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Multispecies Picnic

Place settings for the Picnic table (VT, 2011), a multi-media performative conversation, with lunch. With artist Karin Bolender and anthropologist Dr. Eben Kirksey. The hide-shaped works served as "placemats" for the guests.


The Multi-Species Picnic grew from a series of exhibits curated by anthropologist Dr. Eben Kirksey, under the title Multispecies Salon. Beginning in 2008, these exhibits informed Kirksey's boundary-breaking research and development of a Multispecies Ethnography.  (visit the links page to learn more).

Karin Bolender and Deanna Pindell had both participated as artists in previous Salons. Collectively, and with a number of other artists sharing artwork and ideas, we three led the performative lunchtime conversations. Karin cooked for the equine palate, and shared a witch's brew of experiences with animal death; Eben taught us to feed each other via trophyllaxis, as his favorite species of ants do; and Deanna impersonated the "Other" with sartorial silliness and doggerel.







We propose a lunchtime gathering where we will ruminate about our inter-specific dependencies.  Companion species will be on and around the table in this interspecies picnic.  Companion comes from the Latin cum panis, with bread, Donna Haraway reminds us.  Companion species include such organic beings as rice, bees, tulips, and intestinal flora, all of whom make life for humans what it is, and vice versa.

A cornucopia of artistic artifacts will dress our picnic table, playfully providing visual, textual, and gustatory experiences to guide the discourse. (Examples will include a variety of works from artists in the eco-art/bio-art fields, and questions or quotations from respected thinkers in anthropology, eco-feminism, children’s literature, and more).

We will talk, as we eat, about ways that human language shapes our paradigms and understandings of our places among species: how and who we eat, especially, but also how we understand ourselves to be inside or outside of the feasting. How might we challenge anthropocentrism, for instance, and reinvent the “Otherness” of the other-than-human?

We will bite into a kind of interdisciplinary shepherd’s pie of related questions and conundrums, from the implications of recent scientific research on domestication to the ethics of transgenic art. How can we – as artists ever-more aware of ourselves as agents within complex environmental systems – creatively and ethically reckon with/in our creaturely interdependencies, to respect and respond to the non-human sensibilities of our entangled inter-species world?


Basic table manners aside, talking with a mouthful will be fully encouraged at this picnic.

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