Oliver Kellhammer okellhammer at gmail.com
Fri Nov 8 05:48:36 AEDT 2019

As someone who uses 'him/his' pronouns, I was wondering what thoughts
others might have on Sylvia Federici's observations that the unenclosed
commons were historically spaces that, while not specifically feminized,
were vital as means of production for women who, excluded from property
relations (less title to land, less social power), depended on the commons
for subsistence, autonomy and sociality? Herbs (for food, medicine and
witchery), berries, mushrooms, dye plants and so forth) would be typical
resource the commons could offer, as would be the availability of a social
space outside of the patriarchy.  Is the ruderal all that is left of the
commons after capitalism has metabolized it by extracting the most readily
commodifiable resources and contaminated it with its tailings?  What is the
potential for the ruderal as a feminized space? A queer space? A space
outside of patriarchy?
Then there is the issue of contamination which affects the poor and the
young disproportionately.  Back in the '80s in Toronto, I did some
phytoremediation work using buckwheat cover crops to attempt to extract
lead from the contaminated soil in a working-class neighbourhood close to a
lead smelter.
http://www.oliverk.org/art-projects/land-art/lead-down-the-garden-path .
Mel Chin's work in Flint echoed this some years later and there are several
other artists operating in this sphere. The people who suffered the worst
health effects were inevitably poor women and their children. So perhaps we
should be cautious about overly romanticize the ruderal. It can be an
emancipatory space or a space of menace and contamination.  Thoughts?



On Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 2:44 PM WhiteFeather <whitefeather.hunter at gmail.com>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Thank you, Margaretha - I'm so inspired here.
> I very much agree that nuanced time considerations are an important aspect
> of this work, particularly when considering 'wastelands' and their
> counterparts, protected areas.
> Two projects I undertook last year sought to enrich understandings of two
> different locations by using related conceptualizations of time:
> In one location, Northern Finland, I investigated the eco-political
> conflict zone of Kilpisjärvi, and sought to develop a concept of
> 'lichenological time' - that is, time as observed through the tenacious
> lifespans of the sensitive lichen species native to this (sub)arctic
> region, in relationship with the cultural and human rights of the
> indigenous Sámi people who inhabit and traverse the landscape there. The
> hills, fells and fjords of the region have long been subject to a series of
> conflicts, littered with artifacts of war: broken concrete structures
> bespeckled with lichen crusts, bones in the streams (supposedly), and
> territorial fences between nationalities that fragment reindeer migratory
> habitats and limit their food supply, which happens to be exclusively
> lichen. Reindeer are the central cultural signifiers and livelihood of the S
> ámi. The pressing conflict I encountered was between Sámi herders and
> population biologists/ ecologists in Kilpisjärvi who sought to increase
> fencing in order to 'protect' ecological pockets of landscape from the
> herds of reindeer adapting new migratory deviations around the obstacles
> that had been erected already.
> Lichen has an enzymatic quality of slowly digesting some of the longest
> standing members of the ecological landscape: rocks and stones and also
> artifacts of humanity. Some time before I arrived in Sápmi (the Sámi
> territory that includes northern Finland, as well as Norway, Russia and
> Sweden), the Norwegian government had made the decision to water-blast all
> of the lichen colonies off of rocks with petroglyphs, so that they would be
> made more visible for tourist attraction. I understood lichenological time
> as that of prolonged witness and of slow interchange. Biologists understood
> lichenological time in terms of sustainable growth rates for ecological
> preservation within compartmentalized spaces (despite the desire to delimit
> that preservation to only species they were interested in, not species that
> transgressed the boundaries of their assigned compartments). Governments
> understood lichenological time as a threat to industry. Sámi understood
> lichenological time as vital to survival.
