so it just drips the red, yeah, it grows on stone and it drips the red. Um, but it points like there's a really interesting conflation. Even though scientists will deny this, some scientists will deny this.
There's an interesting conflation between religion and science. And you know, when you're working in the lab and you're going through all of the protocols, how ritualistic they are. And so, you know, in terms of sort of, uh, part of our project, which I'll let Alex talk about, we have really exploited this idea of ritual as laboratory protocol.
from, from a witchcraft standpoint, from a feminist standpoint, like what feminist rituals can we incorporate into our scientific protocols? And we've done some pretty crazy stuff that's actually worked really well scientifically. And yeah, we had to jump through a lot of hoops though, to be able to do it.
Yes. You did. Tell me more
[00:13:13] Risa: about. a science ritual in the lab, a witchcraft ritual in the lab that worked.
[00:13:19] Alex: Well, so much of it was, I mean, coming up with, with protocols, but we're not coming, we're coming from a place where we are drawing from past knowledge, but really having to make up or just like take the knowledge that we have and figure out the best way we possibly could move forward within the given conditions.
Yeah, totally DIY because, so basically the bacteria that we were particularly interested in working with is this bacteria called bulgicella indigofera and it. It produces naturally this like beautiful blue, this beautiful deep indigo kind of color. And we were like, we just want to get our hands on this.
Everybody loves blue. Yes. I mean, and blue has this whole other mythology behind it, which we can maybe talk about later. But, um, so this was a particular bacteria that we wanted to work with. And so it was this whole process of having to, we got a little grant from the textiles and materiality cluster also at Melio, um, to work with this bacteria, but we ended up doing some research and figured out that we wanted to work with blood, blood agar, which actually there is a,
[00:14:18] White Feather: because, because the species of bacteria grows really well in iron rich environments.
[00:14:26] Alex: we weren't the one that we weren't the first ones to come up with this. There's been kind of a precedent to work with blood agar. I think it was first talked about like in 1938 and usually people were working with horse blood or sheep's blood, sometimes human blood, but people were pricking their feet.
And there was like a whole description of it, I think, in this big history of, uh, bacteriology that was produced in
[00:14:44] White Feather: the 40s. So blood, yeah, blood agar is pretty standard scientific protocol. Totally. However, however, we couldn't really get our hands on sheep's blood and we weren't sure we wanted to, but we kind of looked around the room at each other and we're like, well, we bleed.
You know who produces a lot of blood? This guy. Yeah, exactly. 30 days, it's in time with the moon, coincidentally. Yeah. We have a renewable resource here. Yeah. So, we tried it out. And we developed a protocol for menstrual blood agar plates. And our Iron loving bacteria thrived better
[00:15:24] Alex: than like the specific new, like the specific agars plates that you, that it, I don't know if you're, when you're getting the bacteria from a supplier, they provide you with, um, this other kind of agar that is supposed to thrive on, but it loves that our menstrual blood agar.
like this thick, shimmering, kind of blue iridescent color that we weren't getting from the nutrient agar that it was supposed to grow really well on. I'm air quoting, but you can't see.
[00:15:55] White Feather: Yeah, it's pretty much like as DIY as you can get.
[00:16:01] Risa: I mean, I can imagine where there's already a sense of ritual if you're working with your own blood and you're kind of timing when that can happen.
[00:16:09] Alex: Totally. Oh, yeah. Yeah, it's amazing, because sometimes we'll be like, I don't know if we have enough blood to do this big project.
And so, it's totally kind of transformed how I think. And how I think about it as this, this like precious resource and trying to like, collect and save it as much as possible. And if I'm like in a spot where I can't like collect harvest or collect it, it's like, it feels like a waste now. And it's totally
[00:16:35] White Feather: shifted.
Yeah. So it's like giving this new value to not only a waste material, but also a taboo material. And. And we had to jump through like quite a number of bureaucratic hoops. I had to go sit in a doctor's office here at Concordia and have a discussion for over an hour with the doctor about why I did not need to be vaccinated to handle my own menstrual blood.
They wanted me to get a hepatitis B vaccine, which is like, okay, if you're like, if you're working with other blood, whatever. Yeah. But I was like, wait a minute, I can go down the hall into the bathroom and handle my own blood. And there it's not considered a biohazard, but here in the lab, it's considered enough of a risk that I have.
to sit in this office with you and argue about why I don't need to get a shot. So that was a really, really interesting part of the process. And that's another, that's another layer of ritualistic practice that goes along with laboratory practices, this whole bureaucratic stepping, like jumping through hoops, yeah.
So that's something that I'm really interested in resisting. Like, breaking it down, understanding what this is about, like, is, is this actually about this is a legit biohazard, or is this about the fact that this is, uh, a woman's body material? This is like, you know. Stigmatized. And it's this whole like it factor that exists socially.
And so we've been really enjoying kind of putting this in people's faces a little bit like, Hey, guess what? This bacteria is grown on. Imagine. Yeah. So, um, There's so much, and there's so much, uh, spell work that's already been done using menstrual blood, you know, and it's like, it's something that has been known throughout history as containing this life force.
And so we're also interested in that being one of the the co agents in the work that we do. And there's so
[00:19:01] Risa: much sort of power and ritual around timing with the moon. That's something that we think about a lot. That like, the sort of fertility for us in the new moon. Fertility! Yeah, shut up to fertility
[00:19:15] White Feather: in the new moon.
That's what Jackie's all about. Jackie,
[00:19:18] Risa: step up to the mic. Whoa. Get
[00:19:22] Jacqui: right in there, I think. Uh, so yeah, fertility is a hot topic for me. I, I've, my work has kind of just randomly stumbled upon the issue of fertility. Uh, well akin to the fact that I'm transgender. And so for transgender women, the, uh, the notion of fertility in the woman's body is the, the pinnacle of what it is to be a woman is to have a womb and.
to menstruate and to be fertile in that way. And, uh, as a transgender woman, it's just not, that's not, that's not the biological level at which I think about fertility. I think about fertility, there, there's two different ways at which I think about fertility now, especially after the work that I've been doing.
Um, One, is that transgender women don't give birth to a child, they give birth to themselves. Uh, and then the other, uh, side of it that I've kind of been exploring through my work is that, um, Basically, uh, for me, when I work with, uh, like living systems or like living organisms, it's a way of me nurturing and caring and giving towards something.
Um, caring for it just like a child. Uh, and uh, sort of like allowing myself to be fertile and give love and care towards another organism. And at the end of it, you... Do need to realize that it's a living organism and it has its own autonomy and that it's gonna do So, um, just like a child. So, so, um, yeah, that's kind of how I, uh, how I kind of stumbled into fertility.
And, uh, it's a hot topic within transgender issues or the transgender question, especially. But, um, and I think just being. My relation to witchcraft, it's, as a transgender person, we don't really have anywhere else to go in terms of religious institutions. Um, no one else will really have us, so it's, being a witch is just sort of inherently a part of being transgender.
And so, when I'm It's, it's amazing to me the fact that I'm able to be a part of space and be a part of these communities of women, um, and some of them haven't been so kind to that, but I think that, I think that it's, it's, it's definitely coming up now where, um, transgender women are, are being more recognized within the, the witchcraft community and, uh, So yeah, it's, it's really exciting that we're able to be a part of these communities now.
Because I think that what's, what's most important about it is that it gives voices to people that see the world from a different perspective. Um, seeing the world as a transgender person, um, you see parts of the binary that someone within the binary can't even fathom. Um, So it's just, for me, it's a good way of looking at, um, the world, I think.
And, uh, it's important to at least hear us out and see what we have to say. And that's what I really love about the lab, especially, uh, is the fact that, like, even though I'm a very different type of woman, um, I still am just as, like, credible as a woman in here, especially. And, uh, Yeah, and I think that art and science also mimic that in a lot of ways, because, um, I mean, there are two very different ways of looking at the world.
Um, being an, like, I'm a classically trained artist, and, uh, my practice definitely is more artistic, um, but I've been a biology nerd for, like, since I was a kid, so, um, it was only natural that it progressed into this, but I've noticed that the two worlds of artists and scientists, they think very differently, um, and sometimes they don't, uh, coincide, but when they do, it, it allows for a really amazing look at how we see the world, um, what we, yeah, just, just issues in the world.
I think that it's important to look at these perspectives and sort of listen to these voices and see what they have to say, because it,
[00:23:54] White Feather: yeah, you're touching on something that. is also it's I mean, it's an inherent part of the ethic of this lab. Uh, I mean, we're working with incubators in here, you know, and essentially to in case and embody and nurture and care for.
