The Secret Life of Plants
At the beginning of May, IHUM convened a gathering of scholars to consider our relations to the vegetable kingdom. Perspectives were various, and questions were big: What are we to the plants, and the plants to us? What possibilities does plant life offer not simply for how we conceptualize the matter of life, and our lives, but also for how we inhabit and respond to the world, ourselves, and others? We did not intend - in revisiting the sensational 1973 book from which we take our name - to be wantonly credulous about, for example, plant sentience, plant culture, the capacity of plants for collaboration with us animals. We did not want to be wantonly incredulous, either. Much rather, the conference opened up an opportunity to follow some of these possibilities and investigations collectively.
THURSDAY, MAY 2, AT 5 PM: SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE
An opening reception (featuring an exhibit of plant collaborations; see below) will be held in the School of Architecture. All are welcome.
FRIDAY, MAY 3, AT 1 PM: BETTS AUDITORIUM IN THE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE
The afternoon of the symposium itself will be divided into the panels of two speakers each, under the following headings:
1:00 COHABITATION: with Jane Bennett (Johns Hopkins) and Nils Norman (Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts)
2:30 KNOWING: with Maureen McLane (New York University) and Tim Morton (Rice University)
4:15 ANIMATION: with Laura Marks (Simon Fraser University), Natania Meeker (University of Southern California), and Antonia Szabari (University of Southern California)
The proceedings will be informed by a project of plant collaborations, which will be on exhibit outside of Betts in the School of Architecture, beginning with the reception at 5 PM on Thursday. What is a plant collaboration, you ask?
...and an exhibition
We invited graduate students and faculty on campus (and some others) to undertake, and document, a collaboration with a plant in the two spring months leading up to the symposium. The substance of the collaboration, its procedures and its fruits, was up to the collaborators. Anything was licit, so long as it was made or done together with the plant, one-on-one or in groups (of people, of plants), one time only or over time. (Here's an example; here's another.) We prepared a Field Guide to a handful of the plants on campus, their situations and a few salient details from their life stories.
The videos and slide shows can be found here: