“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: Animation (Laura Marks)

Brooke: Ensoulment. How one might imagine that in plants. Flower as virus: plant-like motion of tendrils.

What a delight it is to be here.

"Aromatic Events: How Plant Communication Makes Us More than Human"

video of student addressing, "What might plant prehension be?"
Bergson: need to draw on all evolutionary heritage if we are going to evolve creatively
cultivate plant nature not to repeat what they have already done but to produce singularities and unpredictable gatherings
beauty and pleasure << plants
Pierce, Whitehead, Grosz; biochemistry

Pierce: he gets a bit of short shrift; an important figure in the thought of Deleuze and Whitehead too
signs circulating among all kinds of creatures and entities
every entity makes and interprets signs
an ever transforming growing and dying sign system
thought is not necessarily connected with the brain: bees, crystals
"seen from the outside, things appear as magic; seen from the inside, they appear as consciousness"

Pierce assumed an interpretant was conscious; but you can tweak
signs are communicated among all things
semiotics << material communication

Whitehead: transformative encounters
prehension of one another; supplants "perception"
prehension is an amodal yet rather tactile grasping that does not distinguish modalities
doesn't distinguish between conscious, living and nonliving entities
dissolve into atomistic flow of actual occasions

some actual entities do endure over time: societies
still the emphasis is not on what endures but what changes: what emerges from this encounter is a superject

how one individual responds to another; so it's interesting to think plants through Whitehead
soil, roots, water; cells, osmosis
in the same way molecules and so on are also entities and occasions

Whitehead's opposition to subject-predicate forms of thought, which assume that things remain the same
"the tree greens"
the meaning is coming from somewhere and going to somewhere

to share with plants does not require us to dumb down, but rather to amplify it
objective nature as separate is a myth
encounters with nature are events that produce us anew
task of philosophy to elucidate those aspects of experience that don't matter obviously

process philosophy >> curiosity about things we take for granted

plants communicate in many ways. e.g. chemical; they inform each other of stress and drought
Nature Channel documentary; garden pea: plants inform each other through their roots of drought
plants can communicate across one another even if only one individual is prehending drought
aesthetics: the decision of how to prehend something
....the nose

Laura has included olfactory slides: now we open them

A conifer: balsam fir
we have good associations to is smell
what we are smelling is actually the balsam fir's cry for help: this is the smell of a distressed tree
just grazing or brushing a plant versus believing it's being attacked it emits this cry
first kind of defense is a direct attack on the infesting insect: secrete a toxin that attacks that insect
wild tobacco secretes nicotine to kill some of its predators
these cocktails can be very detailed
sawflies: deposit eggs on Scots Pine; changes metabolism of turpenoids in 3 days >> attracts wasp to eat larvae of saw fly
a plant notices and changes its rate of photosynthesis
Marcel Dick

humans also emit olfactory calls for help in sweat

the fir was calling for help while being processed for essential oil!
gives us a "brisk and fresh" feeling which might have to do with the sense of having eradicated our enemies
pine derived products
we are protecting against actual microbes using what plants use for self-protection

beauty: Grosz it is << animals have taught us to do so
sexual selection as the origin of art
emphasis on natural selection: ideology of survival
disdain of pleasure, ornament, frivolity as additions and luxuries that can come later
including the more rigorous and joyless aspects of contemporary art!
rather to appreciate in terms of seemingly useless pleasure and novelty even at risk of survival
pleasure and curiosity; enhanced perception
Grosz: enhancing the intensity and potentiality that are in sexual selection
sticklebacks that become translucent and shimmer
dinosaurs have peacock like tails
flowers attract pollinators
>> music, spectacle, color and scent

Grosz: the animal in us >> art
art is the way nature deviates itself from givenness
beauty; healing and toxic powers of plants << plants made world for us
caffeine to help bees remember where to find it
I don't want to focus on these useful properties

nature creates intensifications: we are drawn to beauty and novelty

olfactory packet 2:
Arabian jasmine or Ful
greeting "a morning of ful to you" as response to a "good morning"
<< Damascus; Cairo--lovers buy garlands of ful and taxi drivers hang garlands from rear view mirrors
pollinated at night by moths
a mixture of many chemical only a few of which are fragrant; cumerin (new mown hay), methol-anthranalite (grape) etc. and other chemicals that have medical properties (antioxidant, antidepressant)

using them as medicine is drawing on our ful-like nature, our ful knowledge within ourselves

we do smell the call for help, the plant experience
but we also smell ones that insects would perceive--we are identifying not with flower but with insect that is attracted to the producer of the scent

I don't want to divide things up in this way
I want to insist that we become plant-like

Whitehead: it's not necessary to separate subject and object
communication >> actual occasion of all parties
at molecular level; signal and receptor -- no subject-object but "an event in which all become transformed"

we can cultivate the strangeness of plants
singularities that can arise from encounters
>> new actual entities will arise

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