The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants

“Most people who bother to think about plants at all tend to regard them as the mute, immobile furniture of our world—useful enough, and generally attractive, but obviously second-class citizens in the republic of life on Earth.”

Stefano Mancuso

Jenna Sutela, Sporulating Paragraph, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Momentum 9 (Photo: Istvan Virag, Copyright: Punkt Ø/Momentum 9)
Jenna Sutela, Sporulating Paragraph, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Momentum 9 (Photo: Istvan Virag, Copyright: Punkt Ø/Momentum 9)

The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants is a multidisciplinary festival that brings together artists, scientists, writers, anthropologists and musicians for talks, performances, screenings and listening sessions that raise and address some of the most urgent questions facing all of us.

What do we learn by thinking differently about our environment? How can plant behaviour, plant systems, techniques for healing and plant sentience provide us with new dreams and possibilities for a future that is changing rapidly? Given that the devastating effects of climate change are extremely unevenly distributed around the world, how can we think of ecological questions in tandem with politics and place?

In a world-premiere, award-winning sound recordist, Chris Watson (David Attenborough’s long-term collaborator on the ‘Life’ series) will present his new, multichannel diffusion piece Salmo salar – The Three Realms, which traces the Atlantic salmon run from the sea ice edge of the Barents Sea to their spawning grounds by the source of the River Coquet in Northumberland. The composition will incorporate the sounds of plants and vegetation within the three realms of seawater, freshwater and air as the salmon take shelter within the kelp forests of the Barents Sea, to the freshwater currents of the river Coquet, as the salmon weave their way upstream through water moss lining the river bank and finally pass through air alongside Flag iris, reeds and sedges. Salmo salar was specially composed for EartH Hackney’s unique 25.1 surround sound configuration, using L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound technology from L-Acoustics, a multidimensional approach to sound designing, mixing, and processing that results in extremely natural and intelligible audio. This is Watson’s first time working with L-ISA technology.

General Ecology is the Serpentine Galleries long-running project addressing climate change, the environment, species extinction and posthumanism, explored in cross-disciplinary exchanges between artists, scientists, musicians and theorists. The themes and ideas of General Ecology are explored across much of the Serpentine’s programming in its galleries and connections can be traced to recent and current shows: Hito Steyerl: Power Plants and Emma Kunz: Visionary Drawings.

The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants:
Artist Saelia Aparicio presents short films that trace an alternative layer of fantasy sprouting in the Carpenters housing estate in Newham, London

Antoine Bertin presents a listening session from his NTS Radio programme, The Edge of the Forest

Artist Vivian Caccuri presents a performance lecture on sugar, yellow fever and colonialism

Film theorist Teresa Castro discusses how since the late 19th century to today, film has been imagining plant sentience and plant agency in considerable different ways

Theologian Amy Hollywood reflects on mysticism and plant life

Artist Kapwani Kiwanga in conversation with biocultural historian Kim Walker

Anthropologist Natasha Myers discusses plant sensing and communication

Political philosopher Michael Marder explores what new forms of politics can be imagined from a deep observation of plants

Artist-healer-seeker Tabita Rezaire opens the festival with a ritual offering aimed at restoring our ability to connect

Writer Elvia Wilk considers weirdness in plants

Sound recordist Chris Watson closes the festival with the world-première of Salmo salar – The Three Realms

The title of the festival – the third in a long series thinking about consciousness across animal, human, vegetal and artificial species – uses as a conceptual starting point the way in which mating puffer fish draw ornate circles in the sand of the sea bed. Seen from human eyes, this behaviour could also look like a dance or a work of art; from that thought extends a reflection on communication, creativity and intelligence across species distinctions, towards a deep ecological understanding of everyday life.

The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants is curated by Lucia Pietroiusti (Curator, General Ecology, Serpentine) and writer and editor Filipa Ramos, with Holly Shuttleworth (Producer, Live Programmes) and Kostas Stasinopoulos (Assistant Curator, Live Programmes).

The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants at EartH Hackney 11-17 Stoke Newington Road London N16 8BH
Sunday 19 May 1-11pm MORE INFO: serpentinegalleries.org/shape-circle-mind-fish-plants

The General Ecology project was launched in 2018, following the 2014 Extinction Marathon, hailed by The Guardian as ‘The artworld’s bid to save the world.’

Since this pivotal event, the Serpentine has continued its research around ecology, climate change, animality, human and artificial consciousness, wellbeing, extinction and technology with its General Ecology project.

From its unique position within Kensington Gardens, General Ecology has grown to include symposia, an ongoing talks programme, exhibitions, publications, study programmes, live events, film and podcasts, across a network of individuals and organisations from the fields of art, design, science, literature and anthropology, among others. The project purposely conducts research across the boundaries that have traditionally separated vegetal, human, non-human animal and artificial intelligence in science.

Themes researched by the General Ecology project echo across much of the Serpentine’s programming in its galleries and connects to recent shows such as Pierre Huyghe’s UUmwelt, Ian Cheng’s BOB and Emissaries, and extends to Emma Kunz: Visionary Drawings, and Hito Steyerl’s current Power Plants. Throughout a connecting thread challenges and questions the future of the planet.

The General Ecology project is curated by Lucia Pietroiusti with Holly Shuttleworth and Kostas Stasinopoulos.

About L-Acoustics
Founded in 1984 near Paris, France, L-Acoustics is the market leader in professional sound reinforcement technologies. With over 400 team members worldwide and offices in Paris, London, Los Angeles, and New York, L-Acoustics is present in over 80 countries via our network of Certified Providers. Focused on solutions that elevate the audience experience, more than 20% of L-Acoustics’ talent is devoted to R&D in the areas of acoustics, applications, mechanics, electronics, signal processing, and software development.

Recognized for pioneering the line source array, L-Acoustics continues to shape the future of the professional audio industry with L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound technology, a multidimensional, object-based approach to designing, mixing, and processing sound that results in extremely natural and intelligible audio and a more vibrant, and authentic connection between artists and their fans.

L-Acoustics technologies can be heard in places like the Hollywood Bowl, the NFL Cardinals State Farm Stadium or the Philharmonie de Paris, as well as the world’s top-grossing festivals, and on tour with world-class artists such as Adele, Pearl Jam, Lorde, and Depeche Mode.

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper'