bio-computational mesoscopic observatory


Xenolalia is an artscience installation that investigates computational and biological sentience through a live experiment.


The work brings together an artificial neural network and a colony of microalgae in a feedback loop where they collaborate to generate a speculative living alphabet. This process is rendered through an ensemble of displays at micro, meso and macro scales, creating an engaging experience that appeals to curiosity and imagination.

The alphabet is created using an iterative morphogenetic process involving a generative artificial neural network and a colony of light-responsive microalgae. The neural network generates a glyph which is projected on the petri dish. Attracted by light, the microorganisms move towards the shape, acting as a living photographic substrate. The image they form is captured and sent back to the neural network, which generates another image in response. By repeating these interactive exchanges between the neural network and the micro-algae colony, a hybrid computational-biological symbol slowly comes into being.

Visitors of this observatory witness an unusual communication process between biological and computational agencies, leading to the unfolding of a speculative language they are invited to interpret. On this metamorphic stage where human, non-human, biological, and computational entities intermingle, audiences are compelled to rethink established paradigms of language, imagination, perception, meaning, and sentience from a non-anthropocentric viewpoint. The piece suggests prospective forms of interactions between computational, carbon-based, and even xenobiological entities that could emerge in the future.





Sofian Audry & TeZ
Biologist Collaborator
Nishad Jayasundara
Etienne Montenegro (coding, electronics, fabrication)
Guillaume Cramoisan (fabrication)
Matthew Loewen (coding)
Ian Donnelly (biology)
Brynn Yarbrough (biology)
Léa Martin (video)
Federico Murgia (video)
Kyan Daigneault (web)
Alexandra Lamoureux (web)


Canada Council for the Arts
Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec
Mondriaan Fund
Université du Québec à Montréal
University of Maine