Let’s start this off with the old R.A.W. questions:
Who lives here?
What are you looking for?
Where do you go now?
Is it a place, or a way of life? And what is on the other side?
These seemingly-simple questions have guided the wanderings, experiments, and assemblages of the Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.A.W.) for many years, ever since they grew up from the trashy, thistle-grown pastures of a derelict farmstead in the Valley of Dooms, Virginia, where me and the herd tried our darnedest to make a peaceful-ass and lasting home. In this, that, and every place we’ve grazed and gamboled since, the R.A.W. questions rise up fresh, always opening new paths of investigation into unfamiliar territories.
Knowing a place is always a question of scale. And it turns out that some of the mostly deeply unknown territories we find ourselves in are those we find in the places we call home. When we begin to look past the largest-looming familiar forms, step off the well-trodden paths, questions of who and what and where become wholly new and wild. Even our own bodies are inextricable meshes of biological becomings-with we swim in, themselves housing hosts of unknown others we don’t see or feel or otherwise acknowledge. But here they are, all the time: myriad who, every one with a what and where of its own.
Home is where the unknown is. This is where the journey begins.
Welcome to the Secretome.
Curated by Eben Kirksey, Grace Glovier, Cody Kohn, Kayli Marshall, Greg Umali, and Alexandra Palocz
February 29th – March 31st
Butler College, Studio ’34 Cafe
Emergent ecologies are being fastened into place with new rivets and cyborg articulations. Amidst collapsing systems, unruly assemblages are flourishing and proliferating in unexpected places. This exhibit is an outgrowth of the Freshman Seminar, “Environmental Art: Thinking, Making, Dreaming.” Alongside work by established international ecoartists, bioartists, sculptors, and performers we will exhibit work by “wild artists”—students and others in the Princeton community who do not have recognizable art credentials. We are pushing Joseph Beuys’ famous decree—“You are all artists”—beyond human realms to include microbes, insects, and plants.
This reception in the Studio ‘34 Café at Butler College follows a special event in the same space: “Hope in an Era of Extinction,” featuring a talk by Cary Wolfe (Rice) starting 4:30, and a panel discussion with Kevin Esvelt (MIT), Beth Shapiro (UC Santa Cruz), James Hatley (Salisbury), Genese Sodikoff (Rutgers), Ashley Dawson (City University of New York), Maria Whiteman (Rice), Rafi Youatt (New School), David Wilcove (Princeton), and Graham Burnett (Princeton).
Rather than be a static exhibit, which will stay the same from the opening and closing dates, our project will involve playing with the “hap” of what happens. We will be conducting experiments with happiness and glass, breaking down boundaries (and constructing new ones) to see what ecological communities might emerge.
– an assembly across species lines
November 6-8, 2015 at Dome of Visions in Copenhagen, Denmark
Featuring artworks by:
Lisbeth Bank(DK)/ Honey Biba Beckerlee (DK)/ Laura Beloff (FN)/ Adam Bencard (DK)/ Karin Bolender (US)/ Beatriz da Costa (BR)/ Elisabeth Friis (DK)/ Fugt (DK) / Fran Gallardo (SP / UK)/ Tue Greenfort (DK)/ Donna Haraway (US)/ Johannes Heldén (SE)/ Kathy High (US)/ Marie Højlund & Morten Riis (DK)/ Natalie Jeremijenko (AU)/ Eduardo Kac (BR / US)/ Rosemary Lee (US)/Ny Jord (DK) / Anna Maria Orru (SE / IT)/ Angela Rawlings (CAN / IS)/ Asbjørn Skou (DK)/ Morten Søndergaard (DK)
The sensitive plant Mimosa Pudica summons experiences of transspecies interdependence in sensory exchanges between humans and flora. A rapidly growing – and potentially hostile – mould calls attention to the fact that we share our homes, our surroundings and even our bodies with a myriad of livings beings, all presenting us with different ways of inhabiting this world. An intimate portrait of cancer in the junction between human bodies and the bodies of laboratory mice investigates knots and obligations across species lines in questions of life and death.
