Fiona MacDonald is an artist, curator and researcher based in Kent. Through the collective Feral Practice, she works to develop and interpret interspecies co-productions within visual art. The term feral is used in contrast to notions of wildness and wilderness that conceive the wild in opposition to the human. MacDonald has been working as an artist since 1993, and as a curator since 2006. Her interest in interspecies practice emerged after moving to a rural location in 2012.
2018 Working with Wood Ants: an experiential exploration of the ethics of co-production; chapter, Ethical Materialities in Art and Moving Images, Bloombury Academic. 2018
2017 Feral Practice: the ramifications of making-with in a multispecies world; conference presentation, Art of Research Conference, Aalto University, Helsinki
2017 Mycorrhizal Meditation, commission and performance-lecture, Furtherfield London
2017 Foxing; solo exhibition, 4 Seasons commission and performance-lecture, PEER, London
2016 Feral Practice, from a wood to a world; conference presentation, 7th Annual Conference for Mew Materialisms, University of Warsaw
Ant-ic Actions – conference presentation, Ethics and Moving Image symposium, UCA Canterbury and University of Kent or the Whitstable Biennale
2015 Ant-ic Actions; conference presentation, British Animal Studies Network, Cardiff University
2015 Ant-ic Actions; artist’s pages, Performing Ethos: An International Journal of Ethics in Theatre & Performance; ed: Jess Allen, Bronwyn Preece and Stephen Bottoms. Intellect Press
For urban-dwelling westerners, our own bodies are often the ‘wildest’ part of the environment we inhabit - the least in our control, the most mysterious. Inside our smoothed-out, digitally enhanced existence it becomes ever easier to disengage from the diversity, abundance, awkwardness and wonder of the nonhuman nature we are obliterating. My proposal is that engagement with visual art that manifests intimate co-productions with nonhuman species, forces and milieus, would lead to increases in complexity, uncertainty, empathy and wonder in relating to other species and to the pockets of wildness (however circumscribed) we know. This ‘feral practice’ would challenge conventional anthropocentric hierarchies and produce what Val Plumwood terms as ‘solidarity in the political sense’ with other species. It would introduce new concepts and examples of interspecies participation into visual art.
The aim of building interspecies participation has considerable effects on the aesthetic of the artworks, which take on a processual and relational quality. The aesthetic is aligned to the work’s ethical intent, such that the artist’s desire and control over the work’s formal qualities must continually respond to the need for the participant/s activity to be encouraged and revealed. While little has been written on the specifics of such interspecies participatory aesthetics, there is significant current interest in the aesthetics of participatory practice in human-human work, which will inform my research. I will also draw on the aesthetic and theory of specific areas of expanded painting, which in some works, by Laura Lisbon for example, foregrounds subtle trace gestures in painting by the use of semi-architectural methods of display.
My overarching aims for the research are (a) to reorient aesthetic apprehension of the landscape away from view/vista towards the complexity, liveliness, and moral equivalence of nonhuman activity, (b) to develop a new model for thinking about interspecies participation in visual art; and (c) to contribute visual-art-led knowledge and examples to a radically de-anthropocentric model of human-nonhuman relationship, which allows for the ethical priority of the living within a vibrant, intra-active, material world.
Personal website: www.feralpractice.com