Biosemiotics: When living systems become minded

November 27, 2012Byens Lys Copenhagen
Biosemiotics robins choice
Doors open: 19:00
Start programme: 20:00
Byens Lys
Fabriksområdet 99

Hardly any processes will go on in the sphere of life that is not in some way or other communicatively regulated or, in other words, controlled by cues or signs that must be correctly interpreted: from the chemical passwords that a sperm cell must excrete in order to obtain access to the egg, to mating rituals, bird song and formation of alliances among chimpanzees. Semiotics therefore ought to be a central tool set for biology and the medical sciences.

Jesper Hoffmeyer will argue that that all living systems have an inner side, an interior that in each second must relate to its exterior, its environment. It is through this "interest" in the surrounding world that we experience the essence of life, and when we are fearful of the second of death, it its due to the shudder of imagining the end of all signification. The surface is the heart of life, and nearly everything in life depends on surfaces - we see them, grab them, touch them, assess them, they make us happy or appalled.

And yet surfaces do not possess an existence of their own, they consist of neither matter nor molecules. A surface is a place; a place where something ends and something else begins. It is here that the sea meets the air and the flower meets the eye. And yet the surface is crucial. The flying fish jumps for its life when it penetrates the surface of the sea and floats away from its pursuers. And the inside of the body is governed by signals allowing and preventing the passage of molecules and ions into and away from the cells. The most exciting surface of them all is the psyche - the interface (or dashboard) through which the body connects to its surrounding world. It is through this interface that the world gets into us and we get into the world.

Communicative cocktails will be served while the media artist Søren Lyngsø will translate the language of sound into the language of color and shape using the program he developed - Graphx - leading the audience into a sensorial labyrinth of auditory and visual experiences.

Organised by the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.

Talk by

Jesper Hoffmeyer

Jesper Hoffmeyer is an author and Professor Emeritus at the Biological Institute of Copenhagen University. His research focus on biosemiotics and biosemiosis, the processes whereby living systems identify and interpret environmental states or events as signs.

Jesper png

Music by

Søren Lyngsø

Behind the pseudonym Vectral, Søren Lyngsø explores the interplay between electronic compositions and audio-reactive visuals with concerts leading the audience through his sensory labyrinth step by step. His stubborn soundscapes and crackling sound structures consist of electronically arranged material from everyday life heard through homemade software. The visual part consists of live generated 3D graphics using 3D control points to create dynamic colors and shapes.