The assembly TRANSSPECIES is full of bastards, hybrids and swarms of interspecies connections. TRANSSPECIES presents art works and thoughts from the vantage of current environmental crisis and the so called ‚anthropocene‘ geological age that challenge the identity and reality of the Western (hu)man. The acuteness of the need to invent new and radically different relations with the innumerable nonhuman creatures inhabiting the earth with ‚us‘ is evident. This calls for bold commitments and serious ventures into non-anthropocentric world views and perspectives that do presuppose the binary oppositions between humans and organic others so fundamental to Western thinking.
In recent years a new wave of contemporary artists and thinkers have engaged in transdisciplinary work drawing attention to environmental questions by investigating the various ways we – humans, animals, bacteria and plants – keep each other company. What worlds are (de)composed in transspecies encounters? What stories stem from the intricate knottings between companions originating from different gene pools? And what are the ethical, philosophical and linguistic consequences of the uncountable interspecies enmeshments of economic, biological, semiotic, and – not least – emotional character?
TRANSSPECIES investigates the current involvements of the contemporary art scene in environmental issues, climate crisis and multispecies assemblies emphasizing the importance of re-negotiating transspecies ethics, and developing new strategies for planetary care and recuperation across species lines.
The assembly presents new productions, as well as already existing works in a variety of installation, sculpture, video and performance. Artists instigate aesthetic experiments in collaboration with other species hereby putting transhuman bodies, identities and voices at stake in muddy contact zones. TRANSSPECIES explores the potentials of artistic practices in articulating new stories about ‘us’ and ‘them’, and experimenting with collaborations that transgress the isolation of anthropocentrism.
The festival takes place in Dome of Visions in Copenhagen. In addition to the exhibited works the festival will offer performances, readings, workshop, talks and open-table discussions transforming Dome of Visions to a public, experimental assembly for the junctions and cross-breedings human and non-human; between art and science.
TRANSSPECIES is curated by Laboratory for Aesthetic and Ecology
TRANSSPECIES is generously supported by Beckett-Fonden, Fonden for Ånd,Vækst og Bevidsthed, The Swedish Arts Council and The Danish Arts Council.
For more information and press photos please contact:
Dea Antonsen and Ida Bencke, curators and co-founders of Laboratory for Aesthetics and Ecology: email@example.com.
FONDEN FOR ÅND, VÆKST OG BEVIDSTHED
“Gut Sounds Lullaby” is an assay based in performance work that tangles with equine gut sounds, radical theory of Karen Barad, and performative acts of listening with Melanie Moser, Possible, and a party pony named Fireball. It is published in the current issue of Antennae: A Journal of Nature in Visual Culture: http://www.antennae.org.uk/
At last the wonders of the traveling Multispecies Salon is available in portable form, in both traditional physical codex and electronic book formats. Duke University Press has published The Multispecies Salon, a collection edited by Eben Kirksey and featuring works by Caitlin Berrigan, Karin Bolender, Donna J. Haraway, Lindsay Kelly, Dorian Sagan, Miriam Simun, Kim Tallbear, Anna Tsing, and others. The book features provocative ideas about present and future relations between earthly species and even a few tasty recipes for biopolitical interventions. My chapter, R.A.W. Assmilk Soap, traces the figures and metaphors embedded in the making of a rarefied soap, which holds all the questions and hopes of more than a decade spent searching for and making homes with a family of American Spotted Asses.
Triage: three artists sort shifting emergencies of bodies, language, and spaces between, revealing places of opacity, refuge, and intimacy.
with Karin Bolender & Craig Goodworth
September 5 – 28, 2013
If not the last, this batch is certainly the culmination of all the main questions, hopes, and mammalian interconnections that Assmilk Soap is meant to contain. Made in May 2013, this batch of Assmilk Soap holds Passenger’s milk, which she made on the Big Ass Family Road Trip and in the months after our arrival in California; three generations of assfur, from Aliass, Passenger, and Nicholass Moon; and human milk, straight from the R.A.W. source, along with the usual vegetable fats and lye, of course.
