Holobionte (male noun): host organism that functions thanks to an integrated system of symbioses between different beings, including bacteria, funghi, etc. 

For centuries, anthropocentric cultural and religious discourses that idealize the human experience and sublimate the "maternal instinct" have portrayed the mother-child relationship as a necessarily affective connection. In this context, the picture of the Madonna with Child has become an icon of the Judeo-Christian visual tradition that encapsulates a set of moral assumptions about motherhood, intimately linked to the idea of the heteronormative nuclear family as the primary unit of social organization.

Meanwhile, recent studies and experiments in genetics and evolutionary biology have revealed that the co-existence between human pregnant people and their fetuses is, similarly to other species, everything but peaceful. Several biochemical processes that happen at a microscopic and cellular scale not only make gestation possible but also shape, from the very first stages in the embryo development, a tense and negotiated pregnancy, a kind of phagic "destructive business" that invevitably transforms the pregant body's territory. At the same time, the pioneering theories of Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock, among others, about symbiosis and cooperation as omnipresent  phenomena in earthly ecossystems have opened up radically integrating and non-hierarchical perspectives about the pregnant body as one more Holobiont - a complext and integrated sytem of relations between multiple beings from different species - in a ravenous biological continuity with many others.

Holobiont, or the cannibalistic principle is a multimedia and interspecies installation, activated by two performers in close interaction with the public. Evoking these recent scientific discoveries and a feminist sci-fi universe, this piece aims to rescue the relationship between pregant person and child from patriarchal, religious and cultural discourses that contribute to the hegemonic narrative of motherhood. On the contrary, we propose to look at this relationships as one more instance of co-existence taking place inside the Holobiont.


Holobiont, or the cannibalistic principle was concived for unconventional spaces, namely museums of  natural history, and other science-related institutions.



Ferreira da Silva Laboratory (Museum of Natural History and Science, University of Porto, PT)


Creation, texts and performance | Camilla Morello e Maria Inês Marques
Scenic design and props | Cristóvão Neto and Anabela Moreira
Music and sound design | Rui Lima and Sérgio Martins
Lighting design | Tiago Silva
Video | Fábio Coelho
Technical direction | Luísa Osório
Biology consultant | Ana Corrêa
Nuno Eusébio

in collaboration with the University do Porto
Co-production in the context of the Reclamar Tempo 2021/22 program, Campus Paulo Cunha e Silva
Artistic Residencies DEVIR/CAPa, Companhia Instável and Campus Paulo Cunha e Silva
Shooting location 
mala voadora
This project is funded by República Portuguesa | Cultura - DIreção-Geral das Artes


"Is there something inherently queer about pregnancy itself, insofar as it profoundly alters one’s “normal” state, and occasions a radical intimacy with—and radical alienation from—one’s body?" - Maggie Nelson

"Even in full recognition of the sense of the sublime that people experience in gestating, it is remarkable that there isn’t more consistent support for research into alleviating the problem of pregnancy" - Sophie Lewis

"Placental cells rampaged through surrounding tissues, slaughtering everything in their path as they hunted for arteries to sate their thirst for nutrients. It’s no accident that many of the same genes active in embryonic development have been implicated in cancer" - Suzanne Sadedin