Symbionts: Contemporary Artists and the Biosphere

2022, MIT Press and MIT List Visual Arts Center
Book cover for "Symbionts" featuring a green background on textured paper and the title of the book spelled out in large stenciled letters in three rows with three letters in each row in bright yellow.
2022, MIT Press and MIT List Visual Arts Center

ISBN: 9780262544481 | 232 pp., 7 x 10 in | 100 color photos | Paperback 


Symbionts: Contemporary Artists and the Biosphere is an exhibition catalogue and a reader that examines our human relationships to the planet’s biosphere through the lens of symbiosis, or “with-living.”

The exhibition Symbionts—organized by the MIT List Visual Arts Center and curated by Caroline A. Jones, Natalie Bell, and Selby Nimrod—presents fourteen international artists whose work explores what it means to be interdependent by engaging living materials as collaborators in creation, just as humans are partners in producing and maintaining the biosphere. 

Newly commissioned essays by Caroline A. Jones, Sophia Roosth, Bruce Clarke and Scott Gilbert, Leah Aronowsky, and Anna Tsing are complemented by excerpts of previously published texts by Evelyn Fox Keller, Lynn Margulis, and Robin Wall Kimmerer. Additional texts on each artist, authored by the exhibition curators, round out the publication, alongside an edited roundtable conversation on the themes of symbiosis, reciprocity, and Indigenous epistemologies, and a robust glossary of terms. The book is printed on innovative eco papers by Gmund and Favini (with separate sections comprised of algae, citrus or coffee “mash,” and upcycled leather paper).

Charting experimental practices that blur the boundaries between artist, medium, and collaborator, while also engaging the thinkers underscoring the intersections of biological, social, and economic systems, this publication unveils the critical interactions that shape our world and the interspecies entanglements that evolve it.


Crystal Z Campbell, Gilberto Esparza, Jes Fan, Pierre Huyghe, Candice Lin, Alan Michelson, Nour Mobarak, Claire Pentecost, Špela Petrič, Pamela Rosenkranz, Miriam Simun, Jenna Sutela, Kiyan Williams, and Anicka Yi.


Christina Agapakis, Leah Aronowsky, Natalie Bell, Rogier Braakman, Bruce Clarke, Ryan E. Emanuel, Scott F. Gilbert, Caroline A. Jones, Evelyn Fox Keller, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Lynn Margulis, Selby Nimrod, Claire Pentecost, Tiare Ribeaux, Jolene Rickard, S. Margaret Spivey-Faulkner, and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing.