What if non-humans and humans became mutually included within art practices? A Conversation between Agency and Michael Marder


What if plants and animals became included within art practices? What does the inclusion of plants and animals, with their unique kind of subjectivity, tell us about authorship and artistic agency? How does it change our conception of art itself? Could a legal controversy around the creation by a plant or an animal be provoked?

12.00 pm: Agency: Thing 001652 (Monkey’s Selfies)

12.30 pm: Michael Marder: A Portrait of Plants as Artists

01.00 pm: Discussion between Agency and Michael Marder

Agency: Thing 001652 (Monkey’s Selfies)
Art practices often involve non-humans (animals, birds, plants, rocks…). Yet, the intellectual property rights only reserve copyrights for human “authors”. Although the copyright law definition of “authors” does not explicitly refer to humans, the jurisprudence doesn’t consider non-humans as possible “causes of art works”. What if non-humans
become included within art practices? Agency starts from this speculative question while invoking Thing 001652 (Monkey’s Selfies) a legal controversy between the macaque Naruto represented by the animal rights organization PETA and the wildlife photographer David Slater around a series of photos made by Naruto and published inside a book by David Slater. 

12.30 pm: Michael Marder: A Portrait of Plants as Artists

In these brief remarks, I invite you to imagine together the different ways in which plants participate in the aesthetic and “poietic” processes. Serving as materials for an artwork, pigments, paper, canvas or wood not only receive the sensuous image of the artist’s idea but also offer the sort of resistance that bends the initial blueprint. In their own existence, plants engage in aesthetic play and, by maximizing their exposure to the outside, display themselves. Plants also create and recreate themselves all the time, growing new limbs, shedding leaves, putting out new sexual organs (the flowers) They are the artists of the atmosphere, synthesizing breathable air, and of the world itself, bringing together the organic and the inorganic realm and articulating creatures from various biological kingdoms. These are but a few of the conceptual brushstrokes I would like to contribute to the portrait of plants as artists.

Agency is a Brussels-based agency established in 1992 by Kobe Matthys. Agency constitutes a growing list of ‘things’ that resist the radical split between the classifications of nature and culture and consequently between body and mind, collective and individual, common and original, ephemeral and fixed, idea and expression, fact and creation, object and subject, or other-than human and human.

Michael Marder is Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), Spain & Professor at Large in the Humanities Institute at Diego Portales University (UDP), Chile. He is author of numerous articles and books in the fields of environmental philosophy, phenomenology, and political thought. His most recent monograph is Energy Dreams: Of Actuality (Columbia UP, 2017).


* The session will be held in English.