Living systems. And, you know, that's that is an expression of empathy and care and these perspectives and also the notion of queering science and Making, uh, adding these multiple perspectives is something that is critically important to the world right now because all of this, um, hyper categorized thinking and binaries, um, have led us down this path of destruction for the planet that We have to do something about, and we can only do that by looking at, looking from the perspective of the microorganisms, looking from the queer perspective, looking from the transgender perspective, like, these are all really, really valuable, um, forms of knowledge that need to no longer be disregarded.
And for me, that again comes back to witchcraft because, you know, witches are sort of the original bio influencers, you know, witches are the original medicine people. Um, and witches are also non binary completely. Um, So, you know, we, we have to sort of assert our multiple voices in this way to, to get people to wake up and realize that this, um, really, uh, specialized, like, boxed in professionalization way of viewing the world and categorizing living systems into these separate, um, boxes is killing us.
Yeah. So. Literally. Yeah.
[00:26:04] Jacqui: Literally. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, and, and I think that that just, that just comes down to like a very matriarchal, um, uh, perspective of the archetype of the witch. It's like, it's a woman that is in her power, um, she's, she's able to care and give and nurture, but she's not being taken from, uh, which is something that the patriarchy has really instilled in women, is that they're just capable of just being taken from over and over and over again.
And I think that in terms of like, ecology and the way that we think about ecology, um, one of the pinnacles of feminist ecology is the fact that like, the only reason that we're able to, um, The only reason that patriarchy has allowed us to take from Earth so much is the fact that we feminized her. And, I mean, it, it's like, calling her mother Earth, um, actually signifies in the patriarchal mindset that she's someone that you can just take from and take from and take from and she wants to give and she wants to give and she needs nothing in return.
And that's, that's so wrong because it is, it's our duty to give back to her. And to care for her as well, and to communicate with her, um, so that we know how we can better ourselves in continuity with her.
[00:27:25] White Feather: Yeah, and one of the things that I've wanted to promote in this lab from the beginning is empathy as a lab technique.
And... That's something that really flies in the face of, uh, traditional scientific practice, because you have this whole idea of ethics, and bioethics, and part of, um, scientific practice is, uh, Well, you have a sepsis. So a sepsis is maintaining this level of sterility and not touching anything. You don't make contact.
You don't make contact with your hands or your skin. You don't touch anything in order to keep a sterile environment. But that That translates psychologically to a state of emotional asepsis and a way of depersonalizing your work and not identifying with it on an emotional level just in order to conduct your experiments and sort of feel like you're being ethical about it.
I'm really interested in repersonalizing our relationships and anthropomorphizing the materials that we work with enough that we can identify with them and care for them in a way that, uh, they're not just experiments anymore. They, they are. I'm not going to say our collaborators. I wouldn't, because we're still controlling the situation and collaboration implies a willingness that we don't, we can't know if the bacteria is willing or not.
Um, but they're, they're co agents in our creative process and they are participating in that way. And to empathize and identify with these things allows us. It's to take a deeper look at our own human behavior in the world as well. And I think that, uh, by, by fostering this sense of empathy for our materials, uh, and I'm not, you know, I'm not saying that scientists don't care about their lab rats and things like that, because I know scientists who do take very, very good care of their, animal experiments and whatnot.
But, um, from an emotional level, you know, I, I like to tell people to talk to their experiment, like talk to their bacteria, you know, um, the same way that you would talk to a plant to help it grow better and by identifying with it as like your child, um, You're naturally going to take better care of it, and that's going to extend out from the lab into the rest of the world in the way our attitudes towards other living systems around us and decentralize the human.
And the same way
[00:30:23] Risa: that spell casting is often just, uh, talking to your environment. Exactly. Sort of like gently pulling from your environment, the things that you hope to see in your world or, you know, and I think prayer is often, you know, we're talking to the universe or we're talking to a God figure about ourselves and it's a co creation if you're lucky, you know.
And I can see the beauty in bringing that into a lab where sometimes the sterility of it can make you the, the God figure, you know, that can make you
[00:30:55] White Feather: the. Definitely that. And that touches on this idea of hierarchies, and I'm really interested in flattening hierarchies and flattening knowledge hierarchies between science and art because we know that there's a distinct hierarchy there, um, flattening hierarchies between different academic levels of researchers, you know, whether it's like undergraduate student or graduate student or, you know, faculty or like, Um, and a hierarchy that happened
[00:31:29] Risa: at a, at a point during, uh, what the, you know, women's Holocaust or the witch hunts of being like, that's not science where we're the holders of science.
