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Multispecies Inc (ExhibitionsFeaturedFuturesWordsWorks)

Overview

Multispecies Inc. is the working title for an ongoing series of projects exploring multispecies future imaginaries that offer a glimpse into a future world of multispecies cohabitation, non-human-centric living and AI biome modeling. Our aim is to create a series of works that examine and critique our desire to both convene with, and control “nature”, revealing moral dilemmas and opening up these subjects for further discussion. It tries to uncover the prejudices and contradictions we hold towards interaction with other species. In doing so, it will highlight the inevitably human-centric nature of design, in that, even while attempting to place other species first, the protagonists are constantly thwarted by the limits of human knowledge and imagination. 

Continuing our process of using fictional entities as vehicles for the exploration of prescient topics, we created Multispecies Inc., an organization that makes tools for “multispecies living”, as part of a wider mission to ensure the flourishing of all non-human species.

In broad terms the project is an allegory of our treatment of our planet, and attempts to offer a lens through which to consider the challenges we collectively face when attempting to reverse the damage caused by human exceptionalism. 

Acting as de facto members of Multispecies Inc., we design, prototype, and share the tools and actions of this fictional group of people striving to cohabit with other species with the help of advanced technologies.

Since January 2022 we have been researching the theories and practices of multi-species world-making and conducted interviews with leading ecologists, artists, and scholars who have contributed to this discourse.

Through the outputs of this visual arts climate fiction, we are exploring questions including:

  • How far are we willing to compromise our comfortable existence to live a truly multispecies life (and what might that look like?)
  • How much we are willing to cede responsibility to systems – including those that reflect our biases and imperfections.
  • Would detailed biome modeling create limits to species numbers – including humans?

The project responds to several developments including the species turn in anthropology (which has seen animals, plants, fungi and microbes treated like humans in ethnographic studies), the successful attempts to grant personhood to natural wonders, and the emergence of the zoöp, a new company structure  that gives voice to non-humans. In contrast with utopian or dystopian climate futures, the project aims to provoke questions about how far humans would be prepared to go to advance multispecies cohabitation, and what role advanced technologies might play.

The project has emerged from several strands of research grants and support including Headlands Center for the Arts, Canada Council for the Arts Research Grant, NEW INC and the AHRC funded design research project Design for the Unthinkable World, in which six design studios were asked to explore design for a non-human-centric future.

Outputs so far – pictured above – include from top to bottom:

Multispecies Inc: Domestic Alchemy
Multispecies Inc: Systems Map
Multispecies Inc Book: Volume 1
Multispecies Inc – Works on Paper
Algae Kin-Gatherer outdoor sculpture
Design for the Unthinkable World exhibition
The Nomadic Fog Collector