Group Exhibition more-than-human

Feb 1–May 13,  2023
  • Ursula Biemann
  • Ilze (Kavi) Briede
  • Mary Bunch
  • Faadhi Fauzi
  • Lindsey french
  • Grace Grothaus
  • Suzanne Morrissette
  • Joel Ong
  • Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits
  • Jane Tingley
  • Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning
    Jane Tingley with with Faadhi Fauzi and Ilze (Kavi) Briede, (ex)tending towards, 2023, (3D visualization, cork, electronics, earth, point cloud). Courtesy of the artists. Photo: Jane Tingley
Jane Tingley with with Faadhi Fauzi and Ilze (Kavi) Briede, (ex)tending towards, 2023, (3D visualization, cork, electronics, earth, point cloud). Courtesy of the artists. Photo: Jane Tingley

more-than-human features ten contemporary artists who explore human-natural relationships through technology, promoting new ways of understanding the natural world.  Each interactive artwork uses digital media to challenge, excite, and shift our collective understanding of the more-than-human mind. Inspired by an ethics of inclusion that acknowledges the rights of nature, the exhibition questions what it means to be alive and have agency.

Mary Bunch and Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning, Emerging from the Water, 2022, (virtual reality). Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning

The concept of animacy hierarchy, introduced in Mel Y. Chen’s book Animacies (2012), describes a worldview that divides those entities that seem to be alive from those that are deemed to not be living: birds, trees, rocks. This hierarchical organization effectively privileges human life over all other lifeforms—including vertebrate and invertebrate, insect, and vegetal. An underlying source of this animacy hierarchy view, as argued by ecofeminist and philosopher Val Plumwood, is the strongly dualistic structure of Western thought: man/woman, mind/body, individual/surroundings, culture/nature. This bifurcating mindset includes the human-nature dualism, a conceptual schism that has rendered those that do not look like us, nor speak like us “as an insignificant Other, a homogenized, voiceless, blank slate of existence.”1 It is a “perception of nature” that has given rise to economic and societal structures that see the natural environment as nothing more than a resource for exploitation, and certainly not part of our sphere of moral consideration. In short, it is a way of thinking that underwrites and justifies the “domination of the Earth.”2

It is important to recognize that many cultures, including Indigenous Peoples worldwide, have neither these conceptual schemas nor a divisive worldview, but rather see nature as possessing more-than-human intelligence consider plants and trees as individuals, and understand that plant, animal, and human realms interpenetrate, sharing both heritage and substance. There are many commonalities between recent Western scientific discoveries and these ancient, long-standing Indigenous knowledges and epistemologies. Colonialism and industrial capitalism have all but destroyed a way of life and a perspective that sees the natural world as vibrant, alive, and filled with non-human lifeforms—both visible and non, both alive and not.

Lindsey french, Phytovision, 2018–19. Courtesy of the artist

Western science is only now confirming what has been understood by other peoples for centuries if not millennia: that trees are living beings, have complex sensory systems, interact with their surroundings, make decisions and change their behaviours, are highly social, have families, can learn, and even communicate and care for each other. These discoveries challenge the concept of plant blindness.3 Recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated without a doubt that the body is not separate from its environment. To achieve a more sustainable life on the planet, we need to rethink, reconceptualize, and resituate everything “human” in relation to the environment accordingly. To recognize how deeply interconnected we are within a larger, more complex system, where all parts of that system are equally important and form a dynamic whole, is ultimately an ethical matter.

The exhibition more-than-human brings together artists, Indigenous leaders, scholars, technologists and scientists to build connections across diverse knowledge fields, and grew out of a research project that I have been working on since 2018 entitled Foresta-Inclusive. The title of this work came from the book Forests: The Shadow of Civilization (1992)by Robert Pogue Harrison, where he examines the historic relations between Western civilization and forests, and identifies “that the word itself, foresta, means literally ‘outside.’” Human civilization is outside of the forest, and the forest is outside of the human experience. Foresta-Inclusive emerged from a desire to reintegrate the forest and the human and to find ways through art making to inspire a deeper sense of empathy and responsibility for the forest. The related, but wider overarching goal for this research project is to completely unsettle the mental habit of assuming that humans are superior to everything else on the planet. In totality the exhibition will illustrate inclusively, somatically and experientially that we are participants in a more-than-linguistic dialogue with many parts of a larger more complex ecosystem—a system that is comprised of singular voices and stories shared through scent, vibration, colour, and other phenomena beyond human sensory capability.

