The Laboratory for Embodied Intelligences, (early sketch)
Music & Performance
Part of the series In Real Life: Studio

Nina Waisman: The Laboratory for Embodied Intelligences

NOV 10, 2016; JAN 3, 25 & 26, 2017

In Real Life: Studio provides a glimpse into the working processes of artists. Throughout the fall a select group of artists utilizes spaces in the museum to convene and rehearse new material, including theater, dance, music, and performance. While some artists and collectives will simply discuss or workshop material, others will produce a new project from rehearsal to final performance. 

Project statement

The Laboratory for Embodied Intelligences

Following a thrilling year of research and experimentation in SETI Institute’s Artist in Residence Program (SETI =  Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence), Nina Waisman has started up the Laboratory for Embodied Intelligences (LEI) here in Los Angeles. She is joined by founding member and movement expert Flora Wiegmann.

As part of the development phase of LEI, Waisman will use the Hammer IRL stage as both a workspace and an opportunity to offer perspective-shifting meditations and embodiment exercises to the public. These experiments aim to make physically palpable LEI’s ongoing discoveries around the following questions: How can humans “try on” non-human behaviors in order to perceive them viscerally, gaining knowledge unavailable through classic data analysis? What can we learn from the highly successful behaviors and communication methods our microbial colleagues and ancestors employ? How do animal and human logics and languages compare to microbial behaviors? 

We evolved from microbes, but only recently did we learn that “all mobile unicellular organisms possess the fundamental characteristics of nervous systems” (Dr. Lori Marino). Perhaps fundamental cognitive capacities and "modes of reason" we think unique to humans belong in some form to microbes. We know that they communicate - in fact, they are multi-lingual. They have survived and communicated with each other over 3.5 billion years. Surely there are a few things we can learn from cultures exponentially more long-lived and adapted than we are? Looking into the future, astrobiologists agree that microbes are the most likely form of life we will encounter out in the cosmos. Can our terrestrial bacteria help us communicate with or understand these extraterrestrials?

Through simple, playful meditations and movement exercises, LEI seeks to give us access to some of the vast treasure of behaviors and communication techniques invented and enacted by microbes. Cognitive scientists have found that to exercise a new behavior is to open the mind to a whole new suite of logics - so, we hope you’ll join us!


To the Hammer Museum and January Parkos Arnall, for all their support and for hosting our project.

Nina Waisman’s residency and its associated collaborative public events and performances are made possible by The 18th Street Arts Center, with funding provided by City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Department, the California Arts Council, and The James Irvine Foundation. 18th Street Art Center is the leading artist residency in Southern California, with a mission to provoke public dialogue through contemporary art making. 

Additional deep gratitude for the generous support and brilliant minds offered by the SETI Institute Artist-in-Residence Program and The Lucas Artists Residency Program at Montalvo Arts Center, along with art and science collaborators listed here.

--Nina Waisman


Nina Waisman, Director

As a former dancer turned multi-media artist, Nina Waisman is fascinated by the critical roles that movement and sensation play in forming thought. Her interactive sound installations, videos and collaborative performances highlight the subliminal training and possible hacking of such embodied thinking. These works focus on related issues including surveillance, invisible labor, machine-human feedback loops, nanotechnology. Venues include House of World Cultures, Berlin; LAXART; CECUT, Tijuana; OCMA; the Beall Center for Art & Technology, Zero1 Biennial, the San Diego Museum of Art, The New Children's Museum in San Diego. She has taught at institutions such as Cal Arts, SFAI, UCSD, and spent 2015 as an artist in residence at SETI Institute. Waisman is starting a new series of collaborative artworks exploring the role of embodiment in forming non-human intelligences, ranging from microbial on through plant, animal and extraterrestrial intelligences. 

Flora Wiegmann, Principal Collaborator

Flora Wiegmann is a Los Angeles-based dancer and choreographer.  She works in both live performance and film, often making research-based work that is specific to its particular site. She has had the opportunity to collaborate with artists such as Fritz Haeg, Silke Otto-Knapp, Alix Lambert, Amy Granat, Miljohn Ruperto, Nina Waisman and Tom Lawson. Her projects have been presented at the ICA, Philadelphia; The Kitchen, New York; the California Biennial and LA>

Attending this program?

Location: Courtyard
Ticketing: This drop-in program is not ticketed.
Parking: Under the museum. Rates are $6 for the first three hours with museum validation, and $3 for each additional 20 minutes, with a $20 daily maximum. Cash only. 

In Real Life: Studio is a Public Engagement project organized by January Parkos Arnall, curatorial associate, Public Engagement.

The Hammer Museum’s Public Engagement program is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.