> In the second location, in eastern Canada (Halifax), I was investigating
> bioremediation in the form of a microbial inoculant. Specifically, I was
> working at a legacy gold mine tailings site, a veritable 'wasteland' of
> golden sand laden with arsenic and mercury since the late 1800s. The
> current government had decided that the tailings still had great potential
> value, since over 40% of the gold from the original ore still remained in
> them, though they were too toxic to re-process. I worked with an
> environmental scientist who specializes in phytoremediation using goldenrod
> species with chemical additives, but she was interested in my work with a
> species of bacteria that thrives in metal-polluted soils, reduces mercury
> through enzymatic processes and produces 24k gold as a metabolic byproduct
> (yes, alchemical, indeed). My initial experiments showed new bacterial
> activity in the sterile soil samples I'd inoculated in the lab (these gold
> mine tailings were, I discovered, devoid of any microbial life), but my
> intentions were purely artistic and poetic - I planned a performative
> gesture of 'inoculating' the site with a few prayer bundles containing live
> microbes that might return some gold to the soil over an expanse of
> geological time. The viability of this action would likely be nil within
> any industrial timeframe or single human lifetime, and my concept included
> the consideration of geocultural time in revivifying the tailings. I had
> been consulting with a Mi'kmaq curator (indigenous to Nova Scotia and New
> Brunswick) about the cultural landscape where the tailings were deposited
> and his explanation, too complex to explain fully here, detailed the
> irrevocable co-evolution of his people and landscape, and he ultimately
> impressed upon me that any significant change to the landscape meant a deep
> psycho-spiritual impact on the Mi'kmaq people, among other impacts. In the
> end, my scientist collaborator put the kybosh on my research. A new
> partnership had been formalized between one of her research associates and
> the government, to the tune of a million dollar grant to attempt
> industrial-scale bioremediation of the gold mine tailings using a silica
> additive (which is itself toxic to animals in large quantities) so that the
> tailings could be reprocessed and the remaining gold extracted. My
> inoculated prayer bundles were sadly never buried and the spell of
> industrialism remained unbroken.
> The slow metabolism of time, through species both native and introduced,
> seems anathema to capitalist interests.
> Might this be a core mode of ruderal witchcraft, then: crafting in the
> interstices of polychronic time-scapes? Or you said, Oliver, perhaps
> engaging with, "playing out a longer game of earth repair that may or may
> not include us."
> WhiteFeather
> On Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 12:12 PM margaretha haughwout <
> margaretha.anne.haughwout at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Greetings all,
>> And WhiteFeather so great you dropped in, and your research sounds
>> amazing. Magic and witchery as a way of knowing is essential to this
>> conversation -- I am so eager to hear more about your work. It makes me
>> think about:
>>  - ways of knowing ruin: plants that tell about disturbance, toxins,
>> human activity, certain peoples
>>  - ways of knowing the future: plants used in divination like yarrow
>> stalks for the iChing or yarrow flowers under the pillow, or runes carved
>> into beech branches; plant behavior as predictive technology
>>  - ways of knowing our selves and each other, our bodily processes, our
>> dreams, as vector of exchange...
>>  - ways of knowing place and relationship, complexity, solidarity
>>  - healing technology, communication technology, resource exchange
>> Some other magickal musings:
>> In between city buildings, in empty lots, in the gaps in the cement, the
>> squares of soil for street trees and dog shit, on the sides of highways,
>> and dusty strip malls, in traffic triangles, on the edges of mono-crop
>> agriculture, between heaving cracks of old post-industrial lots, and
>> abandoned factories…. evidence of the past 500 years of catastrophe
>> unfolds. 'Weeds' tear through these interstitial places, rapidly spread
>> seed, break up or bind together soils, offer nutrients, and play host to
>> insects and other outcasts of modernity.
>> We, the inheritors of colonial and capitalist legacies, try not to *see*
>> these abject/ transitory/ wasted/ intermediary sites as anything other than
>> an unpleasant interruption in our journey to another, “better,” place. When
>> we do encounter these places with any kind of pragmatism, it is with an eye
>> to take it back in time or to advance it forward -- both imaginary
>> temporalities that breed more wasteland. See Walter Benjamin’s IX theses in
>> Theses on the Philosophy of History. These wastelands are born of
>> catastrophes that have harsh temporalities at their core: future
>> temporalities that privilege progress and an emancipatory future, and that
>> wax nostalgic for an untouched nature of the past that never grieves the
>> violence and devastation of colonization. Our unfolding and cascading
>> catastrophe is born of denial. Denial of difference, of reciprocity, of the
>> moral claims of the past. And yet, the very ruins most of us wish to evade
>> are waiting to be noticed, waiting for us to reckon with weeds, toxins,
>> boulders, pasts -- in resistance, solidarity, recuperation, relationship,
>> reciprocity.
