Archive for the ‘Core Ideas’ Category

Artist Uses Dead Bees as Raw Material

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Plant Intelligence is in a mutually affective ecology with bees (some might call it love). Check out this visual elegy by Sarah Hatton, conceived in response to the loss of bees she was keeping and in support of banning neonicotinoid pesticides in North America.

Rapey Plant Stories and the Challenge to Darwinian Ideas About Gender

2015 01 13 rapey plant Philodendron_martianum

I laughed when I first read that in late 18th-century Western Europe, people worried that studying botany, which focused the attention on all those plants fertilizing one another, was too racy a pursuit for proper young ladies. Now I think we have yet, even in the 21st century, to really grapple with how plant being challenges our basic assumptions about sexuality.

Do male plants rape females as a means of propagating the species? That’s the analogy that Dan Janzen used in 1977 when he applied Darwinian-based models of animal behaviour to plants.

Take a look at this thought-provoking article by Jeremy Yoder, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Minnesota, who writes about how scientific theories of sexual selection, themselves originally based in human analogy, have ended up reframing not only stories of animal and human sexuality but also our understanding of plant reproduction.

Thanks to Eric Michael Johnson for passing this along.

Marder: Is it ethical to eat plants?

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Michael Marder’s work on the philosophy of plant being necessarily raises the question of ethical eating. The Irish Times promotes Marder’s new book, The Philosopher’s Plant, and dips a toe into the question in a recent interview.

“… sentience as a criterion is insufficient, and the notion of respect is inevitable in any postulation of an ethical diet,” says Marder.

Vampire Plant ‘Sweet Talks’ to Victims While Sucking Out Vital Fluids


2014 08 24 vampire plant on sugar beet

Could predatory behaviour in plants engage in the same twisted emotional BS as human exploitation? One write-up of new research published in Science suggests that some manipulative whispering is going on when strangleweed gets in at the DNA/RNA level and “tells its victims how to grow.”

“At the same time, the parasite weed was also getting feedback on how things were going with the victim plant and somehow perhaps acted concerned, letting the Arabidopsis victim ‘know’ things such as ‘I feel your pain’ as creepy and unbelievable as that sounds.”

Strangleweed sounds like a real jerk.

Newsweek’s report on the same paper is a bit less provocative.

Here’s the actual Science paper. Enjoy!

#vherbage site launched!

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This week, the students of CRWR260 at the University of British Columbia Okanagan and I launched our collaborative digital writing project, #vherbage! #vherbage is the second student-centred collaborative work coming out of the institutional practice side of The Plant Intelligence Project. #vherbage is a celebration of language, plant subjectivity, connectivity and dendricity!

Students took their inspiration from ecopoet angela rawlings’ digital project gibber in a number of ways: #vherbage, like  the Twitter poem #gibberese, is a collaboratively written ecopoem composed in real time on Twitter. The curated poem appears animated on the site. The project also sees students combining image, sound, animation and text to create their interdisciplinary texts. Further, groups of students read rawlings’ more theoretical thoughts on asemic writing to come up with their own ideas about how the semiotic signalling of plants helps us think about our own use of language.

Just like last year, creative writing students connected with plant science students in Dr. Susan Murch’s plant biochemistry class to share discussions on metaphor and creativity in science and to source texts for found poems. Congratulations to all the authors on a beautiful finished project. Read more about the project and its authors here.


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Natasha Myers’ Kriya for Cultivating Your Inner Plant


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Natasha Myers, associate professor of anthropology at York, fellow Travis Bedel enthusiast and member of the friendly Plant Studies Collaboratory, has written a Kriya for Cultivating Your Inner Plant.

A Kriyā, says Wikipedia, is most commonly understood as  “a ‘completed action’, technique or practice within a yoga discipline meant to achieve a specific result. Another meaning of Kriya is an outward physical manifestation of awakened kundalini, such as a spontaneous body movement related to Kundalini energy flow.” As a poet, I love reading Myers’ kriya as a text to recite – or rather, to embreath – again and again. Myers’  text can be read as a set of ideovocal poses to flow through, as idea moving in and out through the lungs, as language as  transformative breathing practice. 

Anyone who has ever had someone say the right thing in the right way at the right time, such that their body responded, can understand the power of intention and language combined.

Anyone who is familiar with this blog can vibe with Myers’ assertion that a vocalized practice can lead us into, or away from, an idea of a self as like “one giant nerve cell merging with soil.”

Myers’ “invitation to deepen your already multispecies Yoga practice” blends theories of affective ecology with research on plant science. If only it were fashionable in lit circles to discuss the breath and poetry and Eastern philosophy from a postcolonial perspective: there was good reason why poetry discourse moved on from that (the awkwardness of white, Western North American poets of the 60s and 70s wanting to be non-brown yogic sage-shamans, for one).

But if one perhaps starts with the acknowledgement that these South Asian thinkers knew something then that we want to know again, now, in our time – we can think simultaneously about what bodies inhabit the most authoritative spaces of thought production and wonder how the affect/interspecies wisdom we’re turning to Eastern thought to express irrupts back into Western thought at the site of the idea of the plant.

Travis Bedel’s Homo Plantae aesthetic

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Mixed media artist Travis Bedel, who creates stunning collages that merge anatomical imagery with illustrations from science guides and textbooks, was profiled recently over at This Is Colossal.

In my study of the work of American poet Ronald Johnson, I looked at the particular conceptual work Johnson was doing when he compared “the human body” to plants in his modernist verse. I put “the human body”  in quotes here because, as you might imagine, the universal human body that Johnson gorgeously, lyrically sings in its green seediness is a male body, unspokenly white — the model humanbody  of a certain kind of scientific vision.

Nearly 50 years later, Bedel’s aesthetic sits squarely in the same zone as Johnson (who was also a collagist). If my man RJ had worked in digital visual collage, he might well have made this. I wonder if, like Johnson, Bedel is also a concurrent practitioner of a more leather, motorcycle, Bear vibe. For me the two will forever go hand in hand.