Experimental Media for Radical Ecologies – Spring 2021
This seminar engages students in multimodal methods to study the American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata), the beloved “queen of forests” in the Eastern United States—until the nineteenth century. Billions of chestnut trees succumbed to blight disease when plant nurseries in New York began importing trees from Asia, which happened to carry a ravenous hitchhiker, the bright orange fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica). The death of chestnut trees over the last two centuries has changed multiple lives and landscapes. Today, foresters and geneticists are testing “restoration trees” to bring into being a redesigned version of the American chestnut. There is more to the story which this seminar will seek to unpack.
How might we trace the historical, ecological, and ethical significance of these events from various more-than-human perspectives? How might we craft a multispecies story of life and death that renders differential ontologies through close attention to matter and media? This seminar introduces students to multispecies/cyborg ethnography, science/media studies, and experimental documentary through a pragmatic and collaborative approach: learning through making, making as theorizing with-for-within more-than-human worlds.
Students will participate in a range of activities: interviews, archival research, film screenings, readings, field audio/video recordings, creative brainstorming, and storyboarding, with guest speakers from cinema, sound, mycology, forestry, and anthropology.