Recipe III: Multispecies Communities

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by Eben Kirksey

This essay bends the genre of “the recipe”, to explore one artist’s proposal for reseeding blasted landscapes with lively communities.  Deanna Pindell, who lives in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, created bright technicolor wool balls to enliven clear-cut forests in her backyard. Initially, she made these small sculptures as habitat for one species in particular: Bryum argenteum, silvery bryum moss, one of the most tenacious and widespread mosses in the world. Mosses help tree seedlings germinate and survive.  Pindell’s woolen balls also became habitat for forest mice, voles and salamanders.  They became moth-eaten, food for the insect community.

She named this artwork Thneeds Reseeds after the fanciful sweaters featured in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. “A thneed’s a fine something that all people need,” in the words of the Old Onceler, a haunting specter of dead capital in this classic childhood tale. “It’s a shirt. It’s a sock. It’s a glove, it’s a hat. But it has other uses, yes, far beyond that!” The Old Onceler hopes to get mighty rich by clear-cutting the forest to knit his thneeds. Deanna Pindell has done the reverse: refashioning the form of wooly commodities, the excess of late capitalism, she knitted multiple species into imagined futures.

Rather than manufacture Thneeds Reseeds on an industrial scale, and spread these strange sculptures throughout landscapes that have been blasted by capitalism, Pindell hopes her art will inspire people to develop new practices of interspecies care. She hopes that her work will inspire other to get involved in Do-It-Yourself (DIY) bioculture projects.

Read Recipe Three: Multispecies Communities (2 MB pdf)

See also: Deanna Pindell and Becomings

Eben Kirksey catalyzed dialog at the Multispecies Salon as a curator, an artist, an ethnographer, and editor. Exploring the interplay of ideas about hope and collaboration has led Eben to cross conventional disciplinary divides and contribute to theoretical conversations in the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Freedom in Entangled Worlds, his first book, blends ethnographic research with indigenous parables to explore how indigenous activists from West Papua negotiate complex interdependencies (Duke U Press, 2012). Following the movements of multiple species across the fragmented landscapes of the Americas, his latest book is a study of Emergent Ecologies that have been transformed by chance encounters, historical accidents, and parasitic invasions (Duke U Press, under review). Currently he holds an Australian Research Council fellowship in the Environmental Humanities program at UNSW.

Eben Kirksey: Official Blog
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a companion to the book