Serpentine Galleries present The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants, a multi-media and multi-disciplinary day-long event dedicated to plant sentience, plant intelligence, communication with the vegetal world and forms of mysticism and healing.
“Most people who bother to think about plants at all tend to regard them as the mute, immobile furniture of our world—useful enough, and generally attractive, but obviously second-class citizens in the republic of life on Earth.” Stefano Mancuso
What do we learn by thinking differently about our environment? How can plant behaviour, plant systems, techniques for healing and plant sentience provide us with new dreams and possibilities for a future that is changing rapidly?
Given that the devastating effects of climate change are extremely unevenly distributed around the world, how can we think of ecological questions in tandem with politics and place?
In a world-premiere, award-winning sound recordist, Chris Watson (David Attenborough’s long-term collaborator on the ‘Life’ series) will present his new, multichannel diffusion piece Salmo salar – The Three Realms, which traces the Atlantic salmon run from the sea ice edge of the Barents Sea to their spawning grounds by the source of the River Coquet in Northumberland. The composition will incorporate the sounds of plants and vegetation within the three realms of seawater, freshwater and air as the salmon take shelter within the kelp forests of the Barents Sea, to the freshwater currents of the river Coquet, as the salmon weave their way upstream through water moss lining the river bank and finally pass through air alongside Flag iris, reeds and sedges. Salmo salar was specially composed for EartH Hackney’s unique 25.1 surround sound configuration, using L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound technology from L-Acoustics, a multidimensional approach to sound designing, mixing, and processing that results in extremely natural and intelligible audio. This is Watson’s first time working with L-ISA technology.
General Ecology is the Serpentine Galleries long-running project addressing climate change, the environment, species extinction and posthumanism, explored in cross-disciplinary exchanges between artists, scientists, musicians and theorists.
The themes and ideas of General Ecology are explored across much of the Serpentine’s programming in its galleries and connections can be traced to recent and current shows: Hito Steyerl: Power Plants and Emma Kunz: Visionary Drawings.
The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants:
● Artist Saelia Aparicio presents short films that trace an alternative layer of fantasy sprouting in the Carpenters housing estate in Newham, London
● Antoine Bertin presents a listening session from his NTS Radio programme, The Edge of the Forest
● Artist Vivian Caccuri presents a performance lecture on sugar, yellow fever and colonialism
● Film theorist Teresa Castro discusses how since the late 19th century to today, film has been imagining plant sentience and plant agency in considerable different ways
● Theologian Amy Hollywood reflects on mysticism and plant life
● Artist Kapwani Kiwanga in conversation with biocultural historian Kim Walker
● Anthropologist Natasha Myers discusses plant sensing and communication
● Political philosopher Michael Marder explores what new forms of politics can be imagined from a deep observation of plants
● Artist-healer-seeker Tabita Rezaire opens the festival with a ritual offering aimed at restoring our ability to connect
● Writer Elvia Wilk considers weirdness in plants
● Sound recordist Chris Watson closes the festival with the world-première of Salmo salar – The Three Realms
The title of the festival – the third in a long series thinking about consciousness across animal, human, vegetal and artificial species – uses as a conceptual starting point the way in which mating puffer fish draw ornate circles in the sand of the sea bed. Seen from human eyes, this behaviour could also look like a dance or a work of art; from that thought extends a reflection on communication, creativity and intelligence across species distinctions, towards a deep ecological understanding of everyday life.
The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants is a multidisciplinary festival that brings together artists, scientists, writers, anthropologists and musicians for talks, performances, screenings and listening sessions that raise and address some of the most urgent questions facing all of us.
The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants is curated by Lucia Pietroiusti (Curator, General Ecology, Serpentine) and writer and editor Filipa Ramos, with Holly Shuttleworth (Producer, Live Programmes) and Kostas Stasinopoulos (Assistant Curator, Live Programmes).
Image Credit: Jenna Sutela, Sporulating Paragraph, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Momentum 9 (Photo: Istvan Virag, Copyright: Punkt Ø/Momentum 9)
Doors open at 1pm
Tabita Rezaire, Lubricate Coil Engine – Decolonial Supplication, offering, 2017
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Introduction
Kapwani Kiwanga, Miranda Lowe, Kim Walker, Toxic agents
Filipa Ramos and Lucia Pietroiusti, Introduction
Saelia Aparicio, green shoots, 2019, animation
Panel with Chris Watson, Carlos Magdalena and Hans Ulrich Obrist
Saelia Aparicio, green shoots, 2019, animation
*Natasha Myers, Rooting in the Planthroposcene
Michael Marder, On Vegetal Movements in Politics
Teresa Castro, Plant Agency: A Filmic Anthology
Panel with Michael Marder, Teresa Castro, Filipa Ramos and Lucia Pietroiusti
Antoine Bertin, The Edge of the Forest (Yamaguchi ATGC), March 2019 – NTS Radio
Elvia Wilk, Death by Landscape: The Weird Outside
Amy Hollywood, “The extasy define–“: Emily Dickinson’s Mystic Poetic Botany
Panel with Elvia Wilk, Amy Hollywood, Filipa Ramos and Lucia Pietroiusti
Vivian Caccuri, The New World Syrup & The Fever Hand
Chris Watson, Salmo salar – The Three Realms, 45’, sound, commissioned by Serpentine Galleries and L-Acoustics on the occasion of The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants.
General Ecology is the Serpentine’s long-term and ongoing project researching complexity, posthumanism, the environment and climate change. General Ecology manifests through publications, exhibitions, study programmes, radio, symposia and live events bringing together practitioners from the fields of art, design, science, literature and anthropology, among many others.
The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants is curated by Lucia Pietroiusti (Curator, General Ecology, Serpentine) and writer and editor Filipa Ramos, with Holly Shuttleworth (Producer, Live Programmes, Serpentine) and Kostas Stasinopoulos (Assistant Curator, Live Programmes, Serpentine). Visual identity: Giles Round.
In partnership with the Institut Français du Royaume-Uni and with the support of Fluxus Art Projects.
With additional support from Instituto Inclusartiz and Delfina Foundation