Fiona MacDonald works with human and nonhuman beings as Feral Practice to create art projects and interdisciplinary events that develop ethical and imaginative connection across species boundaries. Their research draws on artistic, scientific and subjective knowledge practices to explore diverse aesthetics and create suggestive spaces of not knowing nature.
Feral Practice has recently collaborated with plant scientists and the public to create Ask Somerset’s Plants, three podcasts that bring plant knowledge to bear upon human problems. Their long-term research project Ant-ic Actions works with a population of wood ants to explore how human and ants meet, through a series of material, aesthetic and imaginative encounters, shared with human audiences as performance lectures, moving image works and texts. The participatory sound work Mycorrhizal Meditation has been presented as a digital installation at Governors Island, NYC 2019, Bánkitó Fesztivál, Hungary 2019, Taipei Biennale 2018, Radical Mycology Conference USA 2018, Furtherfield Gallery London 2017 and as live performance at The Bluecoat 2019 and UNESCO Paris. The site-specific series Ask the Wild with Marcus Coates, has been performed at Whitechapel Gallery, Tate St Ives, Turner Contemporary, Whitstable Biennale, and the South London Botanical Institute 2017-18.
FIELDWORK Q&A – October 2019
How is fieldwork part of your practice?
At the core of my artistic work and research is an enquiry into how human beings relate to nonhuman beings. How we communicate, interact, exploit, eat, ignore, befriend, and understand each other. Fieldwork, especially when conducted over the long term, allows me to challenge my own preconceptions through experimentation, both materially and imaginatively. My work is centered on a few long-term projects, working with specific different kinds of beings, and in specific places.
How would you describe your fieldwork activity?
Each summer for the last five years, I have taken residency in a cabin for two or three weeks at the edge of a forest in Kent, and for this time, a particular population of wood ants has been my ‘primary relation’. This repeated cycle, over several years, of intensive fieldwork interspersed with long periods for reflection (and video editing) has been a transforming engine of my research. In addition, I have a daily-weekly-ongoing practice of fieldwork that I conduct through walking, observing, and working with the woods, fields, and species where I live. I continually re-approach the same habitat from slightly different perspectives, for example I have recently been researching and noticing plant galls – domiciles made by mites, wasps and other creatures through their chemical influence on the plant. My intention is to repeatedly attend to and expand my intuition of the diverse living perspectives from which this landscape may be experienced. This helps to decenter a conventional human-centric view, and enrich my experience of the liveliness of this place, from the macro (such as geological timescales) to the micro (the architectural power of a tiny gall midge).
How are you currently sharing your fieldwork?
The fieldwork informs and seeps into everything I make, think and do. Alongside my art work and written research, I have an expanding role as a teacher and facilitator, devising and leading workshops that encourage people to experience alternative perceptual experiences and bring them into experimental and imaginative connectivity with nonhuman nature.
Ask Somerset’s Plants