The Museum of Modern Art,, New York November 21, 2020 — August 15, 2021
Aki Inomata
Think Evolution #1: Kiku-ichi (Ammonite), 14,5 × 12 × 6 cm, 2016-2017.
Photo : courtesy of the artist and MAHO KUBOTA GALLERY
In the Western world, art and nature have been at odds for a long time. During the seventeenth century, artworks focusing on plants, animals, and landscape were relegated to the lower ranks of creative production by Italian and French academicians. History, mythology, and religion were considered much more important because they reassessed our centrality as humans. Our anthropocentric obsession predates this historical moment, but its art historical theorization, which roughly coincided with similar affirmations in philosophy and literature, had a tremendous impact on our existential myopia. The mountains of flowers cascading from opulent vases in Baroque still life paintings are all about us, not flowers; they are symbolic mirrors in which we contemplated our virtues and our dreams, and came to terms with our fears of the passing of time and the fading of youth. Is it much of a surprise that we currently find ourselves on the brink of an irremediable climate crisis and interrelated mass extinction? Of course not. But while art is not the cause of the Anthropocene, painting and other media have been symptoms of an underlying condition that has plagued most of what we call Modernity. Art’s complicity in the marginalization of nature in culture is undeniable.
That said, artists are not the only ones to blame. Institutions and art historians have for centuries promoted anthropocentrism while marginalizing artists whose work focused on environmental degradation, ecology, and biodiversity. But the situation is changing, and changing fast. The popularization of the word Anthropocene has certainly worked wonders in awakening the artworld’s interest in the state of our planet. Innovative perspectives by contemporary thinkers like Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, and Dipesh Chakrabarty, among others, are beginning to inform the work of today’s artists.


But the all-important question still stands: Can art save the planet? The answer is most likely “no.” Not because it’s too late, but because since the twentieth century most modern art has intentionally isolated itself from the real world. And in recent years contemporary art has too keenly embraced hyper-highbrow Conceptualism as its baseline, nurturing an unnecessarily conflicted relationship with beauty that has discouraged the neophyte and alienated the non-specialist museum visitor. In order to instigate real change, artists and institutions need to reach out to vast audiences in engaging and accessible ways.

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This article also appears in the issue 103 - Sportification
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Monstrous Matter

Marie-Charlotte Carrier
Matter fell from grace during the twentieth century. What was once labeled as inanimate became mortal1. 1 - Karen Barad, “No Small Matter: Mushroom Clouds, Ecologies of Nothingness, and Strange Topologies of Spacetimemattering,” in Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, eds. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 103.. – Karen Barad

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This article also appears in the issue 101 - New Materialisms
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Cannibal Actif: The Artist Book as Threshold for Material Encounters

Joëlle Dubé
María Castañeda-Delgado
Two feet emerging from a pool of black oil touch the edge of a bathtub. The dark ink contrasts with the shimmery copper highlights. These feet belong to a bather in Baku, Azerbaijan, where bathing in crude oil — rich in naphthalene — is said to have healing properties. On the left, a white page with barely discernible letters reads, “But to de-privilege our bipedal flesh. Cannibalism as taboo barriers the partnership across species lines. As if we are not also consumed. As if we don’t consume ourselves. Denial. Crying. Even the cannibals are leaky.” I suddenly realize that I have stained the coppery image with the oil of my fingers.

Cannibal Actif(2017), co-created by artist Rochelle Goldberg and editors Frances Perkins and Katherine Pickard, is an artist book centred around an intricate reflection on materiality. It was published on the occasion of Goldberg’s exhibition at the Miguel Abreu Gallery in New York in 2017. The Vancouver-born artist’s oeuvre is composed mostly of sculptures and installations thought of as intra-actions — thresholds — that explore the materiality of blurred spaces where living and non-living entities meet.

