“Chronopolitics with Dogs and Trees in Stanford” by Tuija Kokkonen and Alan Read

Thursday, 27 June 2013
7:30 pm – 7:30 am
Roble Studio 42
Blog Response by Tuija Kokkonen

Chronopolitics with Dogs and Trees in Stanford was, on one level, an invitation to perform for a non-human. Performances for non-humans are not missed or needed by them, but can act as a place of hospitality and of impossible, yet attainable proximity emerging on the different boundaries between species and co-beings.

When a dog responds to your reading of Investigations of a Dog to it, or when an oak or an herb plant receives the “Treebeard” chapter from the Lord of the Rings or Plant Fear being read to it, what happens in that moment? What happens to humans when the witness and the respondent of the event is something other than a human being? Following Derrida’s (2008) questions: Who witnesses to what and for whom? Who proves, who looks, who observers whom and what? What is there for knowledge, of certainty, of truth, of love?

The performance was based on the questions: whom do we converse with, and who are “we”? Reading to a plant or performing for a dog operates in the sphere of communication and conversing with non-humans. The philosopher Erazim Kohák also touches on this when he asks, as we value each other by speaking, “what is the epistemological status of a world within which speaking to trees would appear as an appropriate behavior?” (1993) The participants of the performance faced the invitation to invest their time and attention to an inter- or intra-action with non-humans: dogs, trees and other plants, and human co-beings, and consider them all as respectful beings (Kohák’s term) of our conversation collective, even of our policy-shaping debate. That encounter is a question of attitudes rather than abilities, attitudes that can open new kinds of shared spaces and times (of being affected [?]).

Chronopolitics with Dogs and Trees in Stanford was born in collaboration with Alan Read during 2012-13. It is a response to the subtle invitation presented in the chapter “Redeemed Night” in Theatre, Intimacy and Engagement (2008) by Read: an invitation to night-time reading, to enter through the wardrobe to a world where unexpected humans and other species converse, an invitation to the unpredictable.

‘Chronopolitics with Dogs and Trees in Stanford’ is a part of ‘Chronopolitics – III Memo of Time’, an endless performance that began in 2010 and continues as readings and other events with and for non-humans (and humans), and as a performance by non-humans on a post Ice Age seashore on the highest point of Helsinki. III Memo of Time belongs to the performance series ‘Memos of Time – performances with and for non-humans,’ which began in 2006. The endless performance is not an attempt to celebrate the pervasiveness of performance, but to draw attention in this “last human venue” (Read 2008) to the questions of duration in our age, to our difficulties to perceive and understand the durations of the impacts of human action in a complex world of intertwining human and non-human spheres.

Excerpt from the program:

This interspecies performance circles the imagination at the moment of ‘reading to sleep’. Visitor-participants will be reading from works related to interspecies engagements, and explore what happens to humans, when we read to ‘other than human’ listeners, when that witness has another kind of a body/stem and ways of responding. Performance offers possibilities for the participants to encounter, interact and converse with non-humans: dogs, trees and other plants, or listen to someone else reading.

The performance will last from 7.30 pm until 7.30 am in Roble 42, and you are welcome to drop in at any time during the evening or morning, for the duration you wish.

Schedule                 Reading, Conversing, Sleeping: In the company of non-humans and humans

7.30-8.00 pm           Individual reading by participants to dogs, trees and other plants

8.00pm-9.00pm       Plant Fear: Phytophobia and its Discontents (Alan Read on Vegetal Anxiety)

9.00pm-10.00pm     Reading to non-humans

10.00pm-11.00 pm  Nature Table: Animating the Inorganic (Alan Read on the Natural Fantastic)

11.00pm-12.00pm   Reading to non-humans

12.00pm-1.00pm     Redeemed Night: Fear, Fauna, Fur (Alan Read on the Taciturn World)

1.00pm –                  Reading towards morning by those who wish …

7.00pm-7.30pm       “Like the First Bird”: Blackbird has Spoken

Texts for reading:

Miguel de Cervantes: Dialogue of the Dogs, 1613

E.T.A. Hoffmann: Nachricht von den neuesten Schicksalen des Hundes Berganza

(The Recent Adventures of the Dog Berganza), 1814

Franz Kafka:  Investigations of a Dog, 1922

C.W. Lewis: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, What Lucy Found There, 1949

J. R. R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings, The Treebeard, 1954

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