Dancing with the Microbes, by Linden, Ama & Hari for the Microbe Disco - August 2020


It begins at the centre of a hot compost pile, where bacteria, and amoeba jiggle and twist together, making vibrations and busting moves. The heat rises from their bodies as they break things down and multiply, steaming and dampening the walls. Things get moving, and other creatures arrive: worms and woodlice, rotifers with their propellers, exoskeletoned arthropods – and now humans. Here we are, humans, dancing with the microbes. We are made of the things that these kin break down: we were always part of this party. We are composting the notion that we’re separate, smashing all the ways isolation is used to oppress us: Black and indigenous folks categorised as non-human to justify white supremacy, queers called unnatural in the midst of this queer world of gender-flipping kin in every inch of matter. We are BREAKING it DOWN.

We will not leave this place in droves, or in dribbles, we will not seek that alibi, that imperial amnesia. As we work to earn back our right to be on this planet, to thrive on this planet, we sit and stand and thump and dance in humbleness and ecstasy. Learning from strawberries and milk thistles, from dandelions and stinging nettles how to reclaim, to re-indigenize, how to survive and travel and cohabit and bring forth gifts and gratitude, sweetness and forgiving. We are new and we are ancient, we are honouring the ancestors that taught our bones how to dance to the beat of codependence. We are re-learning how to listen to the truths of the ocean and the soil, how to mould ourselves around fertility instead of war and fear and revenge. We are letting go of needing to be right. We are letting go of needing to be here for the party to continue, we are saying we really want to be, we are working hard for the right to be. We are dancing our hardest, our humblest, our whole-est. Sweating gratitude and transformation; shedding skins and superiority in salt water and saliva, afraid and eager and yearning for the next iteration of our existence in this body, and outside of it.

Sometimes late at night, when my body turns against itself I find myself reaching for the microscope as a kind of medicine. The stars are hard to see these days through layers of smog, NO2 and yellow light stained clouds, so i gaze into the soil instead, and meditate with microbes. There is a distant closeness in these encounters, like looking at a part of myself for the first time (57% of the cells and DNA in our bodies are those of other creatures who share their aliveness with us, but this number is always changing and no one really knows). It is like looking through wormholes and mycorrhizal galaxies, into deep space. Bacteria and protozoa wriggle, dancing circles around and in me, whilst I (?) am still? Have I forgotten how to dance already? I am jealous of the caterpillar who transforms itself and others by breaking into multiple imaginal cells. It too turns against itself, each cell twists and shouts and switches places, vibrating together until, something new emerges. A butterfly concerto? For me this is what it means to dance with microbes, but what does it mean for you? What does it mean for us?

We are human, and we are companions to the creatures around us: the cats that chose us in the desert, the sparrows that followed us across the world for the gaps in our walls and the fatness of our grain, the plants that evolved with us and made themselves into sweetness so we’d both thrive, the bacteria which pass through generations through birth and milk, every being in the compost that savours our waste and grows what we need to live. We are family. We are chewing up and spitting out the idea that we are not tied to this with all the knots in our guts and whorls of our skin, in all our glorious and flawed humanity, and the heat will make us DANCE.

screen shot of zoom screen showing 20 thumbnails of guests at the microbe disco, they have colourful microbe inspired background and costumes, some people are dancing and others are watching