You will seldom see the nest of an oriole, or a pair of pileated woodpeckers flying low, unless you are extremely diligent and know just what to look for. Even then, such spectacles are rare gifts, phenomena mostly hidden by mazes of branches and brambles, found only by muddy paths, or by none at all.
Katie Schofield’s sculptures work like this; they light up one’s natural sense of wonder as we come upon them unexpectedly, in the woods or a field, or hidden high in the barn eaves. Silent and unassuming but undeniably present–like the uncanny awareness that something might be looking at you as you are looking–Schofield’s cocoons and nests and fungally growths make openings for the wonder that comes when we rediscover the constant colorful weavings of the world we don’t usually pay attention to. In other words, we get to see what is usually hidden, right around us always but mostly beyond our habitual attention. Such revelations of the world’s elegant complexity are as humbling as they are wondersome.
Schofield’s materials are the ordinary detritus of modern rural life: synthetic baling twine and shopping bags, cast-off feed sacks and plastic silage tarping. Into the sites where these materials are used and then disused, she imagines new forms for them, performing an imaginative integration whereby she weaves plastics and other inorganic materials into organically resonant forms. These forms remind us again of the surrounding world and its wonders that we might otherwise forget to admire.
The Picnic itself was a hybrid installation/table conversation designed to encourage rumination on questions about who and how we eat, and how and by whom we are eaten, to name a few mouth-watering topics of discussion. The core picnic chefs/servers were yours truly R.A.W., Baker and Couiffeuse of Gnarly Cupcakes; Eben Kirksey, Master of Trophallaxis; and Deanna Pindell, Coy Leopardess and Shepherd (yes, both) of Tough Questions of Interspecies Ethics and Aesthetics.
The table setting for the Multispecies Picnic featured gorgeous placemats made by Deanna, each illuminating important questions in discourses about interspecies relations. The placemats featured questions to chew on through the lunchtime gathering, such as: “What happens to an oral culture if it loses its voice?” and, in regards to the pine beetle in the boreal forest, “Pestilence, scapegoat, or necessary part of a larger-than-human cycle?”
Multispecies Picnic-goers also had the opportunity to sample Lindsay Kelley’s Plumpinon, tearing with teeth into one of the bright-colored, recycled plastic bags that contain Kelley’s latest Starvation Seeds recipe. Plumpinon is a nut paste in which the artist employs the traditional “starvation nut” of her native New Mexico as a means to interrogate Nutriset’s patented humanitarian aid food, Plumpy’nut. Many who tasted the Plumpinon were pleasantly surprised to discover that an erudite and thought-provoking microbiopolitical intervention could taste so damn good.
The Picnic buffet table also featured a display of disturbing cupcakes provided by the Rural Alchemy Workshop. These cupcakes were watched over, as if guarded or maybe heralded, by the skull of a sow bearing the remains of a strange experimental implant. We know this much: this sow in her lifetime was involved in an experimental study that measured metabolic responses of the porcine body to various chemicals injected directly into her brain tissue through the implant. The ultimate goal of this experiment (in the context of funded animal-science research at a major American university) was to figure out ways to get the pigs fatter, faster and on less feed. Cheap pork for everybody, down at the local Piggly Wiggly.
How the skull came into the possession of of the R.A.W., along with her relation to the cupcakes she accompanied, are details that will have to wait for another day. A sunnier one, when a person is less chilled, less prone to faintheartedness, better able to buck up and face the implications of being an eater, a consumer, and an animal husband in 21st-century global technocracy.
The Big Ass Family Roadtrip rolled the R.A.W. et al out of Carnesville on September 12, heading West for our destination of Orland: greener pastures and goldblack buttes in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California. We howled across the borders of nine American states in the old red Dodge–mountains and plains and deserts–with four asses, two dogs, two humans, and one cat. We arrived miraculously at the new farmstead, site-unseen, after seven days on the road. Now the Rural Alchemy Workshop begins the task of exploring our new environs – the rough magic of a whole new rural environment. Stay tuned.
Along with a range of other artworks that explore interspecies intimacies, Landscape and Mammary is presently featured in the AASG Online Gallery. This gallery highlights contributions of the fine arts to contemporary animal studies discourses.
This gallery is an outgrowth of the upcoming 4th Biennial Australian Animal Studies Group Conference (July 2011 in Brisbane, Australia): Animals, People – a Shared Environment. According to the organizers, “This conference will bring together animal theorists and scientists from a broad range of academic disciplines with representatives from nongovernment organisations, government officials from several nations and representatives from industry, to examine the interrelationships between human and nonhuman animals from cultural, historical, geographical, environmental, representational, moral, legal and political perspectives.”
The Multispecies Salon presents:
Thursday, February 10th, 12:30-1:30 pm ~ free and open to the public
CUNY Graduate Center, Room 5307
365 Fifth Ave (in between 34th & 35th Street), New York, NY 10016
Sponsored by the Mellon Science Studies Committee
Featuring art and artifacts from the Pretty Goat Guerrilla Dairy in New Orleans as well as “Transfers” by Caitlin Berrigan—a video installation depicting two performers transferring one full pitcher of milk through the interface of their mouths, to fill an empty pitcher. Come for conversation with artists and intellectuals on the subject of raw milk. Cheeses, soap, and milk in a liquid form will be on offer. There will be three presentations:
R.A.W. Assmilk Soap, Karin Bolender (Rural Alchemy Workshop)
Human Cheese, Miriam Simun (New York University)
“Policing People and Microbes: Raw Milk Economies in Post-Socialist Europe”, Diana Mincyte (Yale University)
For more information:
Eben Kirksey, email@example.com, +1.212.817.709
As artists, academics, and significant others come together to break bread in this multispecies meal we will interrogate ideas about Edible Companions—one of three themes at play in the Multispecies Salon, an art exhibit that has traveled to San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York City. We will eat creatures that Donna Haraway calls companion species. Companion comes from the Latin cum panis, with bread, Haraway writes. Companion species include such organic beings as rice, bees, tulips, and intestinal flora, all of whom make life for humans what it is, and vice versa. Our table will be spread with offerings from organisms that are not just good to think with (as Lévi-Strauss had it), or more instrumentally, good to eat (as Marvin Harris countered), but also entities, and agents, that are good to live with (as Donna Haraway maintains).