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Sinks and Spills: The Containment and Entanglements of Matter-Bodies in Frédéric-Back Park

Philippe Vandal
Landfills are human and non-human assemblages, situated between territorial and cultural politics. Their material characteristics are multidirectional: horizontal in terms of their spatial orientation on land; vertical in terms of their accumulated waste and layered bacterial processes. They are contained and controlled by physical and chemical constraints, yet their transformations are highly unpredictable. They leak metabolized matter that has been turned into hazardous liquids and volatile toxic compounds through bacterial processes. They cause multispecies health issues and impact real estate development and local economies. Yet, they lurk throughout urban environments. Montréal hides many of them, with a few rehabilitated as green spaces. Parks such as Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Rosemont, Père Marquette, Baldwin, Pelican, the Montréal Botanical Garden, and many others are former sites of accumulated waste. The newest is the Saint-Michel Environmental Complex, also known as Frédéric-Back Park.

Frédéric-Back Park sits on the former Miron Quarry, which was filled with garbage accumulated from the early 1960s to the mid-1990s. The park is the result of historical protests against, and political responses to, the noise and hazardous waste that caused the community’s quality of life to deteriorate. Officially open to the public since the summer of 2017, the park embodies the counterimage of its subterranean infrastructure: a 192-hectare curated landscape designed by the Lemay architectural firm, with trails blazing through different ecosystems, sustainable buildings, and cultural centres. Biogas wells, dispersed throughout the landscape, aggregate toxic bacterial anaerobic fumes and redirect their flow to an on-site electric generator and geothermal facility. The spherical design of their architectural enclosures, a collaboration between Lemay and Morelli Designers, conceals the pipes from the public and creates a “new landscape’s feeling of otherworldliness” while adapting to soil movement.1 1 - Lemay, “Frederic-Back Park Landfill Rehabilitation: LEMAY — Architecture and Design” LEMAY, 1 July 2020. https://lemay.com/fr/projets/parc-frederic-back This “new” landscape’s “otherworldliness” is othering, resonating with Hortense Spillers’ associating the colonial Other with the alien figure2 2 - Hortense J. Spillers, “The Idea of Black Culture,” CR: The New Centennial Review 6, no. 3 (2006): 7-28., and simultaneously acting as a “material enactment of forgetting.”3 3 - Myra J. Hird, “Waste, Landfills, and an Environmental Ethic of Vulnerability,” Ethics and the Environment 18, no. 1 (2013): 106.This With forty million tons of garbage under its green and sustainable infrastructure, the Frédéric-Back Park embodies an ambiguous sight. Environmental gentrification, or “the process whereby the seemingly progressive discourse of urban sustainability is used to drive up property values and displace low-income residents4 4 - Miriam Greenberg and Susie Smith, “Environmental Gentrification,” Critical Sustainabilities, https://critical-sustainabilities.ucsc.edu/environmental-gentrification/“, plays out through the absence-presence of highly designed environments and the dissimulation of unwanted matter-bodies.

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The Sketch Artist: Interview with François Morelli

jake moore
Like many of his generation who developed alongside the materially fluid trajectory of Conceptual Art and related movements such as Fluxus, Québec-based artist François Morelli’s projects have grown into events and situations, but he has maintained a connection to the physical act of drawing that is beyond the preparatory or the requisite speculative action for other works. Exceeding the mere commodity that the market so often demands to build a currency for performance-based or social practices, the marks Morelli makes are in parallel to his performance works and performative of the same conceptual content of presence and contact between people and things. They sharpen focus on how we weigh our response ability and intertwine it with responsibility.

