The Multimodal book as organism, artefact and assemblage: non-human agency in processes of growing and making.
This practice-based research diffracts the hierarchical dominance of humans over nature by considering non-human agency in the processes of growing and making (Hallam and Ingold 2014). While historical divisions and hierarchies that justify human superiority over the world (and men over women) have been strongly contested (Martuzevich, Shiva, Merchant), tacit acceptance of the division between nature and culture is still encouraged by a neoliberal, human-centric model which views nature as a passive commodity (Klein). I suggest that a shift in perception to entertain the possibility of non-human agency will encourage a participatory relationship with the world which diffuses the exaggerated division between nature and culture.
The ‘multimodal book’, conceived as an investigative practice which includes the maker and reader, and also as an assemblage of works which come together in an exhibition, is developed to examine and articulate human-non-human relationships. Haptic and temporal aspects of the book are explored alongside growing plants to set up a dynamic interplay between concepts of organism and artefact and to interrogate non-human agency in the processes of growing and making. Ecosemiotics (Maran and Kull 2014) and multimodality (Kress) provide a mutually supportive methodology. Ecosemiotic readings of non-linguistic signs in the processes of growing and making are articulated as social-semiotic ‘modes’ in the multimodal book. The theoretical framework for this research is grounded in posthumanism and new materialisms (Latour 2004, Bennett 2010, Barad 2003).
Under the premise that small-scale, material encounters are an effective and achievable way of making bonds with nature, my practice includes participatory engagement with plants and books at a site in Whitworth Park, which will also serve as an outdoor exhibition space for collective work.