Western Gallery: Modest Forms of Biocultural Hope

September 26 – December 8, 2018
Western Washington University, WA
Photo of Western Washington University exhibit.

Forest sculptures Chthulu (black, left), and Nin’Imma (white, right) at the Western Gallery. Photo courtesy Western Washington University.

Beginning with the questions: Can species thrive together? Can we learn from nature to remediate environmental problems? Is hope possible in the Antropocene? This exhibition focuses on creative efforts to address ecological concerns. As curator Hafthor Yngvason writes:

The projects brought together in the show present novel but grounded ways of thinking about ecological problems. Rather than dejection at the enormity of the challenges, they offer concrete and creative efforts. Rather than sweeping geoengineering schemes, they offer modest forms of biocultural hope. What the ecological thinker Donna Haraway has written about one of the projects–the Wertheims’ Crochet Coral Forest–is true of them all: ‘[These are] not projects of melancholy and mourning. Theirs are figures of response-ability.’

The exhibition title—“Modest Forms of Biocultural Hope”—comes from an essay by the curator, artist and ethnographer Eben Kirksey. While powerful forces have tried to appropriate the idea of hope, equating it to human-centered blanket “solutions” to global warming and extinction, Kirksey has argued for a multispecies approach. Rather than focusing on individual species, he explores the intersections of all lifeforms, searching for clues in their entangled relations. Practical and concrete acts of interspecies care can serve as anchoring points for collaborative action, he suggests, if they are grounded in biocultural possibilities and open-ended pursuit of livable futures. To Kirksey, even in the blasted landscapes of ecological disasters, toxic specters can be transformed into figures of hope.

Photo of Western Washington University exhibit.

Forest sculptures Chthulu (black, left), Nin’Imma (white, center) and Ea (pink, right) at the Western Gallery.  Photo courtesy Western Washington University.

Participating Artists

Nicole Dextras, John Feodorov, Deanna Pindell, Margaret and Christine Wertheim, Paul Kearsley, BiomeRenewables, Dabiri Lab, and WhalePower