Annette Arlander

Vegetal Democracy and performance as research


In recent years many attempts at moving beyond an anthropocentric perspective have been made. One example is the notion vegetal democracy, a principle that concerns all species without exception, developed by Michael Marder (2013). According to him an inherent divisibility and participation are paramount in the life of plants; a vegetal being must “remain an integral part of the milieu wherein it grows” and its relation to the elements is not domineering but receptive. (Marder 2013, 69.) For him “the vegetal democracy of sharing and participation is an onto-political effect of plant-soul” which must “eschew the metaphysical binaries of self and other, life and death, interiority and exteriority”. Moreover, “every consideration of a post-foundational, post-metaphysical ethics and politics worthy of its name must admit the contributions of vegetal life to … the non-essentialized mode of ‘living with’”. (Marder 2013, 53.) What this vegetal democracy might mean in practice, however, Marder does not explain. 


How could the idea of vegetal democracy help us develop the methodologies of performance as research? Divisibility and participation make sense in many types of performances, whether in terms of a collaborating ensemble working collectively with their audience, trying to avoid the traditional hierarchies of theatre production, or a small assemblage of camera, body and landscape, as in my example performances. Remembering and articulating the material-discursive practices involved (Barad 2007) and the relationship to the natureculture (Haraway 2003), the milieu, the “when and where” something takes place, would probably take us a long way towards a more inclusive understanding of performance as research.