Ursula Biemann, Forest Mind, 2021, (sync 2-channel video installation, 31 mins). Courtesy of the artist

Art has a tremendous capacity for telling stories about the experiences of others, drawing the viewer into these stories and encouraging the development of empathy. Art at the intersection of science and technology is uniquely positioned to tell more-than-human stories as the artists repurpose and reorient the scientific and technological tools of “visualizing” complex, invisible phenomena operating everywhere yet beyond human sensory perception. Once we can both sense the world from a humanist, plural perspective and think of the world from multiple (but not dualistic, not hierarchical) perspectives, it becomes possible to have productive discussions that can lead to real inclusive change. It is essential that we shift our collective understanding about the sophistication and vitality of non-human, even what we might consider “non-living,” agents to develop an ethics of inclusion that would enable a radical transformation of our perceptual capacities, our conceptual schemes, and our laws, such as the legal “rights” of nature. As scholar T. J. Demos suggests in his book Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (2016), “art holds the promise of initiating exactly these kinds of creative perceptional and philosophical shifts, offering new ways of comprehending ourselves and our relation to the world differently.”4

The exhibition more-than-human is a group show of media artworks at the intersection of these four promising nodes: art, science, Indigenous worldviews, and technology. The works in the show speculatively and poetically use multimodal storytelling as a vehicle for interpreting, mattering, and embodying more-than-human ecologies, with the goal of critically and emotionally engaging with the important work of de-centring the human, even while the viewer is that human. Many of the works use technological and scientific tools as entry points for witnessing and interacting with these more-than-human worlds, as they help visualize phenomena beyond human sensory perception while nevertheless situating us within them. Together the works in the show offer embodied and felt perspectives that interweave scientific and Indigenous perspectives, opening the wild possibility of a discovery being a remembering.

Suzanne Morrissette, one and the same, 2016, (interactive installation with Kinect and MAX). Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

Human ontologies and stories are not the only way to understand and thus structure the living world. Many stories are unfolding in every direction at once, with just as many narratives and perspectives.5 The storytelling of microbes, protozoa, mycelia, bees, and plants are not necessarily about the world we humans are building. The humbling act of recognizing that we are not the only ones, not at the centre and not even the subject of others’ conversations can support our rethinking of our “truths” about ourselves, our place in the world, and the nature of our relationship to multiplicity and difference. Beyond helping us perceive the complexity of the world around us by visualizing and studying phenomenon that exist beyond limited human sensory perceptions, this recognition also shifts our imagining of the impact we have on the planet—on life.

The artworks in this exhibition ask: What does it mean to “be alive” and to “have agency”? How does re-training ourselves to slow down and listen to voices that have been marginalized or forgotten for millennia actually work? What could it mean to be “in dialogue” with something that does not share the same language or spatio-temporal reality? Once we authentically acknowledge the aliveness of something, what are the concrete ethical implications of that recognition that spill beyond the experience of an art exhibition in which that acknowledgement happened?

Grace Grothaus, Dawning, 2022, (envirographic video installation). Courtesy of the artist

Dawning identifies the circadian rhythm as a chorus that all creatures on the planet participate in. Grothaus visualizes the canopy of the forest, affected in real time by live forest data, inviting the human to join into a rhythmic global song that connects all living things. 

Emerging from the Water images an immersive field of underwater relations—a microscopic universe that vibrates with other-than-human potencies. This work is based on Manning’s Anishinaabe philosophy of Mnidoo-Worlding and Bunch’s media arts worldmaking research. 

(ex)tending towards, by Tingley with Fauzi and Briede, uses live sensor data collected from the rare Charitable Reserve in Cambridge Ontario to drive a 3D visualization, a scent sculpture, and other phenomenon to create experiential installations that propose a new temporal experience when engaging with the forest.  

Forest Mind is a film inspired by several years Biemann spent collaborating with the Indigenous Inga community in Colombia. This film explores the intelligence of nature and the intelligence in nature, viewed from both a Western science and shamanic perspective. The film looks at DNA technology—a Western approach to understanding what the Inga people understand to be a vital force that permeates all that exists. 

One and the Same investigates the ways worldviews are reflected in our ideas and relationships with landscape. Morrissette’s work sets up a one-to-one relation between viewer and landscape that enables the viewer to engage and consider their own impact on the environment. 

Phytovision asks the viewer to become plant, by offering an environment that filters the world through the sensory realities of vegetal life. In french’s work, the viewer can see through the same colour spectrum, hear through vibration, and smell the world of vegetal life.  

Joel Ong, Untitled Interspecies Umwelten, 2021, (photo still of live microscopic feed). Courtesy of the artist

Untitled Interspecies Umwelten is an artwork that challenges the idea that language is a communicative structure that is human determined. Using a computer system, Ong speculates about ways in which interspecies communication structures might look.  

