Current Research

Symbiophony
In collaboration with Paul Walde (University of Victoria), and birds

Methods in new media art and acoustic ecology, inform the conceptual-ethical starting point for Symbiophony. The project explores the potential for interspecies makings; symbiotic sonic and visual forms. New technologies provide novel means to collect data from birds, and assist in the data analysis with the goal to expand on ecologically enhanced attention. The investigation asks: Can explorations into interspecies relationality, combined with ethics of care, generate novel methods as reciprocal respectful co-creatings with other beings? Symbiophony investigates these potentials through two situated field research stations— in Vancouver and in Victoria—to collect visual, sonic, gestural, and social data from birds visiting the stations. The goal is to learn about the local communities of birds, their cultures and communications, and find ways to reciprocally engage through cross-cultural forms, such as sound-making.

supported by: 

ECU Internal Research Fund, Emily Carr University of Art + Design;
Department of Visual Arts, University of Victoria

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Biophilic Ethics and Creativity with More-Than-Human Beings
PhD dissertation, Simon Fraser University,
Special Arrangements in Graduate Liberal Studies (home department)

Topic: An interdisciplinary investigation into an expansion of ethics for more-than-human beings, examined through interspecies relational creativity in art processes.  

Abstract: Anthropocentric views historically have limited the potential of respect for other-than-human beings by promoting ideologies of human exceptionalism with regard to consciousness, reason and language. The doctrine of human supremacy has become normalized in capitalistic cultures, driving the domination and exploitation of other beings and natural systems for their ‘use-value’ as ‘resource,’ leading to today’s catastrophic harms of climate change, species extinction, ocean acidification, industrial farming, and animal slavery. As a means to counteract anthropocentrisms, this thesis proposes biophilic ethics and its constituent details—communicative ethics, biophilic attention, intentional relationality, interspecies generative indeterminacy—explored through art-action. The interdisciplinary investigation looks at methodologies in philosophy, ethics of care, ecofeminism, cognitive ethology, biology, naturalist methods, and aesthetics that interrogate beliefs in human superiority, and propose relational approaches to situate the human alongside Earth’s other beings within our shared ecosystems. The epistemological investigation is woven into ontological explorations rooted relational events that happened while conducting interspecies processes in my art practice over the past decade. Each creative instance—with dogs, crows and stones, fishes, and forests—is examined for potentials towards ecological understanding and compassionate action. The projects model improved thinking-feeling-acting with beings that share the Earth.

The thesis expands on previous thought with regard to biophilic ethics by arguing that love for life is a lived-condition beyond human-centred values. Other beings are themselves biophilic—interested in their lives, their families, communities, and cultures. This expansion of biophilic ethics is explored through proto-ethical potentialities that emerge in more-than-human relational encounters. The exploration combines epistemological and ontological investigations with ethics of care to include respect for the autonomy of other beings. Ethics of care calls into question objectivist and utilitarian methods, and instead promotes compassionate practices to sense and feel our interdependent relations.

The attendant details of biophilic ethics proposed in the thesis are adaptations of previous thought, expanded through historical and contemporary aesthetic methodologies. Communication ethics calls for improved relations with other animals through developments in understanding about differing modes of perception and communication. My expansion on this thought is explored through applied interactions with other beings for interspecies communication potentials. Biophilic attention is a development of aesthetic observational techniques, proposing expanded attention towards other beings in relation to one’s own sensing-feeling-thinking in the world. Intentional relationality is proposed as respect for differing minds and life projects, emerging through interspecies participatory art methods that provide open-ended collaborative inquiry. Interspecies generative indeterminacy is informed by thought on agential intra-action combined with generative and indeterminacy methods first articulated in mid-twentieth century practices and more recently explored in computational art. These details of biophilic ethics are examined within ranges of locatedness—the home, the neighbourhood, the territory, the Earth.

This research is supported by:
  • Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
  • Special Graduate Entrance Award, SFU.
  • Provost Prize of Distinction, SFU