Previous Issues

BOOK REVIEW: INTERCALATIONS

Anna-Sophie Springer and Etienne Turpin, ed. Land & Animal & Nonanimal. Berlin: K Verlag, 2015; Springer and Turpin, ed. The Word for World is Still Forest. Berlin: K Verlag, 2017; Springer and Turpin, ed. Reverse Hallucinations on the Archipelago. Berlin: K Verlag, 2017.

 

In my favorite series on ecology, contemporary art, and global world environmental conditions, Anna-Sophie Springer and Etienne Turpin bring together essays, artists, historians, and other practitioners to the under-strata of the earth’s processes. In Intercalations, geology is historical praxis for contributors like Rich Pell and Lauren Allen, Geraldine Juárez, Seth Denizen, and Rachel Thompson. Unmistakably sharing roots with the writing and explorations of Alfred Russel Wallace, Alexander von Humbolt, and Ursula Le Guin, Springer and Tuprin transform the book into a natural history exhibition space.

 

The Intercalations series focuses on: tracing their historical methodology, i.e., the usefulness, legitimacy, and innovativeness of these object studies as historical method; putting their particular examples in dialogues with other objects and practices of interest, e.g., native and nonnative land practices and policies and human intervention in postnatural histories; positioning K Verlag in the larger network of online and digital research and curatorial platforms.

 

If JB Jackson and Yi-Fu Tuan brought the human to the geographical, Springer and Turpin bring the human to the geological. Like a rock layer forcing destratification of older layers, the Intercalations series de-centers the human in discursive, museum, and ecologic networks, allays the historical power of colonial science and ideology, and sets the foundation for sylvan knowledge potentials.

These three collections are part of a series called Intercalations. Springer and Turpin address a “reader-as-exhibition-viewer” in these collections, converting the conventional reader into a viewer of their “paginated exhibitions.” Land, Animal, and Nonanimal highlights species conservation efforts which challenges good news stories” instead of “doom and gloom” as “what is needed to compel people to appropriate action,” according to Thom van Dooren. Also highlighted are the origins of language in animals and the primacy of humankind over nature, the genealogy of the postnatural in the context of the Anthropocene, animals in the context of sound studies and recording histories, as well as photographic land archives from Singapore and other places.

 

The Word for World is Still Forest, a title altered from the Ursula Le Guin short story The Word for World is Forest, starts with a preface written in Katie Holten’s “Tree Alphabet” from 2015. The preface becomes epilogue when the “reader-as-exhibition-viewer” discovers the decoder in the final section of the book. In between, Springer and Turpin’s focus on the forest highlights the conditions of historic and contemporary land use policy that bears on present-day practices. Converging in large part on northern Amazonian indigenous voices and experiences, Springer and Turpin highlight Middle Caquetá River sylvan mythologies, intellectual histories of the forest, data and arboretum archival capacities, illegal tree felling in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, and a historiography of mimesis in natural sciences and art.

Reverse Hallucinations on the Archipelago proposes an alternate history of colonial science, primarily in Indonesia, where co-editor Etienne Turpin lives and works. In “It Goes on Like a Forest,” Dan Handel considers a fifteenth-century tapestry, Ikea Malm cabinet, and Milton Friedman’s “Lesson of the Pencil,” from 1980 to give a history from the start to its questionable end (a landfill, in some cases) of Indonesian trees. His attention to history is of note: he demonstrates a type of material history, wherein socio-political, cultural, and environmental conditions map the movement of a single object.

 

World picturing, these collections highlight methodologies that go beyond art history and instead argue alternative histories of these environments by considering their long-time, visual histories. Springer and Turpin consider poetry and oral histories alongside visual objects to “curate,” so to speak, their “paginated exhibitions,” tracing banal or overlooked motifs associated with sylvan materials within individual object studies.