And so these people are dangerous.
[00:31:44] White Feather: We're the professionals. Yeah. You're just folk craft, whatever. Yeah, for sure. We, we
[00:31:52] Amy: have found a lot, like, uh, Risa and I started this project as, you know, non superstitious people, witches, but like, science minded, and our, our witchcraft doesn't come from superstition. It comes from our looking at the world and saying, like, well, this is how we see things happening.
So, how do you all, in particular, deal with it when People who have that established hierarchy in their mind are, like, patronizing, for lack
[00:32:20] White Feather: of a better word. One of the ways that I deal with that is by contextualizing
or providing a framework for witchcraft that is rooted in an anthropological understanding of witchcraft. And so, from an anthropological point of view, Witchcraft is, I define it as an interface methodology between human actors and non human unseen agents. And that can include everything else. But just by using
[00:32:59] Amy: that vocabulary, you basically shut
[00:33:02] White Feather: down everyone who says that.
Right. I know what I'm talking about. And just to be
[00:33:08] Risa: really specific, when you say it can include everything, specifically in this lab around us, it can include bacteria, and it can include wind patterns, and it can include... Exactly.
[00:33:19] White Feather: It can include data. Right. Um, it can include electronics. There's, there's the agency of machines as well that, you know, sometimes, uh, very much influence the work that we do, because like I mentioned before, we're dependent on...
Electronic incubators, you know, to, to perform part of this act of mothering or caring for our projects. So, literal
[00:33:44] Risa: waves of electricity coming from dams up north.
[00:33:47] White Feather: Exactly. Creating the
[00:33:49] Risa: power that you rely on.
[00:33:50] White Feather: Yeah. Um, I like to refer to, um, I want to refer to one author in particular who has been really influential in my thinking about my work with Living Systems, uh, and Unseen Agents as well, and that's Jane Bennett.
And Jane Bennett has written a book called Vibrant Matter. And it's, it's sort of a, a new materialism, uh, perspective, but it is acknowledging exactly that, the infrastructure that exists, that's behind all of the materials that we work with, as well as all of these little forces that are happening. And so I think the witch, that's what the witch is already acknowledging.
You know, you can give it all kinds of academic, um, Categorizations. You can call it new materialism. Sometimes I refer to feminist materialism. Um, but essentially it all comes back to what witches and artists and queer people have been doing all along. You can also call it
[00:34:51] Risa: political economy, right? Like it's looking at the, the sort of social, economic, and material structure that is unseen and is supporting
[00:34:59] White Feather: all of our sort of cultural choices.
Often performed by women.
[00:35:04] Amy: Yeah.
[00:35:07] Risa: We're all sitting around smiling and nodding, feeling, feeling, wondering what's going on in the
[00:35:14] White Feather: lab. Yeah, it's like we all just owned together.
[00:35:20] Amy: One of my best friends is extremely logical. She'll say like, yeah, when I make a list, that really helps me to organize my thoughts.
And I'll say to her, well, that's it. Spellcasting. And she'll say, well, no, and I'm like, well, tell me the difference. You took your intentions and you, you made the material and that's going to help you to focus your intentions and to manifest them. So to me, they're, uh, right. So again, like maybe, maybe we could turn the mic to you.
How do you? How do you contend with this one? Yeah. How do you contend with the real or imaginary the ripping apart of magic and science?
[00:36:01] Vanessa: Um, okay. So my name is Vanessa. I'm working as part of the bacterium team with White Feather and Alex for over a year. If I can just tell a bit about my background. I'm from textile design, and I was working for the last 20 years in fashion is when I realized that the fashion industry and the text industry was so polluting.
So I was thinking about materiality, and I wanted to come back to a more meaningful way of thinking about textiles and colors and materiality. And I remember when I was reading Cradle to Cradle, you know, this designer, McDonough, and this scientist, uh, von Grath, they team up together to come back to, uh, what we call the Cradle to Cradle and the circularity in designing, um, objects.
object that is not going to affect our surrounding our environment and our health. And they started to talk a lot about life cycle and how when we conceive something we have automatically to think about the death. So this is a life and death. Connection, and I was really interested in that when I started my Ph.
D. a year ago. And because it's an individual program, and we can mix disciplines, to me, when I got the opportunity to work in the bio lab with White Feather and Alex, I was really interested in this aspect of, um, designing Creating from, um, biological point of view, like designing from leaving organisms was a way of, um, putting apart all this toxicity.
So designing with bacteria and especially the bacteria was really amazing because we discovered, um, when we researched a bit more about this bacteria, that it was from a pond who was, um, full of toxic waste for the last 20 years. And I was really amazed in the life cycle once again of this bacteria who was, um, giving birth.
Like talking about fertility once again, it was, um, raising from, um, waste like toxicity and human waste and aware of, um, a lesson from nature, like nature showing us the path and showing us the way to transform the toxicity or these chemicals where we were given since the industrial revolution into something, um, beautiful, colorful, and biodegradable.
Because this, uh, bacteria, which is a colorful bacteria is going to produce color and not any kind of color is indigo color and indigo. We use it a lot in denim. There was a documentary called the Blue River, and it's one of the most toxic color. And by producing an indigo who would come from a bacteria, a living organism, And I think that the idea of the team with a background of toxic toxicity behind it and transform it to something beautiful, like a sustainable color was really the magic of it to me.
And when I started with this team and we started to discuss about protocols, recipe and, um, I got really, really excited about it, and I make the link with everything you were telling before like, um, about fertility, you know, like we work, we call it within the team our babies. So the babies are growing and we got so excited because when you go to, you know, like, um, you go to buy a t shirt or any kind of clothing, like, there is no value, you know, you pay for very cheap, but there is no value is why we're talking about disposable fashion these days.
And But when you, you understand the process of it, and it's why you're saying my research, I like to work about the transparency of the making, how what you wear is coming from how it's how it is dyed, which kind of, uh, chemicals or not chemicals, which kind of Processes which kind of craft and so the clothes you're wearing, you will.
There is a bonding, a bigger bonding and you there is more value in what you wear. Um, once again, I'm talking about life cycle. But, um, you know, all this problem of disposable fashion produce a lot of waste, and this way it is very difficult to eliminate. So if the color you're using like in that case, indigo indigo fair, I could be, um, in a way.
Uh, biodegradable is a way to improve, you know, to respect our Mother Earth, like you were saying before. And the other thing is, when we decided to do this, uh, uh, blood agar recipe, menstrual blood agar, our witch protocol, I was really amazed because what, during my research, of course, we all know I'm not going to teach anything about that.
The only thing with growing and growing, because resources, natural resources are, are really lowering a lot. What is growing is, uh, population, you know, human beings. And human beings can produce materials. So, natural materials, biological materials, like hair, like pee, poo, um, blood.
[00:41:28] Amy: It's like basically anything that comes out of your
[00:41:31] White Feather: body.
[00:41:31] Risa: Yeah,
[00:41:32] Vanessa: exactly. So it was, uh, it was amazing to think that way. And in that way, materiality, which art and science all meet up in this bio lab and make a lot of sense to me
[00:41:45] White Feather: and to come back to just to, like, bring this back around to what you were asking, um, about.
You know, how do you sort of address the patronizing or, or what have you. This is Vanessa's Ph. D. research. And, you know, this is, um, really legitimate academic research. I'm about to head off to do my Ph. D. in BioArt and BioDesign. Part of the reason I'm going to do my Ph. D. actually is just so I can call myself a witch doctor.
[00:42:26] Risa: We could go on forever. We've been talking for about an hour. Wow. It's very emotional. Me too. It's, uh, I mean, I have a hungry baby downstairs. Which makes me think, you know, one of the most emotional things that I read when I was pregnant is a piece, um, and we'll link to it in the show notes if we end up using this part.
But, um, where they talk about the realization that when you're giving birth, If you're giving birth to a death,
part of the responsibility you have to carry is that this being that you will love more than anything, you know, if you're lucky and you're wired that way, postpartum doesn't suck with you. Uh, it's gonna die, yeah, it's gonna die, and I don't know, I thought about that while you were talking about, uh, the sort of realization in fashion and in industry and in production that we have to take the death of these things into account.
[00:43:34] White Feather: You have to design for death. You have to design for death.
[00:43:36] Risa: And we have to design our own lives and our own choices for our own deaths. You know, I was, I also found it really emotional, Jackie, when you said that a trans woman gives birth to herself. Um, and, and we all have to take into consideration our own death in that, in that birth.
