“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, May 3, 2013

Secret Life of Plants Liveblog 2

The room fills up with lots of people, here at the Architecture School at Princeton.

IHUM: Jeff Dolven gets us all to hum, a la the second syllable of the institute's abbreviation...

He introduces the show. And then Brooke Holmes introduces in more depth. 1973 book The Secret Life of Plants. But long history of occult life of plants. Heraclitus. Nature loves to hide. Phusis: attached to a plant (Odyssey 10, going into Circle's house): pointing to moly plant. Pseudo-Aristotelian text on plants: plants are hidden. Aquinas: the life in plants is occulta (hidden).

Occult vegetality.

What is at stake in our wanting to know what's going on? Esoteric or sacred knowledge? Root cutters singing charms to extract power of plants. Or exploit for tech gain? Or as basis of ethical space of commonality? Or as ecstatic movement outside of ourselves?

What is at stake is the very alien nature of plants. Harder to bridge gap that the one between human and animal. Plants as aliens. What they can't do: is how they define plants (lacking in motion, perception).

But also: excess (Marder). Brooke on the train to Princeton: exuberant lushness of spring as it comes to Princeton. Close ups of plants in a high art movie sex scene...

Excess and proliferation without closure. Rhizomes. Fractals. Promise of uncontrollable excess. These might be good. What are the ethics of our encounter with plants.

Marder, "On the Plant Soul." Urgent to interpret meanings of plants, their tenacity and so on, without objectification. Ethics of our engagement with plants. Elevating plants to animal level where they have aisthesis (some writers in antiquity acknowledge).

Or are we straining the possibilities of ethics altogether? Framing the question of diversity of plants? What are we to the plants? What are the plants to us? We are not doing interdisciplinarity for its own sake but because plants don't fit into one category or another.

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