The Tropical Turn—Maneuvers for a Planetary Embodiment

Juan Pablo García Sossa

The Tropical Turn—Maneuvers for a Planetary Embodiment is a thought experiment and research project that explores other modes of coexistence between all forms of life on the planet from a Tropikós perspective by repositioning a multiplicity of cosmologies.

The project consists of a set of tools, interfaces, and artifacts intersecting endotic and emerging technologies for sensing the planet. Sensing the planet means combining quantitative, qualitative, and narrative data and cosmologies to have sensorial experiences of the earth around us. 

What other perspectives can we acquire when we understand the planet as an extension or part of our bodies? The tropics are regions that have been historically exploited, undervalued, and exoticized. Very often they are considered cocktails of sun, diversity, and crises in which fertile grounds face troubled realities that challenge what is possible and what is not on a daily basis. If crises can be understood as a turning point, from its permanent state of crisis, the tropics have developed an elastic resilience that goes beyond resistance and is closer to re-existence. But the tropics are more than a physical and geographical space: they could be understood as a mindset. 

The Tropikós emerges from the ancient belief that the sun turned back at the solstices; the etymology of the word tropics means the point at which things turn. The Tropical Turn, as a mindset, is the ability to turn around the pulses of our natural and artificial environments and develop symbiotic relationships and dances with all living and nonliving beings and the planet, beyond the idea of control and domination. 

THE FLOW “When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad.”—Miles Davis 

We can understand the Tropical Turn as a shift from FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software) Technologies into FLOW (Free Libre Open Wild) Systems. These are technologies meant to be cannibalized, taking diverse forms of situated knowledges. FLOW Systems explore ways to blur modern systems of classification and complexify binary understandings of the planet present in the dominant cosmology of globalism. A cosmology can be understood as a framework that determines and influences our understandings of the planet, our ways of being, and what we perceive as conceivable. Through a multiplicity of responses we might be able to braid together an interplanetary patchwork of cosmologies that could rescript what we understand makes us human.


Juan Pablo García Sossa (JPGS) (*Bogotá) is a designer, researcher and artist fascinated by the clash between emerging technologies and grass-root popular culture in tropical territories. His practice explores the development of cultures, visions, realities and worlds through the remix and reappropriation of technologies from a Tropikós perspective (Tropics as Region and Mindset). JPGS has been part of diverse research institutions and design studios and currently is a design research member at SAVVY Contemporary The Laboratory of Form-Ideas’ Design Department in Berlin and Co-Director of Estación Terrena, a space for arts, research and technologies in Bogotá. JPGS is a 2020 Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future Fellow at EYEBEAM.

(photo: Raisa Galofre)


Project Credits

Conceptual, Discursive and Tech Development

Conceptual discourse braided together from conversations with Daniela Medina Poch, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung & SAVVY Contemporary team, Sarah Grant, Neema Githere, Futura Trōpica Netroots, Transmediale Summer Camp 2021. Tech advice from Carlos Serrano.