That was very
[00:43:53] Jacqui: striking to me
[00:43:54] Amy: as a, a cis woman who also doesn't menstruate, or, and it's infertile, for lack of a better word, that I really have to concentrate my fertility on other... Forms of creation. And I think that, uh, that's a really important message because societally, I get told, I won't, I won't say your experience, but I get told that this is the greatest love that anyone could ever experience.
This is the most important thing that a woman could ever do is when you give birth to that child. And so, I, uh, I've spent some time contending with that as I imagine you have as well. You know, um. One of the best things that one of my dearest friends again said to me was that, uh, You've taken MDMA.
You've felt the greatest love of all. You know, because we have to end everything with a joke. But, um, the point is that there are so many different ways of being fertile in this world. And, um, if you want to talk about that, please do. And creative. And creative. Like that, that is obviously where I, I, Yeah.
[00:45:03] Jacqui: no, definitely. And I mean, like, if you've ever received an email from me or a letter, I always sign off, uh, fertility. Uh, that's like the last thing I always type because I think fertility can, and my mom actually was like, why do you sign off your emails like that? And I was like, well, I. In my, in my mind, fertility has so many different forms at which it can come to fruition in your life.
And I think that wishing fertility upon someone in any form is the greatest wish that you can possibly give to someone. I mean, fertility could be a fertility of life. It could be a fertility of prosperity in your life. It could be a, a, a fertility of happiness in any form that it takes. But, um, I think that, I think that...
Fertility is just something that everyone does engage with,
[00:45:55] Amy: um, and everyone just does it differently. And
[00:45:58] White Feather: so much of the history of witchcraft and ritual
[00:46:02] Amy: is centered on fertility. Yeah. Yeah. And death. Yes. Whether it be that sort of planting a garden and watching it grow, fertility, or planting the seed of an idea or watching it grow, or, um, yeah.
Again, so many different ways of being a witch. Yeah,
[00:46:23] Jacqui: yeah. These circular matriarchal models of life and death and just the way that, even the way that the planet works in terms of the seasons and everything. Uh, the, the circular model that, Um, I think it's a really important one that can be adapted in many different ways, uh, in, in society, not just within
[00:46:46] Amy: religious institutions, but it can
[00:46:47] Jacqui: just be applied pretty much anywhere.
I mean, I'm all for matriarchy, obviously.
[00:46:52] Amy: Yay! So, um, definitely for
[00:46:54] Jacqui: matriarchy. But, um, yeah.
[00:46:55] Amy: Yeah, so, yeah,
[00:46:58] Jacqui: um, in terms of, uh, what you were saying about the, uh, the light and all this kind of thing, uh, Genesis, uh, was a project by Artipac, where he took the phrase from Genesis that said, uh, let man have dominion over the fish in the sea.
And, uh, he took this phrase, uh, coded it into genetic proteins, uh, and then allowed it in a viewing space, uh, he, he developed this protein and allowed it in a viewing space. It's based on a UV light path, where the viewer can turn on and off the UV light, and by turning it off and on, the viewer actually
[00:47:39] Amy: is just genetically mutilating this protein structure,
[00:47:43] Jacqui: um, and physically put the Dominion in the hands of the viewer.
And, uh, it does call into
[00:47:53] Amy: question around, like, arts and science
[00:47:54] Jacqui: and religion.
[00:47:55] Amy: Um, the, the, It demonstrates how
[00:48:00] Jacqui: human beings are actually
[00:48:02] Amy: altering the
[00:48:02] Jacqui: natural world, and we do actually have, um, power over these organisms. For better, for worse. For better, for worse. And, I mean, in this case it was for worse, because at the end of it, the phrase was just completely jumbled.
When he recoded it. The biblical phrase. Yeah, the biblical phrase. Which is quite a metaphor. I know, right? Um, and uh, but yeah, so in terms of like, let there be light
[00:48:25] Amy: and all this kind of thing, I think that there's a really strong connection there. Let there be UV. Let there be UV. Yeah. But, I just thought I should pop that in there.
[00:48:36] Risa: Yeah, let
[00:48:36] White Feather: there be light and also let there be dark. You know? Exactly. Yeah.
[00:48:43] Risa: And I think if this is our Invoke special, then we're sitting at that point. You know, uh, Groundhog Day has some older origins around weather. You know, the witch who's washing her cape is making big storms. And whether we'll see if, if, uh, it's the end of the winter season or not.
