Contemporary Conversation: Plan, Plant, Planet

Image courtesy Michael Marder and Shela Sheikh.
Image courtesy Michael Marder and Shela Sheikh.

Join us for a Contemporary Conversation with philosopher Michael Marder and scholar Shela Sheikh about our uprootedness from this world and the non-linear roots and routes offered by vegetal life.

“Plants,” Terence McKenna wrote in 1989 should be adopted as “the organisational model for life in the 21st century,” much in the same ways cybernetic circuits and networks became the social ecology of the previous century. Yet, how does the historical propertisation of land relations continue to structure social networks today? One in every five-plant species is currently on the brink of extinction. Landscapes and vegetation are still used as the backdrop against which colonial dispossession is mobilised, while the expansion of intensive agriculture and industrial settlement has contaminated, eroded, drained, burnt, flooded and depleted the surface of our planet on a worldwide scale. In response to such offences against the earth, can the root systems of plants, their paths, lines, traces, upwards and downwards, their offshoots, their seeds, their fertile compostable life—illuminate the workings of capital and power, nature and culture? What root-networks of human-plant connections structure our planetary existence?

The series Contemporary Conversations looks at how art is positioned to the present. Acknowledging artists’ roles in working with its passage, pressing and transforming it, this series of evening dialogues explores the present tense in its cultural and political dimensions, visual cultures and postcolonial debates.

Free. Booking recommended.

Michael Marder is Ikerbasque Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Marder has taught at universities in the United States (Georgetown, George Washington, and Duquesne Universities) and in Canada (University of Toronto and University of Saskatchewan), in addition to having held visiting professorships worldwide. His writings span the fields of phenomenology, political thought, and environmental philosophy. Marder has published widely in international arts and humanities journals and is the author of thirteen monographs, including Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life (2013); The Philosopher’s Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium (2014); Energy Dreams (2017), and Political Categories (2018) among others.

Shela Sheikh teaches in the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she convenes the MA Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy and co-chairs the Goldsmiths Critical Ecologies research stream. In recent years she has been working on a multi-platform research project around colonialism, botany and the politics of planting. This has included a special issue of Third Text co-edited with Ros Gray, entitled “The Wretched Earth: Botanical Conflicts and Artistic Interventions” (2018), and the publication Theatrum Botanicum, edited with Uriel Orlow (2018).

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