[-empyre-] introduction for rehearsal of a network - [week 1]

Stephanie Rothenberg rothenberg.stephanie at gmail.com
Wed Jun 6 16:47:37 AEST 2018

Hello Empyre list!

First an introduction – I am an artist and professor at University at
Buffalo. I’ve been working with networks exploring the space between the
real and the virtual for many years in both my art and pedagogical
practice. These early artistic inquiries focused on how the network was
shifting labor from the perspective of both how work gets done and who was
doing the work – a new demographic of geographically distributed laborers
vastly ranging from former migrant workers in China that were digging for
gold online to underemployed single mothers in Eastern Europe navigating

Over the past several years I’ve been examining how social media platforms
are creating new financial networks. I started working with non-human
media, aka house plants, because I craved a tactile and visceral
counterpoint to the abstractions of these networks – as a strategy to make
visible the real world consequences of inequality and inequity. I use
plants as data points in physicalized large-scale visualizations. The
plants become symbolic for human life and introduce an element of
unpredictability and thus disruption into these normally streamlined

Continuing to work with plants has led to my newfound fascination with the
networks of mycelium and its slimy sidekick physarum polycephalum as well
as other organisms. I’m also a big fan of Jason Moore and his theory of
Cheap Nature and Donna Haraway’s theory of the Chthulucene (both theorists
discussed at length on Empyre last fall).

My recent experiments are deeply inspired by their work, engaging play and
wonder with a hint of Marxism. Merging economic idioms with DIY/kid science
models of sustainable technology such as lemon batteries, dirt energy and
bread mold, I question what it might look like if non-human forces could be
put in the driver’s seat of our so-called anthropogenic crisis. What
happens when models of non-human ecological systems are used to identify
and rethink the dysfunctional systems, the “fairy tales,” that are
currently troubling our social welfare, economy, and governance? For
example, can we draw connections between the reproduction of rhizopus
stolonifer (aka common bread mold) and the reproduction of student debt in
the U.S?

With that said I bring up a few thoughts on MNS in response to some of She
Lea’s initial questions:

-- -- In terms of a society, what will a Buffalo MNS node look like? And
how will it be both similar and different to nodes in other locations based
on ecological histories, economic histories and current resources?

-- On the issue of resources, is it important to track the networks of
funding and their impact on research as all these nodes emerging in
different countries are dependent on different types of financial systems –
academic in the U.S. vs government cultural funding in Europe and/or
corporate funding for others

-- In starting this network, what are both the risks and the possibilities
in the anthropomorphic?

Stephanie Rothenberg
Associate Professor
Director of Graduate Studies
Head of Graphic Design Concentration
Department of Art | University at Buffalo | SUNY
rothenberg.stephanie at gmail.com
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20180606/6307499b/attachment.html>

More information about the empyre mailing list