Morelli came forward at a time when tenure-track teaching and conceptual practices held new currency within the academy. After part-time precarity in New York, New Jersey, and Québec, he arrived at Concordia University in Montréal, his hometown. Unlike so many artist-professors, teaching for Morelli is not a necessary exchange for the time and money that artistic development requires; his teaching is of his practice. This holistic ecology of making-thinking and thinking-making brushes up against the neoliberal framework of “research-creation,” in which predetermined outcomes and equivalency between art and science are sought in ways that often undermine the truly creative and generative potential of each.1 1 - Although I have used the term “making-thinking” for some time, I wish to acknowledge the proximity of an interdisciplinary and pedagogical project, The School of Making Thinking, co-founded by Aaron Finbloom, Matheson Westlake, and Abraham Avnisan. In some ways, their project aligns with Morelli’s conflation of art, thought, and life, though they are not personally connected in any way. See http://www.theschoolofmakingthinking.com. Instead, his hybrid art practice of drawing, rubber-stamping, stitching, grommeting, gathering, cleaning, cooking, walking, measuring, teaching, talking, adding, and subtracting is more aligned with Chus Martinez’s analysis of art as knowledgeable instead of producing knowledge, a perspective she elegantly put forward in her book Club Univers:… the fashionable phrase “art is the production of knowledge” hides a truth — though hardly the causal and productivist one that is implied. Art bears a strong relation to knowledge because thinking takes place in art, in the interstices of visibility and discourse. But this is different from being a site where arguments are produced, proof is developed, and conclusive evidence is given. Thinking makes seeing and speaking reach their limits.Morelli entre en scène à une époque où les postes permanents en enseignement et les pratiques conceptuelles commencent à se développer au sein du milieu. Après une période de précarité d’emploi à New York, au New Jersey et au Québec, il débarque à l’Université Concordia, à Montréal, d’où il est d’ailleurs originaire. Contrairement à tant d’artistes-professeurs, Morelli ne voit pas l’enseignement comme un mal nécessaire pour avoir accès au temps et à l’argent essentiels au développement artistique. L’enseignement fait partie intégrante de sa pratique. Cette écologie holistique du créer-penser et du penser-créer flirte avec la « recherche-création », cadre de travail néolibéral qui favorise des résultats prévisibles et une équivalence entre science et art qui, souvent, mine les perspectives véritablement créatives et génératrices de l’une comme de [NOTE count=3]l’autre2 2 - J’utilise le concept de créer-penser depuis un certain temps, mais je tiens à souligner la proximité d’un projet interdisciplinaire et pédagogique, The School of Making Thinking, cofondé par Abraham Avnisan, Aaron Finbloom et Matheson Westlake. Bien qu’il n’y ait pas de rapport entre Morelli et eux, d’une certaine façon, leur projet cadre avec l’amalgame que l’artiste-enseignant fait entre l’art, la pensée et la vie. Voir <www.theschoolofmakingthinking.com>.. En lieu et place, la pratique artistique hybride de Morelli, où se mêlent le dessin, l’estampe, la couture, le rivetage, l’amalgame, le nettoyage, la cuisine, la marche, la mesure, l’enseignement, la conversation, l’addition et la soustraction, se rapproche plutôt de la vision de l’art de Chus Martínez, pour qui l’art est détenteur plutôt que producteur de savoir, notion qu’elle expose en toute élégance dans son ouvrage intitulé Club Univers : « […] l’affirmation à la mode selon laquelle “l’art est la production de savoir” dissimule une vérité – mais pas celle, causale et productiviste, qui est sous-entendue. L’art entretient des liens solides avec le savoir parce qu’une réflexion est à l’œuvre dans l’art, dans les interstices de la visibilité et du discours. Mais il ne s’agit pas d’un espace d’où émaneraient des arguments, s’élaboreraient des preuves et jailliraient des données probantes. Réfléchir pousse à leur limite le voir et le parler4 3 - Chus Martinez, Club Univers (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2016), 33.. »

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Bonnie Camplin
The Eight Pieces

Emily LaBarge
Camden Arts Centre, London, September 30, 2016 — January 15, 2017
Camden Arts Centre, London, September 30, 2016 — January 15, 2017

“Philosophers have not hesitated to identify the real and the rational,” writes Roger Caillois, in his 1970 book, The Writing of Stones. “I am persuaded that a different bold step would lead to discover the grid of basic analogies and hidden connections that constitute the logic of the imaginary.” Caillois’ book is a meditation on his vast collection of stones, chosen for their imaginative properties: agate resembles an early morning sun through the clouds, another appears as a landscape of Tuscan ruins, and yet another, “le petit fantôme,” a ghost gleaming out of the dark.

