This text does not pretend to be anything approaching a popular science article, despite being written by a member of the Urban Fauna Lab. In his Lecture on Ethics, Ludwig Wittgenstein said in passing that popular science discourse is "intended to make you believe that you understand a thing which actually you don't understand, and to gratify what I believe to be one of the lowest desires of modern people, namely the superficial curiosity about the latest discoveries of science". Artistic research pursues other aims—it is intended to strengthen incomprehension. Art strives to create problems that cannot be solved by means of the exact sciences, immersing the mind in a state of disquiet, reining in the bold spirit of enlightenment. Art is an archaic practice of desperation, hopelessness, and of pushing for the extremes. Artists do not seek a way out of a situation. Let the scientists do this.
Urban fauna spawns in the refuse of human civilisation. Rubbish tips on waste ground constitute a refuge, organic waste serves as food, and the heat surpluses of our dwellings provide warmth. Here the pseudoscientific idea is in operation of the spontaneous generation of life from dirt, as expressed by Aristotle and echoed by the philosophers and natural scientists of antiquity and the Middle Ages. It was only possible to overturn this ancient notion in the nineteenth century, when the laboratory conditions reached the required levels of cleanness and it was learnt how to correctly sterilise lab equipment. And so the world in which life was potentially present at any point and was an intrinsic property of any material was brought to an end. The world was extinguished in which living organisms unceasingly and spontaneously emerged from inert elements or rotting organic matter thanks to the interaction with heat, moisture or sunlight. A world in which chewed basil placed on top of a stone gave rise to snakes, and if placed beneath bred scorpions. A world in which a homunculus could be produced, requiring us simply to, in the words of Paracelsus, take "human fluids" and make them decompose over the course of a week inside a pumpkin, and then for forty weeks in a horse's stomach, adding human blood daily. As a result "a living human child grows therefrom, with all its members like another child which is born of a woman, but much smaller".
Despite their unscientific nature, the works of Aristotle, Empedocles, Paracelsus and other proponents of the theory of the autogeneration of life are now gaining a new interpretation in the work with urban fauna. In the manmade landscape, life spontaneously generates from dirt, from the by-products of human life and industry. In a sense, urban fauna is indistinguishable from rubbish—it constitutes a biological superfluity, an undocumented biomass driven out of human sight into sewers, cellars, attics and rubbish dumps. In adapting to these unfavourable conditions, animals, plants, insects and microorganisms take on new characteristics, changing their nature and irreversibly losing their connection with wild nature. The city as an unnatural conglomeration of ecological niches is a unique space of co-evolution and speciation.