Emergent Ecologies CFO (Call for Organisms)

Ecosystems were compared with airplanes in the 1980s.  Ecologists argued that it would be terrifying to ride on a partially disassembled flying machine.  “As you walk from the terminal toward your airliner, you notice a man on a ladder busily prying rivets out of its wing,” wrote Paul and Anne Ehrlich.  “Somewhat concerned, you saunter over to the rivet popper and ask him just what the hell he’s doing.”  This popular metaphor suggests that ecosystems might break down if essential parts, species, are driven extinct—popped out of finely tuned systems like rivets.

Emergent ecologies are being fastened into place with new rivets and cyborg articulations.  Amidst collapsing systems, unruly assemblages are flourishing and proliferating in unexpected places.  Microbes that become emergent diseases—by finding novel exploits, pathways of transmission, or modes of existence—are destroying economic systems and multispecies communities. Emergences are also figuring into collective hopes.  When a forest is clear-cut by loggers or destroyed by a volcanic eruption, emergent plants are the first to sprout.

The Multispecies Salon is reissuing the CFO (Call for Organisms) that inaugurated our initial 2008 exhibit in San Francisco.  We are conducting a biodiversity survey of New York City and beyond, working to represent the emergent ecological communities that are flourishing as well as failing in our built landscape.  Alongside work by established ecoartists, bioartists, sculptors, and performers we will exhibit work by “wild artists”—hobbyists, scientists, anthropologists, taxidermists—who do not have recognizable art credentials.  If Sigmund Feud railed against “wild analysts,” rouge psychoanalysts who were not properly trained, we will experiment with tactics that might disrupt the institutionalization and standardization of art practices.  We are pushing Joseph Beuys’ famous decree—“You are all artists”—beyond human realms to include microbes, insects, and plants.

Working to bring fragile organisms into a foreign space, we will attend to issues relating to care, contact and contagion.  Live mutants will be given away at this art exhibit.  We will also be looking for a good home for some endangered species, animals that have been orphaned by their ecosystem.  Accepting that ecological communities are dynamic, ever changing systems—with parts that can be taken away or added—opens up ethical and practical dilemmas.  We invite you to submit artworks and organisms that will help us explore a critical question, first posed by Matthew Chrulew: “How should we love in a time of extinction?”

If you would like to submit an organism or an artwork to the show send an email with a description (250 words or less), a photograph, and your phone number to multispecies.salon@gmail.com.  Submissions will be evaluated on a rolling basis starting Friday, November 6th, and the gallery will be open until filled.  Rather than be a static show, with clear opening and closing dates, our project will involve playing with the “hap” of what happens.  Happiness, in the Old English sense of the word, means having “good hap” or fortune.  We will be conducting experiments with happiness and glass, breaking down boundaries (and constructing new ones) to see what ecological communities might emerge.

For more background on the ideas animating this show, check out Emergent Ecologies, a new book from Duke University Press.

Proposals will be evaluated by a swarm of curators, who will gather together in Brooklyn at an undisclosed location on Saturday, November 7th.  Eben Kirksey, who is loosely coordinating this curatorial swarm, will be bringing a bucket—a dropbox of sorts—to Denver, Houston, Princeton, and New Haven.  In accepting fragile organisms and artworks in this bucket (and mailed into the show according to the below instructions) we will be attending to issues relating to care, contact, and contagion.  The location of the gallery will soon be revealed.

All participants are responsible for the costs of shipping their work to the gallery.  The gallery is not in a position to offer insurance for any artworks.  Return shipping of artwork accepted to the show will be covered by the exhibit.