Atmospheric Forest – Smite & Smits worked with scientists researching the Pfynwald Alpine coniferous forest in Switzerland, a forest suffering from drought due to climate change. The work visualizes the complex and hard to understand relations between the forest, climate change, and atmosphere.  

Combined, the works in the show weave a story that tells a tale of symbiosis, intersections, and more- than-human relationality. The works combine scientific, philosophical, and Indigenous perspectives to create an experiential tapestry that asks the viewer to reconsider, reorient, and rethink relationships with the more-than-human. Asking again: Once we are shifted, once we authentically acknowledge the aliveness of the more-than-human, what are the concrete ethical implications of that recognition that spill beyond the experience of an art exhibition in which that acknowledgement happened? Has the concept of accountability not also shifted?

Rasa Smite & Raitis Smits, Atmospheric Forest, 2020, (immersive VR installation). Courtesy of the artists

Curated by Jane Tingley

Presented by Onsite Gallery in partnership with CONTACT


1. Matthew Hall, Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany (State University of New York Press, 2011).

2. Hall, Plants as Persons.

3. Plant blindness refers to the phenomenon of humans overlooking plants as living beings. See James H. Wandersee and Elisabeth E. Schussler, “Preventing Plant Blindness,” The American Biology Teacher 61(2) (1999): 82–86.

4. T. J. Demos, Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Sternberg Press, 2016), 19.

5. Karen Houle, “Symmetry and Asymmetry in Conceptual and Morphological Formations,” in From Deleuze and Guattari to Posthumanism: Philosophies of Immanence, eds. Christine Daigle and Terrance H. McDonald (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022).


Chen, Mel Y. Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect. Duke University Press, 2012. Demos, T. J.

Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology. Sternberg Press, 2016.

Hall, Matthew. Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany. State University of New York Press, 2011.

Harrison, Robert Pogue. Forests: The Shadow of Civilization. University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Houle, Karen. “Symmetry and Asymmetry in Conceptual and Morphological Formations.” In From Deleuze and Guattari to Posthumanism: Philosophies of Immanence, edited by Christine Daigle and Terrance H. McDonald. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022.

Plumwood, Val. Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason (Environmental Philosophies) 1st ed. Routledge, 2001.

Plumwood, Val. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (Opening Out: Feminism for Today). Routledge, 1994.

Wandersee, James H., and Elisabeth E. Schussler. “Preventing Plant Blindness.” The American Biology Teacher 61(2) (1999): 82–86.

Ursula Biemann is an artist, author and video essayist. Her artistic practice is research oriented and involves fieldwork from Greenland to Amazonia, where she investigates climate change and the ecologies of oil, ice, forests and water. In her multi-layered videos, she interweaves vast cinematic landscapes with documentary footage, science fiction poetry and academic findings to narrate a changing planetary reality. In 2018, Biemann was commissioned by Museo de Arte, Universidad Nacional de Colombia in the co-creation of a new Indigenous University in the South of Colombia led by the Inga people in which she contributes the online platform Devenir Universidad. Her recent video installation Forest Mind (2021) emerges from this long-term collaboration. She has published numerous books, including Forest Mind (2022) and the audiovisual online monograph Becoming Earth on her ecological video works spanning 2011–21. Biemann has exhibited internationally with recent solo exhibitions at MAMAC, Nice and the Centre culturel suisse, Paris. She is appointed Doctor honoris causa in Humanities by the Swedish University Umea, and has received the 2009 Prix Meret Oppenheim, the Swiss Grand Award for Art, and the 2022 Zurich Art Award.

Ilze (Kavi) Briede is a Canadian/Latvian artist and researcher working across multiple disciplines, including visual art, interactive installation and live performance. Her creative practice and teaching encompass bio-physiological sensing, live coding and video projection art. Currently, Kavi is a PhD student in Digital Media at York University (Toronto, Canada) and a researcher at several York University labs: nD::StudioLab, SLOlab, and Sensorium research cluster. Kavi’s current thesis explores system building for performance and immersive narratives that utilise biophysical sensing and live data to construct novel pathways to knowledge and perception modes. Kavi has received academic degrees in Visual and Computational Arts (Canada), Digital Media Production (United Kingdom) and Chinese language and culture studies (Latvia).

