From Edenic Apocalypse to Gardens Against Eden: Plants and People in and After the Anthropocene: A talk by Natasha Myers
Feb 17, 2016
from 04:00 PM to 05:30 PM
|Where||STS Seminar Room # 1246|
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In response to ongoing ecological catastrophes, artists, landscape architects, and conservationists are designing gardens with the hopes of restaging people’s relationships with plants. This talk examines the aesthetics and politics of gardens that aim to demonstrate the interimplication of plants and people in these dire times. One response to the widespread acknowledgement of human impact on the planet is Gardens By the Bay, Singapore’s gleaming, billion-dollar infrastructure for what could best be called “end-of-times” botanical tourism. Another response is a series of works produced by Viennese artist Lois Weinberger. His “counter gardens” – plant-based durational installations and performances – challenge the moral order of Edenic gardens by inciting the subversive forces of weedy plants, and by celebrating waste, decomposition, and decay. Weinberger’s artworks, which invert and disrupt assumptions about the function of garden enclosures enact what Rancière might call a “redistribution of the sensible.” In so doing they offer a mode of critique for grappling with Singapore’s spectacle, showing how those gardens reproduce the very logics, discourses and practices that gave rise to the devastation they purport to denounce. In light of Weinberger’s interventions, the talk explores the possibility of a third response. It turns to a remnant Black Oak Savannah in an urban park in Toronto, which is not only a site of intensive conservation management but also of artistic collaborations and experiments in queer/feminist ecology. If Gardens By the Bay is a design caught inside the logics of the Anthropocene, this site offers potential for reimagining of the contours of people’s relationships with plants, and for speculating on forms of life after the Anthropocene.
Natasha Myers is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at York University, the convenor of the Politics of Evidence Working Group, director of the Plant Studies Collaboratory, and a member of the editorial board of the journal Catalyst. She works alongside Michelle Murphy as co-organizer of Toronto’s Technoscience Salon, and is co-founder of the Write2Know Project with Max Liboiron. Her ethnographic research examines forms of life in the contemporary arts, sciences, and ecologies. Her book, Rendering Life Molecular: Models, Modelers, and Excitable Matter (Duke, 2015) is an ethnography of an interdisciplinary group of scientists who make living substance come to matter at the molecular scale. In new work, she is experimenting with ways to document the affective and energetic ecologies that take shape between plants and people, and among plants and their remarkably multi-species affines.