Topic: Everywhere we turn, we find a territory of nonhuman things. It is impossible to escape the material din of others—from material structures: plants, robots, animals and objects, to those all but invisible bodies outside the bounds of human perception: atoms, molecules, pollution, viruses, satellites, planets et al. While humanity has historically identified itself as something categorically superior to all else, this reading group examines texts, theories, and works of art that challenge the theoretical terms with which we engage our landscape. Following Nonhuman Kinds pursues the complicated strangers among us, ignoring hierarchical conventions in order to reframe and reconsider the interstitial, interspecies web we inhabit. Organized by Caroline Picard, with texts suggested by members of the reading group and co-curated by Rebecca Beachy, Karsten Lund, and Andy Yang, the reading group will discuss the work of Jane Bennett, Bruno Latour, Timothy Morton, Jennifer Moxely, Gertrude Stein, Vanessa Watts, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and others. Following Nonhuman Kinds is a direct continuation of a symposium that took first place in Bourges, France in April of 2014, and continued at Latitude last fall.
Schedule: The first meeting will take place on Thursday, February 19th. After that, meetings will take place on alternating Wednesdays starting March 4th, except for April 28th, which is a Tuesday. The final meeting will be on Friday, June 19th with artist presentations by Marissa Benedict, Lindsey French, and Mel Keiser. The full list of dates is: 2/19, 3/4, 3/18, 4/1, 4/15, 4/28, 5/13, 5/27, 6/10, and 6/19. All meetings take place from 7:30-9:30 PM.
Readings: These will be emailed to participants in PDF format in advance of each session. Additionally, participants can should plan on procuring 5 books included on this list (indicated by an “*”) on their own.
1. Thursday, February 19th @7:30 pm: There Are Things We Live Among, Jennifer Moxley, Flood Editions.*
2. Wednesday, March 4th @7:30pm
– Tropical Malady, Apichatpong Weerasethakul (film)
-“Romanticism and the life of Things: Fossils, Totems and Images,” WJT Mitchell
-“How The Light Gets Out,” Michael Graziano
3. Wednesady, March 18th @ 7:30pm:
-“Play of Signification: Coyotes Sing in the Margins,” Natasha Seegert
-“Why Look at Animals,” John Berger
4. Wednesday, April 1st @ 7:30pm:
– “The Movement and Habits of Climbing Plants,” Darwin
– “An introduction to phytosemiotics: Semiotic botany and vegetative sign systems,” Kalevi Kull
5. Wednesday, April 15th @ 7:30pm
– “Lives of the Monster Plants,” T.S. Miller
– “Should Trees Have Standing?” Christopher Stone
– “Biocommunication of Plants,” Witzany/Baluska
– “Botanically Queer,” Catriona Sandilands (vimeo)
6.Tuesday, April 28th @ 7:30pm: Steven Shaviro, The Universe of Things (University of Minnesota Press)*
7. Wednesday, May 13th @ 7:30pm
-“Decolonial Dreams,” Zoe Todd
-“Mountain/s: An Object Oriented Reading” Anthony Opal
-“Indigenous place-thought & agency amongst humans and non-humans (First Woman and Sky Woman go on a European world tour!),” Vanessa Watts
8. Wednesday, May 27th @ 7:30pm
– The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, David Abrams*
– The Enchantment of Modern Life, Jane Bennett*
9. Wednesady, June 10th @ 7:30pm: Hyper Objects, Timothy Morton*
10. Friday, June 19th (Final Meeting) @ 7:30 pm
– Tender Buttons, Gertrude Stein (emphasis on Objects and Food sections)
– “Telling Friends from Foes in the Time of the Anthropocene,” Bruno Latuor
– With select artist presentations from Marissa Lee Benedict, Mel Keiser, and others.
About the organizers:
Born in Denver, Colorado, Rebecca Beachy is a recipient of both an MFA in Studio Arts and an MA in Art History from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In Chicago, her sculptures, interventions and installations have been exhibited at Iceberg Projects, 6018NORTH, the Southside Hub of Production, and Gallery 400, among other spaces. A recent artist in residence at the FRISE Künstlerhaus of Hamburg’s Altona, Rebecca has since been collaborating on a new Chicago residency for German artists through Chicago/Hamburg Sister Cities Exchange. Her written work has been published with literary journal Puerto del Sol and will be included in the Center for Humans & Nature’s upcoming City Creatures compilation (Univ. of Chicago Press, Spring 2014). In addition to teaching at ChiArts, she works as a volunteer specimen preparator and educator, where she demonstrates taxidermy to the public at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for the Chicago Academy of Sciences, Department of Collections.
Karsten Lund has worked as a curator, writer, and artist since 2007, after completing an MA at the University of Chicago. He is currently a Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where he has organized multiple exhibitions, including the forthcoming Chicago Works: Sarah and Joseph Belknap, and assisted on a dozen others, including The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology and This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s. Alongside his work at the MCA, Karsten pursues a wide array of independent projects, often as a means to explore experimental approaches, collaborative structures, or more open-ended propositions. Most recently, he guest curated Phantoms in the Dirt, for the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (July 24-October 5). Past projects have been presented at the Hyde Park Art Center, Peregrine Program, and an immense factory shortly before its demolition, among other locations. As a writer and editor, Karsten has a strong interest in the essay as a creative form and he continues to explore new directions and alternative formats for exhibition catalogues and artist-driven publications.
Caroline Picard is an artist, writer and curator who explores the figure in relation to systems of power though on-going investigations of inter-species borders, how the human relates to its environment and what possibilities might emerge from upturning an anthropocentric world view. To further accent the porousness of borders and bounds, Picard’s projects manifest in a variety of cross-disciplinary mediums including curation, painting, video, administrative practices, interviews with artists, works of fiction, comics, and critical essays. She writes regularly for the Art21, Artslant, and Art Forum, and was the 2014 Curatorial Fellow at La Box, ENSA in Bourges France for her project, Ghost Nature.
Andrew Yang’s research practice explores a range of themes across the evolution & development of form and natural history. His work can be found in journals such as Biological Theory and Gastronomica, and exhibited in Germany, Japan, and throughout the US. He studied zoology and philosophy of science at Duke University (PhD) and visual arts and the Lesley University College of Art and Design (MFA). He is an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago a Research Associate at the Field Museum of Natural History.