Welcome to the Secretome

In association with The Arts Center and Oregon State University’s Department of Microbiology’s exhibition MICROBIOMES: To See the Unseen

Domestic/Wild and the Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.A.W.) present:



Domestic/Wild and the Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.A.W.) invite you to join us in a radical extension of hospitality toward some of our oldest, most vital, and least-recognized friends: ancient microbial allies who live in our midst, essential but unseen, most often unappreciated or scorned. This site-specific, performative workshop invites a limited number of participants to immerse in the domestic/wild environs of a special, muddy ass barnyard in Philomath, Oregon (home of artist Karin Bolender’s Rural Alchemy Workshop). Here, within an assemblage of entangled beasts (humans, dogs, a special herd of asses, grasses, muds, and untold others), we will explore both imaginative and practical ways to extend radical welcome to microbes and other unseen lives abiding within, among, and all around: throughout bodies, farms, homes, and genomes. As it happens, we may depend on these invisible allies more than we ever reckoned possible.

5_raw_aliassmuzzletonguebacillusmapIn what is known as the “Old Friends Hypothesis,” Graham Rook and other researchers suggest that certain microbes have coevolved in alliance with various familiar (pre)domestic species, thriving in the guts, muzzles, and skin-folds of multispecies herds beginning in hunter-gatherer and earliest agricultural alliances. Meanwhile, a number of present-day diseases seem to link to declines in microbial biodiversity, as researchers find increasing evidence that we all depend on (endangered) presences of certain wild, barely-known bacteria for healthy development and immune-regulation. As unseen allies work “behind the scenes” to sustain and modify biomes of all kinds, it is high time we get better acquainted with these little-known associates. Somewhat abashedly (since microbes, after all, already outnumber human body cells 10-to-1), we will explore and gather in the dusty, dirty, wildly microbilicious R.A.W. barnyard to welcome and celebrate common histories and present/future well-beings of tiny, invisible kin who make us who, what, and how we are.

  4_raw_emilyperformingdirtstageThis two-hour, site-specific workshop on Saturday, April 29th from 10 am-12 pm will feature performances by Domestic/Wild artists Emily Stone and Karin Bolender. The artists will lead participants into a collective experiment: together and in our own special ways, we will explore and map traces of invisible lives through moving bodies (seen and unseen) and flowing muds, grasses, and rhizomes of a R.A.W. pasture, each seeking what we need and desire by following a mysterious “treasure map” drawn by microscopic Bacillus, cultured on site from the tongue of Aliass (wise and lovely grand-dam of the R.A.W. ass herd). After this adventure, we will gather to share a Feast of the Muzzle Tongue, where we will eat, drink, and make merry symbioses with various bacterial companions, making spaces for more inclusive multispecies stories with some of our newest, and oldest, friends.

For more information on the workshop, see The Arts Center’s Microbiomes website or contact karin.bolender[at]gmail.com.

Space is limited. Click here to register.

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