2017 came and went, and we find ourselves here in a new year. Much has been happening. Here, I have been working a lot as a researcher at the University of Southampton, primarily on Man Food, but also on work around antimicrobial resistance. Both have been hugely fascinating and inspiring, working with the brilliant Emma Roe in Geography and Environment, and with collaborators in other university departments, as well as community organisations. What originally felt like quite unlikely paths (how, as a performance artist, did I end up researching superbugs and mens protein consumption?) have come to feel like development of a lot of my own earlier work around the human and nonhuman. Exploring the theoretical and experiential conceptions of being (and becoming), and of what Haraway might call “making kin”, has taken us to new and exciting places of possibility.
The work we’ve been doing at Southampton has explored the possibilities of using arts-based methods with social scientific ones, and of expanding the practice of research through inclusive and co-production approaches. Within Man Food, we were pleased to commission a trio of artists-in-residence, Joanna Young, Jamie McCarthy and Kip Johnson, who produced a beautiful audio walk in response to the research process. Within Mapping Microbes, I had the pleasure of working with Joseph Turp, to create a short film accompanied by a poem by Michael Rosen.
I also spent some of the year producing work of my own, in a fascinating collaboration with a veterinary scientist, Siobhan Mullen, and two historians, Rob Skinner and Andy Flack, on the life and death of a food chicken. As well as bringing our own disciplinary takes on the life and death of food chickens (and their development through intensive and post-intensive farming), we spent some very precious time together, being with flocks of birds on commercial farms, and at a chicken slaughter. We all gained much from the project and from conversations at a public engagement event in October. Watch this space for more potential interspecies collaborations…
Equally wonderful, but in a very different way, were a series of collaborative performances with veteran artist Shaun Caton and musician / record producer Typesun at Arnolfini in March. Over three days, we worked with sound, light, shadows and objects to create action images inspired by 17th century woodcuts in pamphlets called ‘Strange Newes’ – of monstrosities, miracles, strange births and bizarre wonders. Working with Shaun and Luke (Typesun) was truly a joy, and the results uncovered a rich and vivid seam of performance that we will continue to mine.