>> So ruderal witchcraft might have an important intervention into time and
>> speed. Can we slow down time with this work?
>> M
>> --
>> beforebefore.net
>> --
>> On Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 4:23 PM Marisa Prefer <marisa at pioneerworks.org>
>> wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> So excited to be in conversation here- many thanks, Margaretha, Oliver
>>> and others, for inviting a feral multi-species-ness to convene in this
>>> digital space in a time when the relationships between physical and
>>> ethereal matter feels increasingly slippery.
>>> I am slowly gathering steam that builds around this waxing moon in
>>> Capricorn; I write from a low-lying seaside community in Red Hook,
>>> Brooklyn; near the harbor where we recently gathered to honor the ocean
>>> waters in this seventh year after strong floods (unprecedentedly for our
>>> times) blanketed streets and sidewalks. Are they not simply waters in
>>> pursuit of reclaiming their home, that has been concretized by humankind?
>>> Much of Red Hook is built on landfill, atop a salt marsh estuary that was
>>> once full of the 'native' Salt meadow cordgrass, or spartina.
>>> Spartina now blankets many of the wetlands across the eastern US, and is
>>> feared as an 'invasive', although it is often also endemic to nearby
>>> regions where it stands. It thrives alongside polluted wetlands, spreading
>>> by its roots, sending signals to encourage microbial life below ground. The
>>> linguistic demarcation of binaries (native v. invasive) as related to
>>> control or valuation / eradication of plant beings sets a tone similar to a
>>> common us vs. them dynamic, a reminder of the structural logic that was
>>> employed by the cultural purges of the early modern European witch-hunts,
>>> and is all too familiar in American politics around gender and cultural
>>> variances. Though humans have created drug compounds extracted from
>>> phytochemicals found within plants, we do not know them by their names. The
>>> hemorrhaging of connective tissue between consuming and experiencing plants
>>> is a wound that can (must) be treated, locally.
>>> In searching for the incantatory amongst the edges; I find many of the
>>> plants that APRIORI has created signs for– in the slivers of soil in
>>> sidewalks and alongside street side tree-pits. This landscape that has been
>>> re-inundated with saltwater is, in its seventh year, full of ruderal plant
>>> magic - a derelict ecotone where plastic bags soaked with pet dander cling
>>> to Knotweed, Mugwort, and Plantain whose roots exude organic compounds into
>>> soil helping to bind carbon from the atmosphere. Empty lots radiate with
>>> this intermingling; Seaside goldenrod, Jimson weed, Mullein, Evening
>>> primrose - which all thrive in sandy, disturbed, salty soils, are
>>> "following us" as armenian-american writer, activist, herbalist, and one of
>>> my dear teachers, Rosemary Gladstar says of her favorite plant beings (the
>>> 'weeds')– they're ones that are right there when and because we need them.
>>> I cultivate the 'weeds' that live in the streets of my neighborhood-
>>> growing them in rich humus in raised beds far from immobile heavy-metal
>>> contaminants that lie dormant within human-altered soils of Red Hook's once
>>> fertile red clay- (for which it gathered its name) to make decoctions with
>>> their leaves, stems, fruits, roots and seeds. Many of these plant elixirs
>>> are macerating on my shelf, waiting to be strained for next year's
>>> allergies, inflammation, coughs and infections. I share them with fellow
>>> city dwellers; neighbors, friends, and strangers. I believe that the term
>>> 'weeds' is more of a descriptor for a human's state of mind than a name for
>>> a category of plant- an act of deeming a plant who is growing where a human
>>> wishes they wouldn't. But feel it is important to recognize how humans have
>>> demoralized them merely for holding this transitory space, the queers and
>>> in-betweens who reclaim the streets as a vibrant, messy places for all
>>> kinds of phenotypes to gather.
>>> To cultivate the 'weeds' might be seen as an unpopular tactic, eschewing
>>> the neat and narrow rows of kale and brussels sprouts, (is it me, or did
>>> brussels get a PR team this year like kale did back in 2010?) but perhaps
>>> it is those who hold the hold the powers to thrive amidst, that are the
>>> technologies (and are extracted for use in our technologies) who remind us
>>> of the presence of magic within all beings.
