Ferrovores: the iron eaters in Antennae

Issue 59 of antennae – the journal of nature in visual culture is now out on the theme Microbial Ecologies. It is an extraordinary collection of multidisciplinary practices, approaches, methodologies, and conceptions to help us see and value the microbial worlds that until recently have remained invisible. As editor Giovanni Aloi says, “It is only by recognizing and engaging with microbial agencies that fuller networks of interconnectedness will enable us to tell the stories we truly need for our time and for the future.”

I’m delighted to have a piece in this edition. Ferrovores: the iron eaters is an extended version of the text of my video The Ferrovores.

Iron is the most common metal on earth. Indeed, it forms much of the molten core of the planet which in turn generates the earth’s magnetic poles. The red soils of the world are due to iron. At a biochemical level, iron is essential for human life, amongst other things, making our blood red. In the societal domain, iron is essential for manufacturing, electricity generation, and much more. Certain bacteria can derive energy for life directly from dissolved iron compounds (“rust”) rather than from oxygen as we do. Perhaps, at some time in the future, we, our descendants, the Ferrovores, may need to do the same.

Yet the Ferrovores are a product of digital code: generational, mutating, synthesising. Even so, the environment collapses around them, as they mine the language of pre-industrial times for reassurance and comfort, dreaming of the days when manufacturing really was handicraft and shared skills.

This version of the text is written in two generations of a computer code, that is imaginary but which has fully consistent syntax built around the remnant language of chemistry, biochemistry, geology, metallurgy and mining. The idea here was to satisfy the formal requirements of an academic journal but to have the whole piece within a self-consistent style, including the citations and figure references. Here is the first page of the text:

#1.0 Allone wellknown at timepointnow
[we] inter/de/pend on iron + ferrousoxides 
for [our] ever/on/going re/sur/vival: 
	#1.1 haemoglobin + myoglobin = [our] oxygen storage + ex/im/trans/port;
	#1.2 ferrous endosymbionts = im/sup/plement [our] energy source. 

#2.0 Recentnews [we] dis/re/un/cover 
crucial prim/e/ary/ative codefile ex mid21C ac/re/cord:
	#2.1 [our] ab/ad/de/in/re/se/duct/ion by iron;
	#2.2 [our] fraught ferrousbacteria-endosymbiosis post-regenesis. 

#3.0 Herebelow [we] run origin/al codefile 
with generative voicecodetext
for [firstperson] narrative + inline*endnote glossary*reference:
	#3.1 nonedit;
	#3.2 stet.

= = = = = = = = = = = = 

.commandset .init .autorun {run: run=autorun;

.setcode {codestyle(1)=legacy;

.refstyle {refcite=numeric(seq(1->n)); reflink=endnote(1->n);
.predefine .intro .scope {data: write
	textstyle=prerun <blockquote>source(n)</blockquote>;


<source(2)><for lifeform=(source(2))

Click here to read the full issue which can be downloaded as a free PDF:

Here is the original video of The Ferrovores.