[-empyre-] October: This Mess We're In Week 3

WhiteFeather whitefeather.hunter at gmail.com
Sun Oct 21 07:23:44 AEDT 2018

Hi again, everyone - I realized that the first message I sent through was
held up because of my email signature (bold text? hyperlinks?). Did
everyone see the link to the article that I shared? If not, hi! Hello! I am
sure many of you have been engaged in excellent listening, viewing and
discussion at the conference, er... monstrosity. I very much wish I could
be in attendance, so I am grateful for this opportunity to connect with you
all virtually. Thank you, Tarsh, for instigating this discussion and
building an archive of our collective voices as this exhibition and all its
cousin events roll out. Also, I'm glad to hear that your cat is faring...
well, faring.

Along the lines of our theme, I've been thinking a lot lately about the
co-existence of violence and empathy. Much of my work with mammalian cells
and other microorganisms has included the cultivation of new laboratory
protocols for empathy. I talk to my work, tell it that it is growing well
and looks great, warm flasks of cells with my own body heat, breathe my own
CO2 into them, use my own menstrual blood to make blood agar nutrient
substrate for bacteria to grow on. This, with an understanding that my
anthropomorphism/ attempts to "connect" can only go so far.

Rather than sink fully into the hypocrisy of the inherent violence of
bleaching my specimens to death after my experiments, or paying $1/mL for
fetal calf serum, or piling copious amounts of lab consumables (plastic)
into biohazard bins that will be autoclaved using a ton of nonrenewable
energy before being dumped into a landfill, I want to begin to think about
the ways that we culturally negotiate the mutual co-existence of empathy
and violence - something along the lines of dark ecologies.

I see Frankenstein's monster as a territory where empathy and violence
co-exist. Rather than resemble Dr Frankenstein himself, a swinging
dichotomy between empathy (more like fascination) and violent repulsion,
his monster seems to embody a capacity for both at once.

The video piece that I have in the exhibition was the beginning of my
investigation of this. I was in Iceland during slaughter season
(September), and observed the intimate relationship that Icelanders have
with their beloved animals - free-roaming horse and sheep, and also the
annual roundup and mass slaughter, done in a community ritualized and
sustainable fashion, one that maintains the size of herds so that they
don't impact the ecosystem negatively, and feeds Icelanders for the entire
year to come. The sea was awash in blood draining from the floors of the
slaughterhouse, which was right next door to the textile centre where I was
in residence. I was in awe of this relationship, so different from the
relationship (or nonrelationship) we have with food animals in North

I'm rambling on, but I want to put that out there for discussion. I hope
you will have time to read and respond!

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