Essay: Ian Gibbinson Endosymbiosis

The Extreme Politics of Adaptive Endosymbiosis

These are the days
that were the days
that would be the days
that have been the days
that count the days
as if the days
are yesterdays
and future days
will dream the days
from coming days
and leaving days
those nameless days
the breaking days
that are our days today.

* * * * *

We are still watching ghosts,
testamentary farewells sunk amid
sandstone bollards,
grid-lock corroded moss,
black mould,
pale concrete fatigue.
Homesick, addled,
stricken by virus,
we push for oxygen
though iron web duplicity,
dodge the fierce splayed gid
of gunpowder.
Below jack hammer,
bulldozer, piledriver,
listen to us scratch,
our scour and scrape,
in our patient,
almost there,
of tactical withdrawal. 

* * * * *

But we are pummelled by floodtide and weather rush.
We are pounded undertows of uncertainty and doubt.
We are pushed aside by torrents of dislocation.
This is our call for assistance:
We offer you our cells and genetic machinery;
our biochemistries are primed to share.

* * * * *

So we reanimate sunlight as dayshift weekshift,
on longperiod oscillation,
on moebius orbit frameshift.
We record wavelength overhead:
unfiltered indigo, twin crimson
unless strangeity or circumflexure or expaquelessness,
unless waterfall, downfall, crestfall,
until our options intermesh, intertwine, intervene.
Still we hunger, we thirst
for your carefully concealed elements:
raw, simple, unalloyed,
while we gather beside,
while we aggregate, congregate,
sound our names,
define our attraction.
Hear our call to other, to self,
our need to extract,
transfer to self,
to energise:
such as, ferromagnetic, anti-ferromagnetic;
for example, we count valency, two, three, six;
for example, we count oxygen, hydrogen, carbon;
for example, oxide, carbide, bicarbonate,
compounded, complexed, combusted;
such as, this is what we are,
this is what we eat.
Away from home heat,
we follow our seekline to dig,
to grind to dust,
devouring to take in,
to take further away from metabolic inertia,
our logfiled source material.

* * * * *

Time: just this.
Place: just this.
Fear of rust…
we do and not
or we eat all
and none now
with no air,
clear or blue.
No rare earth:
just dry blood,
red and blown
on high wind,
as if not yet
in our grasp,
as if not yet
out of our reach.

* * * * *

For we are the symbionts.
We need your iron, sulphur, nitrogen.
Yes, we are the symbionts:
feed us photons
and your electrochemical bonds.
We seek relief, release, escape,
any form of deliverance
from this, our ruin,
our scrap heap of broken trust.

* * * * *

The Extreme Politics of Adaptive Endosymbiosis video was made in 10:1 aspect ratio to match the giant LED screens at The Lab, Light Square, Adelaide, where the text was performed live as part of Provocation #3, hosted by the JM Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice on 17 September 2021.

Symbiosis is the mutually dependent interaction between two different organisms. Endosymbiosis is when one of the organisms lives entirely within the tissues of the other, such as chloroplasts in plants, or mitochondria in nearly all living cells. The Ferrovores are our hypothetical descendants that rely on endosymbiotic iron-oxidising bacteria for some of their energy requirements.

The text and video was resampled from the following sources, all by Ian Gibbins:

Blue Moon (2017)

colony collapse (2019)

dog daze (2017)

floodtide (2018)

future perfect (2019)


The Exclusion Principle (2020)

The Ferrovores (2019)

The Life We Live Is Not Life Itself (2021) with Taso Sagris and Whodoes (Greece)

These Days (2018)

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Published November 9, 2021
Part of Provocations: Selected proceedings from the Provocations Symposium hosted by the J.M Coetzee Centre at the University of Adelaide. All Provocations essays →
Ian Gibbins

Ian Gibbins is a widely published and exhibited poet, video artist and electronic musician living on unceded...

Essays by Ian Gibbins →