To uncover the logic of the imaginary, to apprehend that which lurks just beneath the surface of the visible, to investigate the interstices embedded within the normative everyday — these ambitious and ephemeral aims are central to Bonnie Camplin’s wide-ranging practice. An intriguing, if at times gnomic, exhibition of new work at Camden Arts Centre reveals a new avenue of the artist’s persistent interest in the nature of consciousness and the means by which we perceive the world, including the “psychic relations” that underpin our connections to other people, environments, and non-human entities. What tools might we use, Camplin asks, to cognitively and creatively excise ourselves from the morass of “consensus reality” to experience alternative coordinates of truth that exist outside of the Enlightenment model confines of body and mind as bounded and discrete?

89_CR08_LaBarge_Bonnie-Camplin_The Eight Pieces89_CR07_LaBarge_Bonnie-Camplin_The Eight Pieces2
Bonnie Camplin
The Eight Pieces, installation views, Camden Arts Centre, London, 2016-2017.
Photo : Mark Blower

The information presented in The Eight Pieces, we are told, was “transmitted to and downloaded” by Camplin through psychic communication. What the information is and how this process occurred, remains ambiguous in the series of schematic drawings: simple black figures and shapes on white board backgrounds, which lie on the floor or lean propped against the walls in austere groupings. A larger than life-size outline of a gender-neutral human figure, bald and faceless, holds a bubble-lettered “is” in its palm, other hand on hip, body tilted to the side; five cat heads, each tethered by a snaking line attached to a node in the centre of its forehead, float in a circle around a central point; tripartite arrangements of circles within circles within circles, on a circular segment of white board, recall Venn diagrams, geometry formulas, or probability models. Two small ink drawings gesture at other elements of Camplin’s wider practice, which often involves large-scale, sensitively rendered drawings that evoke mysterious narratives through their peculiar arrangement of figures and arcane aesthetic symbols.

In a video that accompanies the exhibition, Camplin ­states, “When I’m drawing, I’m accessing information remote in space-time. I’m decoding and objectifying information.” The Eight Pieces borrows the didactic language of infographics and instructive illustration only to render its simplicity indecipherable — a deliberate, sleight-of-hand occlusion that highlights the hopeful folly of semantic technology and schematic devices. To create is not simply to convey information, but to provide productive elisions within which the individual mind perceives the pure pleasure of de-instrumentalized experience and idiosyncratic meditation, the happy embrace of not knowing, but of reaching for the logic of the imaginary.

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This article also appears in the issue 89 – Library - Library
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In her exploration of reality, Sarah Anne Johnson amplifies and shifts the documentary effects of photography by interfering in the medium. She integrates into her images a variety of artifices, using techniques ranging from diorama to Photoshop and painting, thus adding to the initial pictures a long process of re-creation of their content. Like alterations of the pure image, the artist’s manual work somehow critiques the utopia of objective information. She works at the intersection of reality and perception. In this sense, she does not limit landscape to its material composition but integrates emotional and physical aspects as well. Her manipulations evoke the sensitive node that acts under the surface of the image; they also articulate the relational issues, complex and invisible, between humans and their environments and communities.

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This article also appears in the issue 88 – Landscape - Landscape
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Engaging with Vegetable Others

Amanda White
The central question in Jane Bennett’s book Vibrant Matter is, “How would the political responses to public problems change were we to take seriously the vitality of non-human bodies?”1 1 - Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), viii.

For Bennett, among others, the non-human is not just animal but what Bruno Latour describes as “actants”: all “things” that have the capacity to act as agents or forces with their own trajectories and tendencies.2 2 - Ibid. Bennett refers to Latour’s theory from his book The Politics of Nature (2004). This question stems from the larger — and admittedly complicated — project of decentring the human in the current anthropocentric era. To this end, the lowly plant is, both physically and conceptually, an excellent model and point of departure for exercising this decentralizing impulse.

