It’s been worth the challenge of early rising to go the Moreland Station Waiting Room to see people enchanted with the worms (early birds and all that). Those early morning commuters are the most enthusiastic visitors to the waiting room. Lots of great conversations, more tips for worm farms and composting from them and we try to give a few to people new this whole world.
Alex and James haven’t (yet) gotten into worms but the attraction is clearly there…so watch this space.
Francis has a worm farm already but has had the same experience as us, sometimes they flock (do worms flock?) to the top and don’t shy from the camera and sometimes they burrow down (we all hope that’s where they are). Maybe someone can explain this over the next few weeks–there’s some pretty experienced wormy people in Brunswick. Francis loved the castings our worms provided–it’s so rich and generous!
And then there was Sophie–I think she was feeling the joy of the worm portraits! As we watched the mesmerising worms in the video together, our conversation drifted from worms to gardens to cats. We’re both entranced by the way that once you enter the world of animals (that special moment when they let you in) you have to respond to their timeframe, as we did with the worms who don’t turn up to be photographed at our convenience — we had to wait. Watching the worms eating the shreds that we’d recycled yet again from an earlier art project, Sophie told me her own shreds art adventures.
At the same time as we’ve been looking after our installation, Waiting, (more on this in a separate post, but meanwhile I can’t resist a couple of spoiler alert images), I came across something very unexpected… an academic journal paper that is actually a guide (“Compost Politics: Experimenting with Togetherness in Vermicomposting”). I was lured in by the way Sebastien Abrahamsson and Filippo Bertoni write about composting as a practice, a process, an enacting of relations of togetherness. That struck a chord – what they do as ethnographers—making/thinking wormy compost bins—resonates with what we’ve been doing as artists. And with many of the same experiences, including thinking about slowness and spaces for hesitation as well as sensing the precarity of co-compositions as you try to find what worms like to eat. And in those slow and hesitating spaces (for us, spaces of waiting), a particular sort of knowing emerges: “Knowing emerges in vermicomposting… as a set of practices, multiple and contingent. In other words: you may not know, but rather become attuned to your worms.” (133)
Attuning to your worms… another chord struck there. For Abrahamsson and Bertoni attuning meant “learning to speak worm” through the language of food – “a language shaped not in the mouth but through guts.” (134) And with this learning and speaking came the ‘togetherness’ of decomposition—an assemblage involving the worms’ guts, the flora and fauna inside the bin, the whole apparatus of the worm bins, the practices of feeding and the eating habits of all involved…
Even though I’ve been reading all sorts of guides along the way in this project, I really like the way this one brings together practices and politics at the most wormy every day level. And the way it offers some great tips for maintaining our wormery (grind those eggshells more!). Added bonus — it’s a freely downloadable PDF.
Yikes, it’s been months since my last blog. I’m not sure what I’ve been doing – I seem to have been in my own winter hibernation, unlike the worms who have been chomping away.
There’s a post that I’ve been meaning to write for months – from the Animal Studies conference in Adelaide back in July. It was another wonderful Australasian Animal Studies event, with so many great art works and presentations, though sadly worms didn’t really feature. Anyway, the one paper that I’ve been thinking about for months is Dinesh Wadiwel’s “The Werewolf in the Room: Animals and Capitalism.” I was drawn to Dinesh’s session by his question in his abstract: “What happened when anthropocentrism shook hands with capitalism?” I liked that he began by asking what animals see when they confront the machines of capitalism and his answer – a werewolf – a being with a voracious appetite. Dinesh evoked labouring animals as political subjects rather than as objects. And if animals are labourers, producers of value, the question of their working conditions comes up. And with it, the issue of time and their need for time away from the harness of production – like any worker.
Speaking of the harnessed to the job, here’s Dinesh and his image of a chicken harness
So in this era of intensive factory farming, as activists, we could try to address animals’ working conditions, suggested Dinesh. I was stunned by the logic and acuity of his argument – while we hope (and work for a vegan revolution), in the meanwhile, this could offer a viable and unexpected strategy, and unexpected is always a good way to go. And I have to say, it was really exciting to see capitalism back in the discussion like this.