Last night I saw a large urban hare in Helsinki, bounding across tramlines and main roads to the port, perhaps heading for the ferry to the island where I am staying.
An island is a distinct thing, it has parameters, water borders, it has by necessity to be a microcosm. I am writing within a project called Frontiers in Retreat. We have used the idea of the frontier as a horizon of expansive possibility – first into the supposedly empty lands beyond the West, across the seas, then into space and the galaxy. The frontier metaphor has been concerned with exploration, conquest and colonisation. But now there is no new frontier for expansion, frontiers are in retreat – now we are on Earth, in the biosphere, and really looking at that instead of evading doing so or taking it for granted (or at least we should be). Instead of endless new frontiers for expansion, there are limits – the limits of Planet Earth, and islands are both an actuality and a metaphor for those limits.
To me, Frontiers in Retreat, speaks to this: no new horizon for the human quest (a species characteristic), no new place for exploration, colonisation, exploitation, previously fulfilled by the New World, the Wild West, and Space. Instead our new quest is to confront the limits of Planet Earth in a time of global warming and the Anthropocene, to search for environmentally sound future technologies and lifestyles, to search for new types of knowledge – perhaps interspecies knowledge. In my own practice I am employing two principle research methods to address this quest: fiction writing and interspecies proximities.
By interspecies proximities I mean the knowledge of another species that zookeepers, or farmers, or hunters, or foresters, or animal behaviour therapists, or pet owners have. So a knowledge from durational familiarity rather than (or as well as) scientific study. I am interested in the body technologies of other species – octopus ink, spitting fish, flying fish, poisonous frogs. I am interested in parasitism across species, mutualism between species, and how other species are colonising human urban spaces and adapting us. See artist Pinar Yoldas‘s vision of aquatic life adapting to plastic infested waters, An Ecosystem of Excess.