Introduction: Plant Performance




Plants perform their own interests and purposes. Plants perform in ways that afford and invite specific human experiences. Plants also perform complex biopolitical roles. With these multivalent understandings of plant performance in mind, this introduction to the “Plant Performance” issue of Performance Philosophy outlines the editors’ broadly feminist approach to the challenges facing scholars and artists in the field of Critical Plant Studies. We present these challenges, including colonisation and decolonisation, botanical aesthetics and its vegetal limits, instrumentality and vegetal respect, and phytopolitics and plant liveliness, as provocations for scholars and artists grappling with ecological, political and creative human relations with the vegetal world. The introduction, alongside the eight essays included in the issue, considers how thinking with plant performance might create conditions for a more contextual, critical, reflexive, nuanced, and/or urgent understanding of plant-human relationships, both historically and in the current moment. In addition to considering questions of plant performative agency, the issue foregrounds the politico-aesthetic conditions in which plant performances cannot help but occur. It details how specific works of performance art intervene in these conditions, and it contributes to the development of a more global and multiply-situated network of performative, critical plant knowledges, relations, and practices.

Author Biographies

Prudence Gibson, UNSW Sydney

Prudence Gibson is an author and an academic at the School of Art and Design, University of NSW, Sydney. She is Lead Investigator of an Australian Research Council grant 2020-23 in partnership with Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens Herbarium. Her recent books are The Plant Contract (Brill Rodopi 2018) and Janet Laurence: The Pharmacy of Plants (NewSouth Publishing 2015), and her forthcoming book, The Herbarium and Me will be published in November 2022.

Catriona Sandilands, York University

Catriona (Cate) Sandilands is a Professor of Environmental Arts and Justice in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University (Toronto, Canada) and the author/(co-)editor of four books including, most recently, Rising Tides: Reflections for Climate Changing Times (Caitlin Press, 2019). Her plant writing can be found in: Ecologies of Gender: Contemporary Nature Relations and the Nonhuman Turn; Sex EcologiesThe Cambridge Companion to the Environmental HumanitiesKin: Thinking with Deborah Bird RosePlant Fever: Towards a Phyto-Centric DesignVeer Ecology: Key Words for EcotheoryResilience: A Journal of the Environmental HumanitiesGLQ: Gay and Lesbian Quarterly; and The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory. She is working on a new monograph, Plantasmagoria: Botanical Relations in the (M)Anthropocene


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How to Cite

Gibson, P., & Sandilands, C. (2021). Introduction: Plant Performance. Performance Philosophy, 6(2), 1–23.