Skip to content
Main menu hidden.

Natarsha Bates

(she/they) Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Design and Molecular Biology at Umeå Institute of Design, Department of Molecular Biology & Um...Arts



Works at

Postdoctoral fellow at Umeå Institute of Design (UID)
Affiliated as postdoctoral position at Department of Molecular Biology

I am a non-Indigenous Australian. I was born in Mununjali/Beaudesert, Yugambeh/Queensland, grew up in Matamata, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and have lived for the last 35 years in Boorloo/Perth, Nyungar Boodja/South-Western Australia. I pay my respects to the Whadjuk people of the Nyungar nation and the Sami people of Ubmeje, Sápmi, the lands on which I live and practice, their Elders past, present and emerging and their continuing cultural, spiritual and educational practices.

I have worked as a pizza delivery driver, a fruit and vegetable stacker, a toilet-paper packer, a compost researcher, a honeybee ejaculator, a gallery invigilator, a raspberry picker, an academic, an editor, a bookkeeper, a car detailer, and a life drawing model. I hold an MSc & PhD in Biological Art from SymbioticA, The University of Western Australia.

I am formed from the exhalation of cyanobacteria and millennia of evolution. My body seethes and pulses with hundreds of other species, fashioned and transfigured by tiny lives and deaths, host to a thriving ecology. We are in relentless re-orientation, sensitive to pH, temperature, moisture and nutrients, tentatively traversing the affordances of each other’s bodies. Our bodies are animated by chemical transmissions and constant reproduction; transfigured by sensation.

As a scavenger-host, I am response-able for my ecology, to care for and about it. I forage knowledge, materials, ideas, tools and hunt transient alliances. The human body is a profligate beat of more-than-human sexualities, where human and microbial cells, including candida, replicate, procreate and propagate: a Homo holobiont, a queer site of more-than-human metabolism and shelter, reproduction and kinship. The Homo holobiont is a complex and diverse entanglement of relationships between Homo sapiens, Candida albicans, other microbial species, culture and technology. This is an environment where contact zones are physical; vision is irrelevant, touch is all. Bodies brush against each other and their surrounds, and communications are visceral: chemical signals are excreted and received by cell surface moieties. Social behaviours are mediated by intercellular chemical and physical signalling. Microbes literally grasp their environments. Communities form and dissolve as communication is metabolised. 

Queer ecologies disrupt the mutually constitutive apparatuses of ‘nature’ and ‘sexuality’ and reconfigure the entanglements of biology, sex, sexuality, intimacy, affiliation, geography, geology, ecology, culture and technology. I orient ‘queer ecological sensibility’ towards the microbiopolitics of Homo holobionts, examining how biopolitic regimes apply to microbial life through Luce Irigaray's conception of eros as a radical sensual ethics of differentiation, where surfaces are membranes that enable fluid metabolic exchanges and reciprocities that trouble self.

I am particularly interested in the work that olfaction does within the Homo holobiont (and other ecosystems). Olfaction is the sensation experienced by the caress of odorants on the membranes of cells. Odorants (the volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that produce smells) are fundamental within metabolic processes, ingested, digested, excreted through the living, the non- and the semi-living. The Homo holobiont is awash in microbial VOCs (mVOCs), an erotic inter- and intra-species communication, a metabolic sense-ability, that transverses spacetimematter. Transdisciplinary foraging across design and art-making, theory and biology allows me to explore how Homo holobiont relationships are constituted and who gets to be at the table, when and where and imagine how to eat well together.

Artworks can be found at: tarshbates.com

Sex ecologies, Cambridge: MIT Press 2021 : 65-69
Bates, Tarsh

Research groups

Group member

Research projects

1 April 2024 until 1 April 2027
21 August 2023 until 20 August 2025