Proposal by: Sujata Majumdar, Roland van Dierendonck, Irene Nooren


Project Proposal: The Society Within Us

'The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think' - Gregory Bateson

Our current way of thinking does not enable us to deal with major problems such as the climate crisis. We think reductionistically rather than holistically, and in objects instead of relationships. To organise society in a different way, we can take inspiration from the proteins in our body and the role they play in various processesWhen we look at these processes, we start to think very differently about terms like 'intelligence', 'consciousness', 'cooperation'.

We propose to learn from nature's way of organising collaboration at the deep nano level in order to imagine a holistic, harmonious human society. Through an artistic lens we develop metaphors to communicate non-human, protein wisdom, and propagate this new way of thinking in an interactive and experiential workshop with participants. 


globule - self development: you can be so much more!

Project Description

We wish to experience the wisdom of a 'protein society', where there is harmonious collaboration as well as self-development, and horizontal, egalitarian decision making. We want to apply this protein-inspired model to our human society to (re)learn resilience, democracy, trust, cooperation, and coexistence with our environment, and for people to fulfil their own unique role in society. To translate nature's way of organising collaboration at the deep nano level into a human interpretable strategy, we will create interactive experiential workshops with participants. Metaphors will be developed such as: folding or role playing your own protein archetype (common and recurring roles in society) to find your own identity, pathways as a metaphor for coordination in real time and feeling part of the whole, a cell as a metaphor for a business organisation, and sending signals along your nervous system as a metaphor for information transfer using the internet.

Biomimicry explores what designs we can copy or borrow from nature and how we can learn from biology. Until now, Biomimicry’s focus has been ecological processes and products. New biomimicry captures holistic social design. We need a new language for nature’s role as a mentor and model. Our approach is to find answers to  societal and organisational challenges based on nano strategies that we exemplify through artistic metaphors, which we aim to further define and deepen, together with workshop participants.

We draw on phenomenology which takes a perspective on the world solely based on experience. We become conscious of our experience and behave accordingly. We personify proteins and bring them to life, building on the striking analogy between the behaviour and archetypal forms of proteins and humans. 

Possible ways to expand the project

Outlines for a protein-inspired democracy: Mapping protein and democratic values to learn and share knowledge.

Protein Dance: What can we learn about working together through dancing with proteins?

Personal introduction

Nanoplay is a collaboration between Irene Nooren, Roland van Dierendonck and Sujata Majumdar. The foundation of the project is Irene’s philosophy of nano-based social biomimicry as a society blueprint. We are connected especially through using art to create awareness of patterns and concepts in science and technology and we build on our past projects which intersect and integrate citizen participation / collaboration and science and technology. We have a long history of organising workshops on the intersection of art, science, technology and design which allow room for creativity, serendipity and collaboration.

Sujata Majumdar website insta is a visual and transdisciplinary artist based in Amsterdam with a background in Physics, Photography, and ICT. She is head of Pattern Formation at the Institute of Unnecessary Research, is represented by Cyclic Matter, and part of Fiber Reassemble Lab 3: Natural Intelligence. 

Roland van Dierendonck website insta is an artist, biologist and PhD researcher at the Lab4Living, Sheffield Hallam University, translating human-microbe connections into sensory experiences using haptics (touch) and microscopy. He is a fellow of the Global Community Biosummit, organized annually at the MIT Medialab in Boston.

Irene Nooren is a change maker and philosopher with a background in structural biology. She has a versatile training and practice in ICT, Science and Art that characterises her expertise to connect concepts, disciplines and philosophies. She is part of the Ubiverse Global Community of Changemakers and collaborates with Biomimicry NL to unfold Life Principles and ethos. She develops a community supporting and disseminating the regeneration of humanity towards a natural way of living and holistic society.

Estimated costs

Materials 400 euros; 3 days required per artist to develop, run and document the workshop = 1800 euros. Total cost 2200 euros.
The workshop is a significant part of the whole longer term project of nano-based social biomimicry as a society blueprint.
This proposal is part of the 'Penny for your Thoughts' project 2022.