Other Species

Animals are everywhere full partners in worlding, in becoming with. Human and nonhuman animals are companion species, messmates at table, eating together, whether we know how to eat well or not.

—Donna Haraway, When Species Meet


I was almost to the gate when a hand reached out and pulled me backwards by my hair, opening my mouth to an O. The next day, I woke up with a raw throat. The cook gave me salt in warm water. I waited until she was gone and then I bit it. I bit my own arm and ate it. Here is my belly, frosted with meat. Here are my eyes, bobbling in a tin.

—Bhanu Kapil, Humanimal: A Project for Future Children


This issue of ART PAPERS takes inspiration from those who attempt to decenter human experience in favor of nonhuman perspectives. From the microbiome to the macro-biosphere, a cultural impulse to explore and honor the intersections and entanglements among many species is growing, with humans figured in as participants and collaborators rather than as masters or separate observers. This inherently transdisciplinary inquiry brings together biology, anthropology, economics, philosophy, animal studies, contemporary art, among other speculative methods.

The issue looks to artists who seek to destabilize such thought through their practices and who draw influence from such thinkers as Jakob von Uexküll, Anna L. Tsing, Karen Barad, Kathryn Yusoff, and Donna Haraway, and many others. Such thinkers have come to influence—and, in turn, have in some cases been influenced by—the work of contemporary artists that enact interspecies collaborations, human allyship to other species, and considerations of nonhuman experience.

Can we escape our humanness, can we alter our path, can we learn to see and speak and act differently? What are we if we disavow our primacy? Can we wake up to the world we’ve always occupied—the one where we are just one kind of life among many? Can we unlearn the assumptions that have informed our understanding of the boundaries between an “us” and “everyone else?”

One commonality that emerged in this issue is a consideration of the tangled relations between other species and their status as commodities for humans. Acknowledging extraction as our historical mode of collaboration, Natasha Marie Llorens offers a deep reading of Liv Bugge’s video work Goliat, Draugen & Maria in The Consequence of Touching Oil, wherein the artist creates a context for encounter with crude oil. In a related review, Park Myers looks to the solo exhibition of Monira Al Qadiri: Refined Vision at the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston. There, he views humanity’s entanglement with oil as an enmeshment with past lifeforms and an evocation of doom for present—and future—forms of life. Al Qadiri’s work, like Bugge’s, speaks to inseparable relations and the vast consequences of our actions within them.

How might humans hope to recognize extraterrestrial life when we don’t fully recognize the life amid which we already live? With her essay Nope—A Certain Tendency of the Immaterial, we welcome Sherae Rimpsey, our inaugural Mildred Thompson Editorial and Arts Writing Fellow, who draws lines between the acts of witnessing and recognizing, naming and materializing, in Jordan Peele’s film Nope. Is Jean Jacket an alien, or just alien to those who witness the events of the film? Who are we to say? Similar questions arise in Edward Austin Hall’s review of The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler.

Xenia Benivolski also turns her eye to the sky and observes bird migrations to examine paths of colonial capital exchange. In PassengerMigration Patterns of the Living and Those of the Dead, she traces the line between economy and ecology through the Ocean Earth Development Corporation and the earthworks of Barbara Kozłowska, and she arrives at another artwork that hinges upon the behavior of birds: Heba Y. Amin’s multiplatform work The General’s Stork. Elsewhere in the issue, EC Flamming reviews the Panama Fruit Feeder Cam at Canopy Lodge in El Valle de Anton, Panama. There she finds a Herzogian blend of beauty and horror, and she delights in the role of absent voyeur.

Elvia Wilk takes up the term Parasite (n.) and asks us to shift our perspective away from that of parasite–as–taker, as the unwelcome guest, and toward a more appreciative understanding of parasites’ nature. Her text is accompanied by a spotlight feature of sculptures by Ambra Castagnetti.

Perhaps exo-human considerations are about trying to get outside “us”—to imagine how we look, how we appear, how we can be understood from other perspectives, in the hope that doing so will teach us something we’ve failed to teach ourselves. I wonder if decentering humanity and striving to inhabit other perspectives can transcend the impulse to gaze only back at ourselves.

Maybe what we think we know about life is all wrong—all a case of our mistaken positioning at the center. If that’s the case, where can we look to rebuild our knowledge anew? Grief and mourning echo throughout many of these considerations. In their deep dive into one artist’s oeuvre, different ways to describe the ends of things // notes on Laurie Anderson, Christopher Robert Jones asks if we can imagine a way of knowing that isn’t based in possessing, a way of loving that isn’t dependent upon loss, and a future that does not include us. Sasha Cordingley also explores questions of life, death, and our entanglement with other species in her review of Korakrit Arunanondchai and Alex Gvojic: PRAY. In his review of Carlos Motta: Your Monsters, Our Idols, Serubiri Moses interrogates the notion of binary order as natural law and, in responding to Motta’s work, indicts humanity’s failure to adequately liberate itself from rigid and destructive internal categories.

As we turn the page from 2022 to 2023, the Art Papers team is filled with gratitude for all the humans—and the companion species who contribute their brilliance and curiosity to the work we do. Keep an eye out for our end-of-year recap online, as well as for exclusive expansions of this issue’s theme, and more, here on ARTPAPERS.org.


Sarah Higgins
Editor + Artistic Director