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Ron Benner
Your Disease Our Delicacy (Cuitlacoche), Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, 2012–2016.
Photo : © Ron Benner

Our relationship with plant life is fundamental, and yet so are our differences. From the human position, understanding or relating to plant being, both as a distinct kingdom of life and as singular organisms, seems like an impossible task. Although individual plant bodies are decentralized, without a central node or “brain” as we understand it, plant communities are equally without human equivalent. In his book Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life, Michael Marder contends that plants are “capable, in their own fashion of accessing, influencing and being influenced by a world that does not overlap the human but that corresponds to the vegetal modes of dwelling in and on the earth.” 3 3 - Michael Marder, Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 8. Until recently, plants were often rendered invisible or secondary in our cultural imaginings, and were used as a background against which to explore human or animal concerns, a phenomenon known as plant blindness. By contrast, the recent “plant turn,” which is described by anthropologist Natasha Myers as a “swerve in attention to the fascinating lives of plants among philosophers, anthropologists, and popular science writers,” 4 4 - Natasha Myers, “Conversations on Plant Sensing: Notes from the Field,” NatureCulture 03 (2015): 35 — 66, http://natureculture.sakura.ne.jp/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/PDF-natureculture-03-03-conversations-on-plant-sensing.pdf. involves just such a shift away from the human-centred or animal world and toward a consideration of plant actants. This interest in looking at plants across a range of disciplines intersects with various ideas, such as plant being, thinking, and sensing. Many contemporary visual artists also seek to intervene in, and comment on, the connection between people and plants. Even if a project involving living plants is conceptualized as a metaphor for human issues, the material alone may speak to this cross-species connection. If a work is grown, not made, it requires the participation of plants in order to exist and necessarily brings them to the foreground, involving a measure of intersubjectivity between the artist, the viewer, and the plants that should be acknowledged as part of the piece.

Weinberger_Wild-Cube
Lois Weinberger
Wild Cube, Ruderal Enclosure – a Poetic Fieldwork, Innsbruck, 1991/1999.
Photo : Gerbert Weinberger, courtesy of the artist

Artistic production involving living things presents many limitations and challenges; in the case of plants, the work relies on their participation to varying degrees by requiring their presence or growth. Additionally, there is a loss of control inherent in the inclusion of living organisms in such a process, rendering the outcomes unpredictable. There are also ethical challenges; just as any community-based or socially engaged practice must consider ethical questions around its participants, so to must the participants be considered when the community includes non-human others.

In the 1982 Documenta 7 exhibition, German artist Joseph Beuys initiated the participatory project 7000 Oaks — City Forestation Instead of City Administration,in which seven thousand oak trees were planted across the city of Kassel, Germany, by Beuys and a multitude of volunteers. Over forty years later, this piece is still developing, as it takes sixty to eighty years for an oak tree to mature. Here, the work is produced on the time scale of plants rather than humans, as “the work lives and breathes with generations of people as they pass through life.” 5 5 -  Ackroyd & Harvey, “Beuys’ Acorns,” Antennae 17 (2011): 63. Beuys intended for this work to function as a “social sculpture,” a term that he developed to describe a way of working in the social realm with the objective of transforming society. 7000 Oaks does have real, lasting effects on the community that it occupies by engaging with the interconnectedness of plants and humans in the urban ecology, transforming the biology and the design of the city space around the inclusion of these trees. Beuys’s concept of the social sculpture is acknowledged by many to be one of the precursors to the current social turn in contemporary art practices; the proliferation of artworks characterized by an emphasis on intersubjectivity, collectivity, and social interaction; and a motivation to “channel art’s symbolic capital towards constructive social change.” 6 6 - Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (London: Verso, 2012), 12. In works such as 7000 Oaks, ecological concerns merge with social art practice, and the projects of decentralizing the artist and decentralizing the human are drawn together and converge.

