Reading tentacles
closely > Pauline Ruffiot

In September 2021, I decided to host and try to care for another species, as unfamiliar to me as possible. Neither animal, plant, fungi, nor bacteria, slime molds seemed to be an excellent candidate for this project. How much would I be able to relate to and understand them, when my ability to perceive, my physiology, the speed at which I move, my pace of growth are radically different?

Watching their growth became a contemplative practice, as every few hours they would have spread their tentacles in a new shape, created a new intricate pattern. I could only interpolate which path they had covered in the meantime, guess their perceptions, project their motivations. My understanding is at all times partial, situated, anchored in, and framed by my conception and perception of its world and mine. All I perceive are shadow plays, inkblots, clouds, or coffee grounds left to interpretation.

I enrolled a few AIs to help me step back from my (mis-)interpretations, outsourcing to them the task of projecting and being in the wrong. Some were specialized in image recognition and joined my contemplative cloud-reading practice, looking at pure forms and applying their arbitrary systems of categories. Another one was a specialist in text-generation that I finetuned with biology books, witches’ spells, interpretations of dreams, tales, and fables. Its job became to answer the question: "What is life ?" asked over and over.