11. 5. 2023

Presentation in Utrecht: Social Labs/Creative Methodologies

We presented a paper concerning the relationship between science and art in multispecies relations in the series ‘Social Labs/Creative Methodologies’ at Utrecht University. 

Between Science and Art: Study and Representation of Multispecies Relations. Social Labs/Creative Methodologies #1, Utrecht, 5 April, 2023.

Sosna, Daniel, Brož, Luděk, and Tomáš Skála

We will present his research on two challenges brought by the research on ravens retrieving food waste from the landfills in Czechia: how to study the elusive birds and how to share our research findings beyond the academic circles. The research itself emerged unexpectedly with the recognition of littering caused not by humans but other species. Ravens played the key role in the story because of their capacity to retrieve and transport various food containers out of the landfills, which resulted in unruly accumulations of litter in the woods. In addition to observing humans, conducting interviews, and observing birds with the fellow ornithologist Roman Figura, camera traps were used to learn more about ravens’ interaction with waste. The camera traps revealed not only skills and interaction among different individuals but also the relations to other species mediated by waste. The accumulations of litter were further scavenged by other birds of prey and terrestrial species who spread the containers and wrappings along their trails. What initially seemed like mere litter in the woods turned out to be another contribution to the contemporary scholarly debates about the role of more-than-human relations in world making.

In this presentation, Daniel reflects on one of the collaborations that the research brought. This collaboration explored possibilities to share the ideas about entangled multispecies lives using art. Daniel engaged in a collaboration with Luděk Brož, his departmental colleague, and Tomáš Skála, the Czech sculpturer. Together, they engaged in discussions and mutual visits: Tomáš visited the research site to feel the atmosphere, see the birds, and collect artifacts for potential use. In exchange, Daniel and Luděk visited his art studio to learn about the possibilities of transforming their collective ideas into material carries of meaning embodied by Tomáš’s works. The mutual engagement resulted in a small exhibition at the annual Science Fair of the Czech Academy of Sciences where we presented an iron model of the raven with the circulatory system filled with the liquid evoking landfill wastewater, concrete stratigraphic cylinders depicting fossil record of the future, and video sequence showing photographs and videos from the field. The exhibition churned up the calm waters of the fair. The reactions ranged from the immediate rejections and to excitement. It encouraged them to think about their research further and examine ideas emerging from the encounters among various species facilitated by human waste as well as collaboration between artists and researchers.

More info here.