Natural Discourse 2018 update

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photo by MB Maher

Natural Discourse, the series of lectures and accompanying exhibits that started back in 2012, focusing on collaborative efforts among scientists, naturalists, and artists to illuminate our increasingly fraught relationship with the natural world, is ongoing through February 26, 2018. I’m still hoping to attend. If I don’t, it will be the first Natural Discourse I’ve missed since its inception, and I’d hate to break what’s been a wonderfully enriching tradition.

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photo by MB Maher

Shirley Watts (top photo, pointing), one of the original co-founders and now single-handedly responsible for curating its ongoing success, sent me a note in response to yesterday’s post on botanical wallpapers. (And thanks to all who wrote that there was no rational reason to fear wallpaper anymore.) One of the contributing artists to this year’s Natural Discourse, Jenny Kendler, is working with Spoonflower to make a removable wallpaper based on her project included this year, “Bewilder (Deimatic Eyespot Camouflage).”* Here’s a look at the wallpaper as presently hung for the ongoing exhibit at Space 151:

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Appropriating butterflies’ ability to confuse predators with elaborately spotted disguises and camouflage, Kendler cheekily proposes in her interactive exhibit that we could benefit from a “new type of camouflage for the modern, digital world of privacy loss and online tracking.”

And I wholly endorse her approach to emphasizing a little more muscle as far as butterfly PR:

Butterflies, often dismissed as cute or cliché, and seen decorating countless throw-away consumer items, are re-recast here as fascinating ‘others’ — equal parts beautiful and strange. Through participation, seductive beauty and an awakening of the senses, Kendler asks us to allow ourselves to be bewildered by nature — and move beyond cliché and consumerist engagement, to an engaged ethics of openness and care.”

Further endearing her to me is this no-nonsense quote from the Chicago Tribune 9/12/14: “Human exceptionalism has got to go…Yes, we have great skills, but so does every other species on the planet.”

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Mitch made it to the opening on January 13 and grabbed some photos of the fun had with “Deimatic Eyespot Camouflage.”

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photo by MB Maher

Another contributor, Gail Wight, similarly endeavors to upend and have some fun with the hierarchical ordering of species from our biased vantage point, taking a common pest, the housefly, and giving it the glamor treatment. Yes, these images are made from highly magnified, composite images of fly wings. “I wanted to elevate them to a revered state, aware that they are just as much a product of evolution as we are.”

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Would you? Could you? If you didn’t know, wouldn’t this make gorgeous wallpaper? These stories and more are ongoing at Natural Discourse through February 26, 2018.

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*”Deimatic behaviour: threat display, or startle display in animals means any pattern of behaviour, such as suddenly displaying conspicuous eyespots, to scare off or momentarily distract a predator, thus giving the prey animal an opportunity to escape.”

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2 Responses to Natural Discourse 2018 update

  1. Nell says:

    Man, now I totally want a Room of My Own wallpapered with the fly-wing flowers… Those are wonderful.

    The eyespots, together with the helpful explainer on deimatic behavior, bring irresistibly to mind the image of the elephants in The Travels of Babar (winning their war with the rhinoceroses by scaring them away via giant glowering faces painted on the elephants’ butts).

  2. Denise says:

    Nell, thanks for starting my day with a big laugh. I love Babar!

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