Seminar: ‘Vegetal Attunements: Thinking Models Against Philosophical Totalizations’
Giovanni Aloi will present his paper
‘Vegetal Attunements: Thinking Models Against Philosophical Totalizations’
5-7 o’clock, Paris time, 8 March 2021
Western philosophy has a tendency to generalize and normitivize to the point of abstraction. Philosophical universalism has often deliberately concealed nuances in human-non-human kinship. This has limited the emergence of important discourses encompassing expanded sensorials, species-specific relations, or idiosyncratic individuality in non-humans.
The field of critical plant-studies has mostly addressed plants through this rhetorical lens. In its discourses, for as illuminating as they are, the 391,000 species of plants that live on this planet appear flattened into a chimerical phyto-composite, a general dialectic placeholder for the vegetal other. I argue that this reductive condition is detrimental to the study of plants in the arts and the humanities, and that it ultimately limits opportunities in our thinking about vegetal beings.
To bypass the linguistic strictures of western philosophy, I draw from my recent work on plants in art as featured in Why Look At Plants? The Botanical Emergence in Contemporary Art (Brill: 2018) and Lucian Freud Herbarium (Prestel: 2019). This talk thus focuses on potted plants, an extreme case of philosophical plant-blindness, to devise new “situating strategies” through which philosophical conceptions of otherness can be used to primarily engage with the idiosyncratic nuances involved in thinking about plants as individuals.
Dr. Giovanni Aloi is an author, educator, and curator specializing in environmental subjects and the representation of nature in art. He has published with Columbia University Press, Phaidon, Laurence King, and Prestel and is co-editor of the University of Minnesota Press series ‘Art after Nature’. Since 2006, Aloi has been the Editor in Chief of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. He is the author of Art & Animals (2011), Speculative Taxidermy: Natural History, Animal Surfaces, and Art in the Anthropocene (2018), Why Look at Plants? The Botanical Emergence in Contemporary Art (edited and co-authored, 2018 — winner of the 2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award) Botanical Speculations (edited, 2018), Animal: Exploring the Zoological World (co-author and edited, 2018) and Lucian Freud Herbarium (2019 – listed among the best art history books of 2019 by four general and specialist publications). He is a regular public speaker at the Art Institute of Chicago, a BBC radio contributor, and has curated exhibitions in the USA and abroad. Aloi has worked at Whitechapel Art Gallery and Tate Galleries in London, and currently lectures on modern and contemporary art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York.
· In the next session of un-earthed, the online environmental humanities reading group, we will be discussing waste and air pollution with texts by E. Horn, N. Twilley and J. Zee – more information. Fill in the doodle here if you are interested in joining the conversation.