Welcome to the Secretome

Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.A.W.) invites us all to spend some time with ghostly, wild, and often underappreciated friends: wily, old-time microbial allies who play significant (if invisible) roles in every ecology–essential but unseen, often feared or even scorned. . . .


Welcome to the Secretome is a site-specific, performative, participatory workshop that playfully seeks hidden “treasures” and untold stories in dirty, microbilicious meetings and exchanges across different bodies-in-places. Welcome to the Secretome first developed in 2017, in association with The Arts Center and Oregon State University’s Microbiology Department collaboration, Microbiomes: To See the Unseen in Corvallis, Oregon. The first workshop was presented with Emily Stone in the barnyard of the R.A.W. in Philomath, Oregon. The workshop has been adapted for a number of other places, including a farm in Trondheim, Norway, a former maritime military-fort-cum-arts-hub and wild deer haven in Washington, and the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, as part of the wonderful SEEDBED Soil Symposium hosted by E.A.R.T.H. Lab in 2018.

As Rook’s “Old Friends Hypothesis” suggests, beneficial microbial meshes may have coevolved in guts, muzzles, and skin-folds across early domestic-wild multispecies herds. For this workshop, Karin Bolender (K-Haw) Hart leads secretome-explorers in a collective foray: tracing moving bodies seen and unseen in the local landscape, we’ll follow a mysterious “treasure map” made by microscopic Bacillus, cultured from the muzzle tongue of beloved spotted donkey companion named Aliass.

Images from various Welcome to the Secretome workshops (with more documentation to come):