Like a Ray in Search of its Mirror

a mixed-reality art project by
Sylvia Eckermann and Gerald Nestler


You can download the full press text here: ▶ PDF [english]    ▶ PDF [deutsch]




Western conceptions of man and nature have reached an impasse. Technological formations appropriate selfhood and relationships, climate and biodiversity crises escalate catastrophic events. As this new condition proves existential for humanity, what could more emphatically demonstrate the urgency of an integrative understanding of planetary diversity and human-non-human nature?

Clearly, a new worldview is to be based on a transition from globalization, and its hegemonic creation of one world, to planetary constellations that create diverse, sometimes seemingly alien but always deeply connected common worlds. The abundance and diversity of life forms becomes increasingly tangible through science and technology, and we begin to realize what it really means that life permeates all of nature. To unlock this potential for imagining our future nested in caring for this enormous wealth, we need to sense and make sense of what the 'mystery' of the planetary teaches us.

Like a Ray in Search of its Mirror explores modes of resolution to tackle the volatilities and contingencies that effect and affect planetary co-creation. And we resist the spread of dystopian forces by countering their repressive alienation with polyphonic assemblages. We embrace reciprocal alienation as concrete reality, for out of conflict arises the potential for symbiotic affiliations that afford our re-entanglement with planetary matter and its animate world.

Like a Ray in Search of its Mirror speculates on what we call re-entanglement. Not that humans were disconnected from nature; on the contrary, more and more people are becoming aware of humanity’s destructive influence and hence the urgency to change course. Sylvia Wynter speaks of a «shared environment», Yuk Hui of «cosmotechnics». When he says that «cosmos does not refer to outer space, but, on the contrary, to locality», we’d like to add that cosmos concerns material abundance and densely interwoven diversity. Can we reconnect with its 'inhuman magic', re-entangle with where we belong?

The art project seeks ways of alienation – a term that not only refers to relations of class and production, but also to man's relationship to nature. Karl Marx identified the «metabolic rift» between man and nature caused by the dynamics of capitalism. Today, the consequences of growth-based globalization and its ‘alienation performance’ are felt everywhere, from forms of inequality and asymmetric regulatory frameworks to resource exploitation and soil depletion to biodiversity crisis and climate catastrophe.

More alienation is hardly conceivable. Has it become so profound that we are alien to the very habitats we rely on for our survival? In environments that fight back, how can we experience and affirm the inhuman in us as a transformative agency? Gayatri Spivak introduced the concept of «planetarity» to negate globalized alienation produced by capital. Instead, she proposes planetary constellations to create «inhabitable worlds in common» (Patricia Reed) that mitigate violent effects.

These questions go beyond what politics and media usually address. Hence, they also shed light on the crisis of dialogue and discourse. How do we converse about these issues, not only as regards the forms and rules of interlocution, but also its techniques and frameworks?

In this context, Like a Ray in Search of its Mirror experiments with a different form of connection, a new connectivity. We recast the virtual – against its prevailing signification as reality simulation or artificial 3D world – as a membrane, a connective tissue between (seemingly) distant places and issues. What we aim to initiate is the application of the virtual as a technology of care that assists (seemingly) differing needs and desires; frictions and sympathies; conflicts and resolutions; not merely as regards mankind but the dimensions and networks of life that humans (co-)inhabit despite our self-centeredness.

Like a Ray in Search of its Mirror explores micro-, meso- and macro-interdependencies that enable and often determine life on our planet in biological, ecological, social, and cultural terms. Apart from human participants, plants, fungi, microbes, animals, inorganic and synthetic matter, tools, and technologies take part. We exceed the framework previously reserved for humans to pursue concrete imaginations of how constellations of planetary co-presence can emerge. We engage in hybrid conversations with «planetary beings» (Spivak), rather than global entities. To us, these alien collectives are subjects with their own po(i)etic agency in time, shaping and nurturing connections and networks. 

Recently, the philosopher Emanuele Coccia put forward the provocation that «to think about the planet, [it is] better to make art, not ecology». Such a perspective has consequences concerning the role and significance of artists. Our aim is to transform the notion from a still mainly individual figure to one engaging in promiscuous practices – a re-entangled polyphony of voices we call artist-as-collective. This affords what we call a postdisciplinary practice because art can interact with scientific disciplines as well as other forms of cognition, perception, and experience, precisely because it is not a discipline and thus not subject to disciplinary boundaries. 

As a mixed-reality art project, Like a Ray in Search of its Mirror combines two modes of exploration and experiment: collaboration facilitated by digital media technology – in our case the novel use of the virtual to connect geographically, socially, culturally, and ecologically distant realities in real-time 3D; and the aesthetic-discursive demonstration of complex issues, which gain in complexity – and we in insight – through the interweaving of human and non-human contributions.

Like a Ray in Search of its Mirror responds to the hybridization of presence and the consequences of digitization. We hold that the creation of open-source digital tools and platforms is indispensable for art, discourse, and political participation. Digitalization and AI are cultural techniques that must not be abandoned entirely to profit-driven industries (AI, for instance, is totally in private hands), especially at a time when political, social, economic, and ecological frictions are on the rise.


Like a Ray in Search of its Mirror is a project of the art series The Future of Demonstration. It builds on Planetary Skins, a project we realized in May 2023 during the Heart of Noise Festival at the Elisabeth and Klaus Thoman Gallery in Innsbruck (The Future of Demonstration. Season 3).

The Future of Demonstration resolves the conventional, and increasingly unproductive, separation between art (exhibition), discourse (symposium) and archive (documentation). Instead, it creates a setting in which digital and physical space, discourse, conversation, performance, installation, visuals, soundscape, and film set are brought together in participatory choreographies.

Each of the episodes of the art series has its own form of audience participation or involvement. 

Each project episode is streamed live on our website and other channels. Together, they constitute the documentation/archive of The Future of Demonstration as a web series.

The Future of Demonstration art series is based on a postdisciplinary practice: human and non-human contributors from the arts, activism, philosophy, science, technology, and other fields jointly explore new forms, intensities, and consequences of collective practice within a performative-discursive framework.

We do not treat art, activism, theory, science, or technology as separate fields. Rather, they are vital contributions to demonstration as a method for reimagining, weaving, and sharing narratives, techniques, and affiliations of resistance that open new ways of world perception. 

What is at stake today is the urgent, but at the same time, beautiful task for collective imagination to revalue the notion of resource, transform processes of participation, and redefine terms and conditions. 

By intertwining technological, social, cultural, and biological materials, epistemes, and phenomena, we aim for an immersive experience in which the audience becomes part of experiments on technopolitical resolution: how can we achieve the shift to an inclusive socio-ecological paradigm, a re-entanglement with the planetary, a new perception of the world?