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Lois Weinberger
Wild Cube, Ruderal Enclosure – a Poetic Fieldwork, Innsbruck, 1991/1999.
Photo : Gerbert Weinberger, courtesy of the artist

Participatory works in which the viewer physically engages with plants may work toward these forms of social change, and they may allow a deeper understanding of plant biological processes, which are nothing like our own. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of new media artists using various technologies toward these ends, such as using imaging technologies or biometric sensors to capture and visualize plant bio-data and act as translators. The collaborative interactive work Akousmaflore (2007), by France-based artists Grégory Lasserre & Anaïs met den Ancxt, is such a translation. Exhibited as a grid hanging from above, the plants in Akousmaflore create a symphony of sounds in reaction to human touch and proximity — a sonification of the electrostatic energy between humans and plants. Botanicalls, an ongoing project developed jointly by Rob Faludi, Kate Hartman, and Kati London in 2006, is another work involving translation through technology. Using moisture sensors and microcontrollers, Botanicalls enables plant individuals to send text messages, phone calls, or social media updates to let their human care­givers know when they need water.

Many theorists have suggested that visual differences, such as the absence of observable movement, are the most salient barriers to dismissal of culturally constructed distinctions of intelligence between plant and animal life.7 7 - Gunalan Nadarajan, “Phytodynamics and Plant Difference,” Leonardo Electronic Almanac 11, no. 10 (2003), accessed October 24, 2013, http://www.leoalmanac.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/LEA-v11-n10.pdf; Michael Pollan, “The Intelligent Plant,” The New Yorker, December 23, 2013, 92 — 105. Projects such as Akousmaflore and Botanicalls make the invisible biological processes of plants apparent and relatable by expressing animal-like qualities such as movement or sound, which we can understand and connect to.

87_DO02_White_Scenocosme_Akousmaflore, Bòlit
Scenocosme : Grégory Lasserre & Anaïs met den Ancxt
Akousmaflore, Bòlit, Centre d’Art Contemporani, Gérone, 2011.
Photo : courtesy of the artist

To fully appreciate our anthropocentric worldview would be impossible; however, we can become more sympathetic by examining our interactions with other species more closely and attempting to relate. The Plant-Sex Consultancy, developed by Pei-Ying Lin, Dimitris Stamatis, Jasmina Weiss, and Špela Petrič in 2014, demonstrates an effort at this kind of relatability. The consultancy attempts to create an awareness of the reproductive needs of plants by proposing augmentations to supplement or enhance them. Each of the consultancy’s hypothetical products is developed with the needs of a specific plant species, or “client,” in mind. For example, a cyclamen flower that has relied solely on the frequency of vibrations emitted during visits by a now-extinct species of bee for pollination is fitted with a perfectly tuned vibrating apparatus, allowing it to release pollen onto other insects. The artists note that the anthropomorphism of the Plant Sex Consultancy is intentional; rather than being actual design solutions, the works function as critical tools aiming to respect and consider plant others.8 8 - Pei-Ying Lin, Dimitris Stamatis, Jasmina Weiss, and Špela Petricˇ, “Designing for the Non-Human Other,” accessed February 6, 2016, http://psx-consultancy.com/booklet/psx_consultancy.pdf. By creating a vegetal analogue for sex toys, the work emphasizes the common experience of reproductive sex across species.

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Pei-Ying Lin, Dimitris Stamatis, Jasmina Weiss & Špela Petrič
PSX Consultancy sex toy concept, 2014.
Photo : Pei-Ying Lin & Dimitris Stamatis,
© Pei-Ying Lin, Dimitris Stamatis, Jasmina Weiss & Špela Petrič
87_DO02_White_Pei-Ying Lin_PSX Consultancy,
Pei-Ying Lin, Dimitris Stamatis, Jasmina Weiss & Špela Petrič
PSX Consultancy,
installation view, BIO50, MAO, Ljubljana, 2014.
Photo : Pei-Ying Lin, © Pei-Ying Lin, Dimitris Stamatis, Jasmina Weiss & Špela Petrič

