Eemu Kaikkonen

Signs of Sentience


Nature is filled with signs of life. Plants grow from a once dormant seed, expanding their roots and branches outwards. Fungi live underground, unseen, until they spread their spores with a growing mushroom. A slab of steel is a contrast to this, a cold and still mass without breath or growth. However, what if this lump is a dormant being, and in the material there is an unfathomable force of life waiting for the right conditions to reveal itself?

We cannot comprehend aliveness that is completely different from our own, but we also cannot prove that it does not exist. There is a strand of philosophy, Panpsychism, which states that all matter, both organic and inorganic, contain mind-like aspects. In science there is a problem in explaining and studying the fact that matter, such as a human or an animal, has a capacity for a subjective experience, which is consciousness. This would imply that either a certain combination of materials somehow creates the immaterial phenomena of sensation or consciousness, or that the matter has an innate ability to contain a mind. This “Hard Question of Consciousness” remains unanswered.

The purpose of this work is to oppose the popular idea that steel is just a material that we humans use for tools and constructions. As an artist and a craftsperson, I want to show a side of the metal that is more akin to a living organism, hinting that the material itself has sentience.

This is my interpretation of steel becoming alive. The metal plate grows beyond its usual boundaries and expands itself with a will of its own.