Francis Marion Moseley Wilson working

Living and dying together: multispecies stories and high-concept vegan dining at a conference

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Francis Marion Moseley Wilson is a College of Arts PhD student (Theatre Studies) undertaking practice-based research in how taxidermy can be used in a live art context as a larger exploration of the sanitisation of death, the relationship of non-human animal bodies to human bodies, and death rituals. In January 2019 she was awarded Research Support Award funding to present at the Multispecies Storytelling in Intermedial Practices conference at Linneaus University in Växjö, Sweden.


Multispecies storytelling

The conference, Multispecies Storytelling in Intermedial Practices, was largely inspired by Donna Haraway’s 2016 book Staying with the Trouble, focusing on new ways of considering our living-with (and dying-with) other species, whether they be chickens, bees, or slime mould.

Attendees and speakers came from a diverse range of research interests and backgrounds, often in some intersection of art and science. Keynote speakers included Philosopher of Science, Vinciane Despret, Université de Liège, and Professor of Poetry, Adam Dickinson, Brock University.

Bag and flyer from the conference
Bag and flyer from the conference

Reflections

I presented in the morning of the first day with a panel on Multispecies politics of un/dying and entangled living-with. I gave an introduction to my practice-based research on performing taxidermy, focusing on my current project, Intersections: Animal Death. Intersections is a web app for reporting found animal bodies with the option to add reflections on roadkill sightings, or other animal dead encountered in daily life. My talk seemed well-received and led to a couple of interesting chats with other conference attendees.

There were three panel sessions happening simultaneously throughout the conference, which made it impossible to see any more than 35% of what was being shared, and led to some difficult decisions about how to divide my time. Some interesting presentations I saw were about Wildlife in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and Latin American Bioart.

Pecking order

Mealtimes were a highlight of the conference. Food was often presented as a kind of vegan relational aesthetic. On the first evening ‘soil’ was laid on out on the table (suspected to be ground black lentils, various greens, seeds, and beans), and we were encouraged, after sanitising, to eat with our hands.

On the second evening at dinner, we participated in a project run by undergraduate students at Linneaus University. Our tables became groups of hens, each with a protective ‘rooster’ who was determined by a questionnaire. We were only allowed food that would be eaten by chickens (corn, root vegetables, and sprouts), which was fetched for us by our rooster, and we were instructed to eat in a proper ‘pecking order.’ Wine, however, was allowed.

Overall it was a fascinating conference, with a surprising focus on the invisible species we live with: the micro and single-cell organisms, especially the ones that share our bodies!


Photo credits

Top: Angela Guest

Bottom: Francis Marion Moseley Wilson

Post Author: Kelly Arnstein

Kelly is Digital Content Officer for the College of Arts.

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