Our relationship with eating is another point of departure for this exercise in relating to the vegetal. Michael Marder suggests that how we eat — by dominating and devouring entire beings — is particularly symptomatic of our human-centred worldview. By contrast, for plants, eating is “a sort of receptivity, a channeling of the other, rather than an endeavor to swallow up its very otherness.” 9 9 - Michael Marder, “Is It Ethical to Eat Plants?,” Parallax 19, no. 1 (2013): 33. Marder considers the experience of eating like a plant, absorbing nourishment from the environment rather than consuming whole bodies. Diane Borsato similarly considered this notion in her performance work How to Eat Light (2003), in which she sat alone with a community of plants for the duration of their day, from dawn to dusk, attempting to learn from them. Her performance expresses both a desire to communicate with plants and the impossibility of understanding the lived experience of other species, acknowledging a potential wisdom and ability beyond our own.

Before eating even occurs, there is the production of food, which is arguably the most fraught relationship between humans and plants. It is here that the messy politics of domestication, colonization, and genetic manipulation come into play. Canadian artist Ron Benner works with domesticated, captive plants, creating gardens in which he purposely cultivates select species in order to comment on the relationships between humans and their agricultural plant subjects. In a recent garden installation outside of the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery in Toronto, Your Disease Our Delicacy (cuitlacoche) (2012 – 15), images, texts, and plant life are combined in a garden that examines the locations and politics of both indigenous and introduced cultivated species. In this work, the focus is a fungal growth on corn that is considered a delicacy to some and a disease to others. Like much of Benner’s practice, this piece looks beyond the static position of plants as rooted in the soil and considers their participation in mobile aspects of human culture such as global capitalism and the legacy of colonialism, unearthing what our various geographies, histories, and migrations may reveal about our shared experiences with plants.

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Lois Weinberger
Burning and Walking, documenta X, Kassel, 1997.
Photo : Werner Maschmann, courtesy of the artist

Austrian artist Lois Weinberger’s work, on the other hand, represents a disruption in this narrative of subjugation, pointing to the collective political potential and power of the plant body. Referring to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the rhizome, Weinberger connects this concept to the way in which ruderal plants (what many would describe as common weeds) grow, migrate, and proliferate as a metaphor for human communities and forms of resistance against hierarchical systems. Weinberger’s “vegetable subversives” are the ever-present underclass of the plant-world, “the ‘multitude’ constantly threatening to rise up and disrupt the orderly regime of the city.” 10 10 - Tom Trevor, “The Three Ecologies,” in Lois Weinberger, ed. Philippe Van Cauteren (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2013), 217. In Weinberger’s public, site-specific installations, ruderals are provided with opportunities to take over spaces. An intervention in Salzburg in 1993 — which has since been re-enacted in other cities — titled Burning and Walking, involves breaking up the asphalt in a section of public space and revealing the earth underneath. No planting takes place. However, by opening up potential living spaces for these contested species, Weinberger facilitates their growth, relying on the will of plants themselves to arrive and complete the work, proving their ever-present and opportunistic nature. In the related series Wild Cube (1991/2011), Weinberger creates plant enclosures, “inverted” cages constructed to keep humans out rather than to keep plants in, placed over areas of exposed earth in public city spaces. The cubes are installed and then left to be repopulated by “plants who arrive by wind, birds or seeds already living in the earth.” 11 11 -  Lois Weinberger, artist’s website, accessed June 23, 2015, http://www.loisweinberger.net/. Like Beuys’s 7000 Oaks, this work is decades in the making, relying on the timeline of plant lives to be fully realized. Whereas Benner’s plants are captives, Weinberger’s enact resistance to captivity, illustrating the tenuous superior position we hold over them.[consulté le 23 juin 2015]. [Trad. libre][/REF] ». À l’instar des 7000 chênes de Beuys, l’œuvre évoluera pendant des dizaines d’années et son achèvement sera tributaire du cycle vital des végétaux. Alors que les plantes de Benner sont captives, celles de Weinberger résistent à l’emprisonnement, illustrant la fragilité de la domination que nous exerçons sur le monde végétal.