This special batch of R.A.W. Assmilk Soap will be traveling to Sydney, Australia this summer to be part of Intra-action: Multispecies Becomings in the Anthropocene, an exhibition of works by artists who reckon in diverse ways with relations among earthly inhabitants.
This soap will also appear in Portland, Oregon, June 6-29, at Gallery 114. It will be part of a show called +1, in which gallery-affiliated artists each invite a non-member artist to show with them. RAW will be showing with sublime encaustic painter Christine Toth.
“Gut sounds” is a term with significant resonances in American ass husbandry. Auscultation (i.e., listening) for gut sounds, or gastrointestinal motility, is a primary diagnostic tool in equine veterinary practice, where the presence or absence of normal gurglings (or borborygmus) in quadrants of an equine’s insides can carry big epistemological, emotional, and economic implications. Indeed, the resurgence of good gut sounds in a sick equine companion can make those otherwise vaguely obscene inner gurglings seem like the sweetest melodies on earth. On a more common level of experience, gut sounds are some of the first we all hear as mammals, as our ears start to function with months to go in utero and our brains begin to mesh with the sounds of the world that throb through the porous boundaries of maternal bodies.
Yet gut sounds are something we seldom attend to, even as their presence signals life and cessation means death. Living gut sounds surprise and sometimes even embarrass us with their immediacy, burbling up bigger questions of bodies’ unknowns and permeable boundaries. As they pass through layers of living flesh, gut sounds challenge common ontologies that assume certain boundaries between inside/outside, human/animal, and self /other. “Gut Sounds Lullaby” seeks to blur these boundaries, as we listen to strange and familiar hums on the insides of other beings. We invite listeners into an intricate and intimate auditory mesh, where gut-sounds phenomena fold and twist through questions of intra-species presence and responsibility. In this newfangled lullaby, sounds of normal borborygmus are remixed with layered resonances of old human melodies and addressed to an invisible but no-less-present human fetus, who we presume is listening on the other end of the intra-species transmission wires.
For Ethnographic Terminalia’s Audible Observatories exhibition at SOMArts in SanFrancisco, the “Gut Sounds Lullaby” consisted of two parts: a video/sound installation and a live performance. The video documents specific acts of R.A.W. ontological choreography and intra-actions amidst a herd of asses, a human woman, and others known and unknown. Set in a few different landscapes, these choreographies root in a ten-year relation between Karin Bolender and Aliass and other members of a multi-species family. R.A.W. choreographies seek to dig deep into certain wild discomforts with human acts of naming and the perpetuation of animal/human dichotomies. Each scene reflects particular tensions, longings, shames, and passions that flare up in conflict-ridden negotiations between human logos/language and raw experience of immersion in intra-species being.
The live performance at SOMArts (Saturday, November 17th from 1-3 p.m.) featured experimental musician Melanie Moser and the presence of Fireball, a miniature golden-palomino party pony. Melanie Moser performed live improvisation based on the “Gut Sounds Lullaby” score, a remixed version of a gnarly old lullaby known as “All the Pretty Little Horses” mixed with live and recorded gut sounds. The mix was broadcast by various wired and wireless technologies to the audience and through the Bolender belly interface to the human prenate. The performance was also broadcast live through Radio Transmission Ark.
This project owes special gratitude to the generosity and life-saving care and dedication of equine veterinarians Dr. Alice Beretta in Northeast Georgia and Dr. Jessie Koenig in Orland, California.
“Gut Sounds Lullaby” takes place in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association’s special offsite event, “Multispecies Intra-Actions: A Roundtable with Karen Barad.” Click here for details. We also wish to thank our official sponsor, Environmental Humanities.
R.A.W. Assmilk Soap was included this spring in a show called Domaci Veci/Domestic Matter, April 2 – May 8 at Galerie Califia in Horazdovice, Czech Republic, along with works by Barbara Benish, Cristina Corso, Lenka Klodova, and a collection of ArtMill students’ artist’s books. See photos from the opening on the Galerie Califia website.
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.