Nella Aarne
Of Animacy Reading Group × All Flesh is Grass

witnesslight, Uma Breakdown, 2020

Of Animacy Reading Group gathers online over the summer months in conjunction with Kim? Contemporary Art Center's exhibition All Flesh is Grass. Thinking through the themes of the exhibition, Of Animacy presents a selection of texts enquiring into plant agency and sentience, interspecies communication and the complexities of framing nonhuman life through an anthropocentric lens. All texts have been selected in collaboration with Of Animacy convener Nella Aarne and All Flesh is Grass working group: Una Hamilton Helle, Eltons Kūns, Uma Breakdown, and Erik Martinson.

The gatherings seek to create a comfortable and generous environment for relaxed discussion, with an aim to recognise vital alliances for our daily life and political thought. Of Animacy is always open to all.

Reading the selected text in advance is recommended but not necessary – excerpts will be read together to support open discussion.

To RSVP and access the readings, please email The online event link will be sent to all participants on the day of the gathering.

30 June 2020, 19:00 (EEST) / 17:00 (BST)
Of Animacy Reading Group x All Flesh is Grass: On Monstrous Sentience

The first gathering enquires into the perceived alienness and unnerving quality of our green, earthly companions in the western post-Enlightenment fantasy of human mastery over nature. Literature and film scholar Dawn Keetley’s six theses on plant horror unpick the human anxiety over our inability to contain vegetal life and how this anxiety is captured in film by the figure of the monstrous plant threatening human existence. Author Roald Dahl’s short story, The Sound Machine, however, reveals the violence embedded to many human pursuits and finds horror in our failure to perceive the vibrancy and vulnerability of non-human life.

Key texts
    Dawn Keetley, ‘Six Theses on Plant Horror; or, Why Are Plants Horrifying?’, Plant Horror: Approaches to the Monstrous Vegetal in Fiction and Film (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)
    Roald Dahl, ‘The Sound Machine’ (Penguin Books, 1996, originally published in The New Yorker, 1949)
Further reading

Vegetal Embodiment, Una Hamilton Helle and Eltons Kūns, 2020

21 July 2020, 19:00 (EEST) / 17:00 (BST)
Of Animacy Reading Group x All Flesh is Grass: On Embodied Language

The second discussion explores language as a property that extends beyond humans to all forms of life. Ecologist David Abram’s essay roots all language to the physicality of the body that produces and uses language, as well as to the material reality that surrounds this expressive body. Bryologist Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about vocabularies as something that can shift our perception and guide us to consider non-human life with sensitivity and respect.

Key texts
    David Abram, ‘The Flesh of Language’, The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-human World (Vintage Books, 1997)
    Robin Wall Kimmerer, ‘Learning to See’, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses (Oregon State University Press, 2003)
Further reading
    Monica Gagliano, ‘Breaking the Silence: Green Mudras and the Faculty of Language in Plants’, The Language of Plants: Science, Philosophy, Literature, eds. Monica Gagliano, John C. Ryan, and Patrícia Vieira (University of Minnesota Press, 2017)

allfleshwall, Uma Breakdown, 2020

11 August 2020, 19:00 (EEST) / 17:00 (BST)
Of Animacy Reading Group x All Flesh is Grass: On More-than-Human Sociality

The third and final gathering focuses on sociality as a fundamental quality of all living beings, human and non-human, and points to the complexity of determining other species’ consent to human actions. Anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s essay introduces us to the social life of plants and mushrooms, and demonstrates how planned and unplanned human disturbances weave into the multi-species social world of the Japanese Satoyama forest. Writer Elvia Wilk’s article on negotiating consent in the imagined worlds of Live Action Role Playing (LARP) games alludes to how we can stretch our imagination and search for more caring ways of relating to others around us.

Key texts
    Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, ‘More-than-Human Sociality: A Call for Critical Description’, Anthropology and Nature, ed. Kirsten Hastrup (Routledge, 2014)
Further reading
    Astrida Neimanis, ‘No Representation without Colonisation? (Or, Nature Represents Itself)’, Somatechnics, Vol. 5, No. 2, Autumn 2015, pp. 135–153