A grain of rice sits in a field on the banks of the Mekong river. A water buffalo breaks up soil in the Ifugao terraces in the Philippines. A black box containing rice seeds is placed on a shelf inside the Svalbard seed vault at -18°C in Norway. From such a common seed, hidden in plain sight, artist-scholar Elaine Gan weaves a dynamic network of relationships connecting agroecology and more-than-human sociability, subsistence farmers and climate change, contaminated taxonomies and feminist theory.
With a PhD in Film & Digital Media and Anthropology, Elaine Gan combines methods from art, science and humanities. Using relations and landscape as units of analysis, and exploring the temporal coordinations and assemblages that drive historical and evolutionary change, her practice takes the form of a porous composite of field notes, vector drawings, feral walks, installations and speculative timepieces and maps. Her research process, like the landscape itself, manifests as a fluid assemblage.
Informed by “naturecultures”, a concept coined by Donna Haraway, Gan’s output challenges concepts of linear time and rethinks critically human-centric perspectives. Her work unfolds in multi-year, collaborative projects and focuses on multispecies interactions and on “mapping worlds otherwise”. This predisposition has led her to develop fungal clocks with anthropologist Anna Tsing, create speculative chronometers for time travelers, and explore feral technology as the work of more-than-human beings.
Elaine Gan teaches at New York University, Center for Experimental Humanities and Social Engagement and directs the Multispecies Worldbuilding Lab, an experimental podcast about climate change. She is currently working on a book that follows the cultivation of rice as a flowering grass, companion species, technoscientific seed, data, and patent.
In this podcast, Elaine Gan talks about crop science, feral technologies, the global pandemic, radical difference, the art of noticing, Matsutake mushrooms, and, of course, the blahblahsphere.