Artists who engage with plant actants through social, collaborative, and participatory practices present us with various imaginings of plant being and alternatives to human-centred approaches by relying on the intersubjectivity of human-plant exchanges to realize their works. These projects and practices attempt to produce real relationships or effects by engaging directly with plant life, through interventions on the existing relationships between human and plant populations.

This article also appears in the issue 87 – The Living - The Living
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Architecture of Network vs. Geometry of Separation

Lina Malfona
Although the mechanisms of intense global connections appear to be prevailing over both solid physical boundaries — such as the Great Wall of China and the Green Line in Cyprus — and virtual limits — such as ideological barriers posed by censorship, religion, and xenophobia — the world’s geography still appears to have deep divisions. In other words, to use stronger imagery, the globe is still marked by deep cracks, just like Alberto Burri’s famous land art work in Gibellina, Sicily, known as Cretto.1 1 - Cretto means fissured and arid land, in reference to the artist’s land art work created as a memorial to the Italian city of Gibellina, which was destroyed by an earthquake.

In the era of the extra-spatial and extra-temporal pervasiveness of the World Wide Web, we are still witnessing conflict between two world models: one based on the concept of the wall, intended as a device producing fragmentation, ghettoization, and division; and one based on the concept of the network, in reference to the development of a new kind of virtual space based on connection and space-time continuity. Therefore, on the one hand the world map is marked by deep lines of separation — physical boundaries, frontiers, walls, and so on. On the other hand, the world appears as a network of connected places in which the city has lost its role of accumulator. As a matter of fact, the demands of competitiveness and efficiency, combined with the logic of entrepreneurialism, make cities as if they are corporations in order to attract investments, while the need to occupy large areas requires enterprises to locate outside the city centre. Therefore cities are splitting into different clusters — each one with a specific activity — and public space is being concentrated in large arenas, wellness centres, and huge spaces for meetings, expositions, and fairs, following a model of physical isolation and virtual connection. Furthermore, a different kind of space is destined for social relations — the post-public space,2 2 - See Daniel Van der Velden, Katja Gretzinger, Matthijs Van Leeuwen, Matteo Poli, and Gon Zifroni, “Hybridity of the Post-Public Space,” Open 11 (2006): 112 — 23. in which the power of the Internet is concentrated. Post-public space is made up of private hubs of technological power, techno poles, headquarters of Internet giants, universities, and research centres where inventors live and work. This network can be visualized on a map that puts the above-mentioned hubs in relation to the air routes that connect them. Physical, political, ideological, and architectural borders — intended as places where conflict is materialized — act as a counterpart to this map by creating a sort of diagram of the world that shows places of exclusion. According to this perspective, the squares where clashes happen can also be considered to be points on the map.

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This article also appears in the issue 86 – Geopolitics - Géopolitique
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The Surveillance Economy: Toward a Geopolitics of Personalization

Emily Rosamond
On May 20, 2013, Booz Allen Hamilton infrastructure analyst Edward Snowden, having taken a leave of absence from his work, quietly fled from Hawaii to Hong Kong. Shortly afterward, stories about the classified documents that he had leaked, which revealed the enormous extent of the National Security Agency’s global surveillance program, rippled across the world. By tracking phone metadata and online activity, the NSA was enacting the ambition to collect all personal communications: email content, telephone metadata, online searches, and other information trails.

In doing so, it conceptualized, and put into practice, a pervasive link between two vastly different geopolitical sites. On the one hand, there was the citizen’s mind: abstractly, yet minutely, conceived as a node of viewpoints, data, and tendencies co-producing ever-shifting networks and moving through space. On the other hand, there was the data repository (notably, the Utah Data Center): a storage site for sleeper dossiers filled with personal information, which could be called upon if an individual came to be “of interest” in the future.

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