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. In the earliest versions of this evolving workshop, Secretome-explorers were invited into a collective foray: tracing moving bodies seen and unseen in the local landscape, we followed a mysterious “treasure map” made by microscopic Bacillus, cultured from the muzzle tongue of beloved spotted donkey companion named Aliass. Over time the workshop has evolved to meet new kinds of microbial interlocutors in all kinds of different places: forests and fields, watersheds and shifting oceanic shores. Stay tuned for more. . . .

Home is where the unknown is. Welcome to the Secretome.

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

Welcome to the Secretome 2021, with kids from Muddy Creek Charter School and Jaguar/Kathryn Harrison Elementary School, March – May 2021