>>> I aim to practice the work of taking more time sensing in these 'weedy'
>>> spaces, - for feeling the prickliness of Japanese hops as they catch on my
>>> skin, sending me nerve-numbing medicine as I try to pull them from the
>>> fence. As the spines of get stuck in our arms and fingers, can we be (with)
>>> them, embodied at the edges– before pulling them out?
>>> *Marisa Prefer *
>>> *(they, them, their)invisiblelabor.org <http://invisiblelabor.org/>*
>>> On Mon, Nov 4, 2019 at 11:13 PM Oliver Kellhammer <okellhammer at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>> Yes to the 'rudeness' and category-defying ferality! One of the things
>>>> that can be maddening to purists is the Interzone between the ruderal and
>>>> indigenous, the hyper-ecologies that self assemble into novel ecosystems. I
>>>> have fond memories of stumbling through a Superfund site next to the
>>>> Willamette River near Portland and coming upon the indigenous Madrone and
>>>> Cottonwood trees growing cheek to cheek with Paulownia and Robinia.
>>>> Red-tailed hawks and western fence lizards took advantage of the thermal
>>>> opportunities afforded by weedy expanses of abandoned pavement, while
>>>> homeless folks made funeral pyres of salvaged electrical wire with which to
>>>> burn off the insulation before selling it for recycling. Yet toxins were
>>>> leaching into the water table and the fish were too contaminated for
>>>> healthy consumption.
>>>> The ruderal may be empowering but not perhaps for those that ruined it.
>>>> Yet the ruderal is playing out a longer game of earth repair that may or
>>>> may not include us.
>>>> On Mon, Nov 4, 2019 at 10:57 PM WhiteFeather <
>>>> whitefeather.hunter at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>>> Hello, empyrites!
>>>>> I can't express how excited I am to see this topic of discussion come
>>>>> up here, and to learn from you in this shared space, about what magic and
>>>>> witchcraft mean from your different contexts and positions. My current PhD
>>>>> research is very much centred in practice-based (witch)craft, in
>>>>> relationship with biotechnology (I have a practical background in cellular
>>>>> and microbiology), and of course with a very keen eye on feminist
>>>>> witchcraft historians such as Federici, also Barbara Ehrenreich and Dierdre
>>>>> English before her, as well as favourite feminist technophile philosophers,
>>>>> such as Donna Haraway, and very (most?) importantly, other (bio)tech-witch
>>>>> practitioners.
>>>>> I'm very much interested in 'troubling' scientific narratives and
>>>>> methodologies through practice and philosophy, where they historically and
>>>>> contemporaneously intersect with mammalian bodies/selves especially, but
>>>>> also expanding this to better reflect multiple senses of
>>>>> other-worldliness--including deviants, hybrids and more-than-mammals (for
>>>>> example, microbes essential to the nutrient uptake and growth of our plant
>>>>> foods/medicines as well as those that emerge, feeding on and reducing
>>>>> toxicity in spaces such as the 'ruderal').
>>>>> What a magnificent word ruderal is, for it contains the word, *rude*.
>>>>> Some of the most rude experiences I've had in the field have been with
>>>>> regards to confronting ideologies around ecosystems and “protected”
>>>>> (pristine/pure) areas, particularly where privileged systems of knowledge
>>>>> production influence policy that restricts, undermines and suppresses
>>>>> lived/embodied/anecdotal knowledges, when those knowledges run counter to
>>>>> capitalist imperatives. I can expand more on these experiences later where
>>>>> there is interest or opportunity.
>>>>> So looking forward to reading everything,
>>>>> WhiteFeather Hunter
>>>>> :::she/her:::
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> empyre forum
>>>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>>>>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
>>>> --
>>>> http://www.oliverk.org
>>>> twitter: @okellhammer
>>>> mobile: 917-743-0126
>>>> skype: okellhammer
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> empyre forum
>>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>>>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

twitter: @okellhammer
mobile: 917-743-0126
skype: okellhammer
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20191107/c8d7294f/attachment.html>

More information about the empyre mailing list