Reading Group

Animals Far and Near

Dr Feixuan Xu

Asymmetry HQ, 102a Albion Drive, E8 4LY, London
6-8pm, 13.12.2022

Rosie Benn, Limen, single-channel video, 13mins. Image courtesy of the artist.

Do hogs in factory farms enjoy some caress? Will inchworms play games for fun? Can we ever empathise with a fish’s happiness as Zhuangzi claims so? This reading group features texts from two anthropologists sharing their empirical research experience and reflections on various pathways to knowing, working and living with animals. Whilst contemporary eco/bio art practices are marked more prominently by the presence of nonhuman living beings, it would be a good entry point to provisionally extend our scope outside the art world, exploring quotidian human-animal relations in scientific, agricultural, wild or domestic settings, where questions about anthropomorphism, care, etiquette and labour, too, haunt back and forth. Discussions would drift freely from participants’ personal resonance with the syllabus to their encounters with animals in and beyond art scenes.

This reading group will be moderated by Post-Doc Fellow Dr Feixuan Xu.

FREE ENTRY, WITH BEVERAGES AND SNACKS.

Click here to book

SCHEDULE

6pm - 6.50pm: Focused discussion on reading materials

6.50pm - 7.10pm: Screening + snack break

7.10pm - 8.00pm: Free art-centric discussion and sharing

SYLLABUS

Blanchette, Alex, 2019. Making Monotony: Bedsores and Other Signs of an Overworked Hog. In: Sarah Besky and A. Blanchette, eds. How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Plane. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 59–77. (The pdf file will be shared internally with participants)

Graeber, David, 2014. What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun? The Baffler, 24.

SCREENING

Rosie Benn, Limen, single-channel film, 13mins
Camera and editing by Rosie Benn
Music and sound editing by Kit Wilmans Fedagroe

How can solidarity with other living beings take place on a site where food is produced for humans? The film Limen weaves a story of interspecies collaboration and also its limits. Film is used here as an artistic method to conversing ethics. Notes of materiality, and embodiment in situation and place are cultivated as receptors for multispecies signalling and knowledge production. It opens up current perspectives within biocyclic-vegan agriculture. The materials of visits to farms are combined with an abstract compilation of theoretical inspirations. The work is part ethnographic fiction and part video poem. Images and the entities within them invite the viewer to question conventional visuals and narratives often used to depict the lives of animals living on sites where farming takes place.

BIOGRAPHY

Feixuan Xu (b.1991 Guangxi, China) is an anthropologist specialising in anthropology of art, multispecies ethnography and ecocriticism. She obtained a PhD in Creative Media from City University of Hong Kong in 2022. Her ethnography-based doctoral thesis scrutinises how the Daoist concept ‘ziran’ was paradoxically implemented in artist Liang Shaoji’s collaboration with silkworms assisted by farmers and biologists. Feixuan’s current research centres on labour, sensory knowledge, situated ethics and non-alienated curation in multispecies art.

Rosie Benn is a transdisciplinary artist based in Vienna. In 2020 Rosie completed her MA in Art & Science at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Her current project, supported by the Ministry of Science, Research and Education, explores through artistic means interspecies relations in biocyclic-vegan agriculture.