Whether she's gonna, you know, turn her, like, young, spring like face to us. Whether the crone will reign over us for a while longer. We're in this turning point of, of crone and maven. So, let's have both of them. Let's cherish our crones as well. I love that, witch.
[00:49:19] White Feather: Yeah, we need it all. We might, we might just hang on to the darkness a little bit longer.
[00:49:24] Risa: little bit longer. Yes. Take your strength from the dark and bring it into the light. Vanessa, I feel like you grabbed the mic and laid down some wisdom.
[00:49:33] White Feather: It was really great. But we didn't direct
[00:49:36] Risa: any, a lot of questions towards you. And I feel like your stories are fascinating about finding that line from fashion into this lab.
Um, and maybe into identifying as a witch. Or was that something that you had before? Or maybe you don't have that now?
[00:49:50] White Feather: Um...
[00:49:51] Vanessa: No, it wasn't something that was in me that I knew about, but when I went into this experience, I get really excited into it because of this new opportunities to design from another perspective and create some protocols, recipes, writing every ingredients, measuring them to make sure you know what we do is not an accident, but it's really like something we can redo over and over and just being, uh, You know, a team of women who is Auditor Spen.
What was Auditor Spen?
[00:50:24] White Feather: We had the, uh, the cauldron protocol. Oh, can we show you our cauldron? Yes. Yes. Okay, where's our cauldron? It's in the... Risa, do you want to do
[00:50:35] Risa: a description? Sure, I'll do a live narration. They rushed around there's tiny There's there's like a room full of white sterile white cupboards, and they hovered around going.
Where's our cauldron? And then they bring out a tiny black stone Cauldron and put it on the
[00:50:52] Alex: table. It's this beautiful iron
[00:50:54] White Feather: cauldron. Oh iron. Yeah,
[00:50:56] Alex: um, cast iron cast iron so when we were imagining Um, ways that we could work with this back, this iron loving bacteria, this pigment blue producing bacteria.
We're like, wouldn't it be amazing if we tried to grow it in actually an iron cauldron? And so I think we still want to try that with our menstrual blood, but like within this cauldron and like culture yet there. And there's so
[00:51:18] White Feather: much,
[00:51:19] Risa: um, kind of cooking culture around you. Absolutely. This little bio art kitchen.
[00:51:26] White Feather: Yeah. There are a lot of parallels to be drawn between the laboratory and the kitchen, especially when you bring witchcraft into it and, you know, cooking and working with herbs and spell casting and all of these, you know, fluids.
[00:51:39] Risa: Um, yeah.
[00:51:42] White Feather: Our, our, our little cauldron was the very beginning of the first protocol that we wrote as a spell.
And so, what was, our motto was, uh, Prophecy is not
[00:51:54] Alex: Hypotheses. That's the
[00:51:55] White Feather: best. I love it. I
[00:51:57] Risa: love you guys. Yeah. And I just, it
[00:52:00] White Feather: was so tender, this moment
[00:52:02] Alex: with us all sitting around and just like, I can't remember who said that, but. Then it just like, I don't know, fostered this like, lovely,
[00:52:12] White Feather: It was a group, uh, Emergence.
Yeah. Yeah. It
[00:52:16] Alex: really, yeah, I don't know, I felt like that was when we really felt cohesive together and we were coming up with these,
[00:52:21] White Feather: Spells. These
[00:52:22] Risa: little spells
[00:52:23] Alex: together. It was, as a part of the process, that we integrated into our protocols as well. I remember
[00:52:29] White Feather: we were writing it, And they have, Solid, scientific underpinnings.
Yeah. Yeah, thank you guys
[00:52:37] Risa: just, uh, infinitely for, uh, reaching out and inviting us to bring our questioning here and for filling us up with your energy and your wisdom and your spells and your magic. Yeah. As, um, our favorite, uh, internet, uh, person. Which GIF maker says, uh, I can hear the web singing from here,
Oh, nice. Um, so thank you so much and I hope, um, that we can continue this conversation in, um, maybe future episodes. Um, but yeah, just thank you so much for having us. So definitely check out SpeculativeLifeBiolab. com and have a safe and happy Imbolg. Happy Imbolg. We love you.
[00:53:24] White Feather: You are the proper woman.
Therefore, you must be a witch. You
[00:53:30] Amy: must be a witch. The Missing Witches podcast returns Wednesday, March 20th.