Governing Bodies


The project has been started and is maintained by a pan-Nordic group of artists from many disciplines of different ages who work together with established academics from the Natural Sciences. Together they share a fascination for microbes and how humanity’s increased knowledge about them is changing the understanding of who we are and our place in the world. The group takes its starting point in contemporary medical research on microorganisms and people like researcher Stig Bengmark who promotes eating habits that support the human microbiota (the microbes whom we live in symbiosis with), biologist Lynn Margulis who has shown that symbiosis is just as important as competition in evolution and political theorist Elizabeth Povinelli who discusses the humans relationship to living and non living organisms.  All three underline that our understanding of how our bodies function and what a human being is, is changing rapidly. Human beings can no longer be considered to be individuals, they need to be perceived as ecosystems who live in symbiosis with a very large number of microbes.

Every human being has over one kilogram of microorganisms in his/her gut. We live in symbiosis with them and they are necessary for digestion and other life support processes. They affect our mood, energy and probably also to what extent we are curious and social. They help to facilitate communication between gut and brain. So far we know only around two per cent of their functions and capabilities. But one thing is certain: they can live without us, but without them we die.

The interdisciplinary group that runs this project has met numerous times in different places in Sweden in 2019-20. They have organised both private and public events. They will continue to meet and to go deeper into our individual and collective research and at the same time spread their knowledge and experiences in the Nordic region in 2020-21. They will also interact with a broader network of artists and researchers and they have made contacts with new collaborators in Norway, Finland and Denmark.

The project will both take the shape of further private and public events in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Germany. In order to make the most of these meetings, the group will start by developing the publication “Governing Bodies: An Interdisciplinary investigation into microbes and their effect on human identity,” which will also be a central tool in the public and private workshops.

- Program for first set of workshops. (Östersund)
- Program for the second set of sessions (Copenhagen)
- Program for third set of sessions (Helsinki)

A publication was created that documented the process of the project and was released in May 2022.  It was edited by Freddie Ross. 2022.  Each member of the group has expressed their interest in how humankind’s growing understanding about the microbes in the human body influence. The contributions shed light on how microbes influence our health and our personality. It was designed by Erik Månsson.

Events to promote the book has been organised in Gotenburg, Helsinki, Norrköping and Östersund.


Emergence and Microbes: Governing Bodies Helsinki? A short documentary by Samy Kramer about the Vision Forum and Bioart Society mini festival in Finland

Participants: Carola Uehlken (Curator/artist) Elias Arnér (Professor in Biochemistry) Giada Lo Re (xyz.PhD) Carima Neusser (Choreographer), MaiBritt Giacobini (Child psychiatrist MD, PhD) Per Hüttner (Visual artist/musician) Oskar Gudmundsson (Writer), Adriaan Samson (Writer) Freddie Ross (Art historian) Emil Krog (Visual artist), Kurt Johannesen (Visual artist), Sara Gurevitsch (Choreographer) and Saber Rhaleb (Musician) Till Bovermann (Visual artist.) Please note that the list of participants changes as the project travels. Partners include: the Bioart Society in Helsinki and The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

The project has developed out of a collective investigation called The Nature Inside and is supported by The Nordic Culture Fund in Copenhagen; Längmanska kulturfonden in Stockholm; Nordic Culture Point in Helsinki as well as Kulturfonden för Sverige och Finland. Photo by Till Boverman.




stigbengmark_farg_112-1400x450Governing’ Bodies’s über-guru, Stig Bengmark