Lachlan Herd’s Biospheres

Words Sean Maroney / Images Andrew Perić

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Sydney’s CBD sparkles with cash and its suburbs abound in red-bricked gold. It is a city narcissistically obsessed with its capitalistic image. It is infatuated with the image of itself, looking only inward, not outward, and it thus suffers from a severe affliction of close-mindedness.

The current, close-minded Sydney refuses to acknowledge its marginal groups: its youth, its rainbow crowds, its alternative lifestyles. Lachlan Herd’s Biospheres work artistically alongside initiatives such as Keep Sydney Open and Reclaim the Streets to demand inclusiveness and openness.

The project represents a radical counter-culture to Sydney’s corporate narcissism. It promotes radical openness through its investigation of the body’s permeability in space. Herd’s experiment ran at two independently run raves, OKRA and Pink Bubble, both which seek (and to varying degrees succeed) to create atmospheres that are pluralistic and inclusive. One of their major preoccupations is with creating safe spaces where the body, inherently porous, always in a fluid and receptive interaction with its surrounding environment, is rendered permeable. The emphasis of a permeable body actions an inversion of the traditionalist, mainstream dogma that close-minded Sydney ticks on.

Herd exposed agar dishes to the radically open spaces of OKRA and Pink Bubble, collecting the microbes present. The atmosphere, permeated by music and bodies, is mixed with the fumes and sweat of its population and the participants’ bodily fluids, overhauled from their typical state and constituted substantially in direct interaction with the environment. Bodies there have porous boundaries; they are bodies that pucker to kiss someone, to externalise themselves consensually and cooperatively.

They crave the mutual interaction prompted by the projection of individual entities outward into a collective group environment. On the surface, this invasion occurs aesthetically. The inhibitions woven into everyday clothes are shed. It is a landscape of bare-skin, semi-nudity, and (significantly) un-conventional costumes. Beyond the aesthetic is the music, that rhythmic thumping that mandates dance enters the body and sweat exits. Music penetrates and fluid is expelled. Tongues exchange spittle, explicitly promoting sexual positivity. In the veins of many rush psychoactive toxins,¹ ravaging the unstable “limits” of the body. Along with exposing the agar to airborne microbes, Herd collected people’s spit and sweat, the body’s chemical ejaculations induced by the interaction (or inter-course) with their spaces. The collection of bodily fluids offers another inversion of traditional ideas, positing liberated sexuality, and further eroding those supposedly static bodily boundaries.

In underground environments, Herd’s experiment demonstrates a radical openness to challenge the above-ground mentality, one that’s restrained and repressed – one that’s closed. Herd’s “Biospheres” engages with OKRA and Pink Bubble to demonstrate the political poetry that is writing itself in Sydney’s cultural margins. It challenges the social hierarchy that is trying to lock down and calcify a living, breathing culture. His cubes are the living embodiment of Sydney’s living underground, and its poetics of openness. //

Lachlan Herd’s work, Biospheres, is in the window box until Sunday, April 9th.

¹Yes, drugs.

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