Pine-ing for a Voice: Vegetal agencies, New Materialism and State Control through the Wollemi Pine


  • Chantelle Mitchell Independent Researcher
  • Jaxon Waterhouse Independent Researcher



Attending to Wollemia nobilis (Wollemi Pine), we read this plant as ensconced and mobilised by political and politicised forces, towards distinct colonial and imperial ends. Seeking to work beyond a language of flowers, we attune to the appropriation and weaponisation of plants; a language beyond the merely decorative or affective, towards understandings of plants performing agency and political power. 

Our reading of the Wollemi pine emerges from the scorched summer of 2019/2020, in which much of Australia caught alight, and during which the Wollemi was placed in danger of disappearing for a second, and perhaps final, time. A prehistoric tree, long thought extinct, before its rediscovery in 1994, the Wollemi holds special significance, but further, value within an Australian cultural context. In light of this significance, the Wollemi is apprehended and manipulated towards political ends. Within the frame of this text, we consider not only the contemporary diplomacy and governance within which the Wollemi is ensnared, but too, the legacies of Invasion and colonisation which support the mobilisation of the Wollemi in this manner. 

Framing our approach within the broader context of contemporary ecological theory and in a manner attentive to frames of New Materialism, we engage with the entanglements of plant language, agency and being — as a means through which we can attune to our shared mattering and ongoing struggles for sovereignty amidst a rapidly changing natural world.  

Author Biographies

Chantelle Mitchell, Independent Researcher

Chantelle Mitchell and Jaxon Waterhouse are researchers and writers from so-called Australia, working across academic and contemporary arts settings through their research project Ecological Gyre Theory. Together, their work has appeared in un Magazine, e-flux, art+Australia, and Unlikely Journal, with other publication outcomes currently under peer review, and chapters for publications with Bloomsbury forthcoming in 2022. They have presented their work at conferences nationally and internationally, and exhibited their work in Australian artist run spaces. Most recently they have presented through Macquarie University, the international Temporal Belongings, STREAMS and Atmospheric Humanities conferences, and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art for the Writing&Concepts series—although COVID-19 has disrupted a number of further forthcoming engagements in Sweden, Norway, Greece and Finland. They have shown their work at Sawtooth ARI, Launceston (deluge, Jan – Feb 2020) and have taught their writing and practice focused curriculum ‘Abyss Lessons’ through Bus Projects in 2020. 2021 sees exhibitions at Spectrum Gallery (W.A.) The University of Melbourne (VIC), Sawtooth ARI (Tas) and FELTspace ARI (S.A.), alongside further practice based outcomes in 2022. They are currently guest editors for Issue 8 of Swamphen: a journal of cultural ecology. 

Chantelle Mitchell lives on unceded Wurundjeri Country. She has written for Stilts Journal, Heart of Hearts Press, Plumwood Mountain, the Lifted Brow and Marrickville Pause, and presented performance lectures for ACCA, the Ian Potter Museum, Bus Projects and Free Association. Chantelle maintains a research-based practice with Jaxon Waterhouse, which has seen them present their work through Macquarie University, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the international Temporal Belongings, STREAMS and Atmospheric Humanities conferences. Their written work has appeared in unMagazine, e-flux, art+Australia and Unlikely Journal, and they have presented numerous exhibitions in artist run spaces across Australia.

Jaxon Waterhouse, Independent Researcher

Jaxon Waterhouse is a writer, publisher, and artist living on unceded Ngarluma Country in regional Western Australia. He is the editor of Heart of Hearts Press, which has seen numerous publications and artist books between 2020 and 2021. In 2021, he presented the immersive digital artwork, Quest for the Night Parrot, alongside numerous exhibitions across Australia. Jaxon maintains a research based practice with Chantelle Mitchell which has seen them present their work at a number of national and international conferences. Their written work has appeared in unMagazine, e-flux, art+Australia and Unlikely Journal, and they have presented numerous exhibitions across Australia.


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How to Cite

Mitchell, C., & Waterhouse, J. (2021). Pine-ing for a Voice: Vegetal agencies, New Materialism and State Control through the Wollemi Pine. Performance Philosophy, 6(2), 100–116.