Mary Bunch is a media artist, Canada Research Chair, and Associate Professor, Cinema and Media Arts at York University. Through theoretical inquiry and collaborative research creation, Bunch mobilizes queer, feminist, disability and decolonial frameworks to better understand peripheral worldmaking imaginaries in media arts and intermedial performance. She is co-editor of a special issue on Access Aesthetics in Public, Principal Investigator on the research creation project Pluriversal Worlding with Extended Reality (SSHRC Insight) and co-investigator on Earthdiver: Land- Based Worlding (MITACS). Dr Bunch is co-director of the Peripheral Visions Co- Lab, Executive Committee member of Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology, a core member of Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA), a Fellow at the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, and an Affiliate of Revision Centre for Art and Social Justice.

Lindsey french (she/they) is a settler artist, educator and writer whose work engages in multi- sensory signaling within ecological and technological systems. She has exhibited widely including at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), the International Museum of Surgical Science (Chicago), Pratt Manhattan Gallery (New York), the Miller Gallery for Contemporary Art (Pittsburgh), and SixtyEight Art Institute (Copenhagen). Recent publications include chapters for Ambiguous Territory: Architecture, Landscape, and the Postnatural (Actar, 2022), Olfactory Art and The Political in an Age of Resistance (Routledge, 2021), Why Look at Plants (Brill, 2019), and poetry for the journal Forty-Five. They earned an interdisciplinary BA in Environment, Interaction, and Design (Hampshire College), and an MFA in Art and Technology Studies (School of the Art Institute of Chicago). Newly based in the prairie landscape of Treaty 4 territory in Regina, Saskatchewan, french teaches as an Assistant Professor in Creative Technologies in the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance at the University of Regina.

Grace Grothaus is a computational media artist whose research explores ecosystemic human and plant relationships in relation to the present global climate crisis and speculative futures. She is interested in art’s potential to foster empathy with more-than-human worlds. Frequently collaborative, Grace works with scientists, engineers, musicians and other visual and performing artists. Her research-creation is expressed as physical computing installations which take place both outdoors or in the gallery and often center around the sensing and visualization of invisible environmental phenomena. Her artworks have been exhibited widely including at the International Symposium of Electronic Art (Barcelona, ES & Durban, SA), Environmental Crisis: Art & Science (London, UK), Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris, FR), and the World Creativity Biennale (Rio de Janiero, BR). Grothaus has received numerous awards including from the United States National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. Currently she is working towards a PhD in Digital Media from York University where she has been named a VISTA scholar and a Graduate Fellow of Academic Distinction.

Suzanne Morrissette (she/her) is an artist, curator, and scholar who is currently based out of Toronto. Her father’s parents were Michif- and Cree-speaking Metis with family histories tied to the Interlake and Red River regions and Scrip in the area now known as Manitoba. Her mother’s parents came from Canadian-born farming families descended from United Empire loyalists and Mennonites from Russia. Morrissette was born and raised in Winnipeg and is a citizen of the Manitoba Metis Federation. As an artistic researcher Suzanne’s interests include: family and community knowledge, methods of translation, the telling of in-between histories, and practices of making that support and sustain life. Her two recent solo exhibitions What does good work look like? and translations recently opened in Toronto (Gallery 44) and Montreal (daphne art centre), respectively. Her work has appeared in numerous group exhibitions such as Lii Zoot Tayr (Other Worlds), an exhibition of Metis artists working with concepts of the unknowable, and the group exhibition of audio-based work about waterways called FLOW with imagineNATIVE Film + Media Art Festival. Morrissette holds a PhD from York University in Social and Political Thought. She currently holds the position of Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director for the Criticism and Curatorial Practices and Contemporary Art, Design, and New Media Histories Masters programs at OCAD University.

Joel Ong (PhD, MSc.Bioart) is a media artist whose works connect scientific and artistic approaches to the environment, developed from more than a decade of explorations in sound, installation and socially conscious art. His conceptual explorations revolve around metaphors of distance, connectivity, assiduously reworking this notion of the “environment”—how different tools and scales of observation reveal diverse biotic and abiotic relationalities, and how these continually oscillate between natural and computational worlds. His works have been shown at internationally at the Currents New Media Festival, Nuit Blanche Toronto, Seattle Art Museum, the Gregg Museum of Art and Design, the Penny Stamps Gallery and the Ontario Science Centre etc. Joel is Associate Professor in Computational Arts and Director of Sensorium:The Centre for Digital Arts and Technology at York University, in Toronto, Canada. His research has been funded by such as SSHRC, eCampus Ontario, Women and Gender Equality Canada.

Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits are Riga- and Karlsruhe-based artists and co-founders of RIXC Center for New Media Culture in Riga, co-curators of RIXC Art and Science Festival, chief-editors of Acoustic Space, as well as co-chairs of recently founded NAIA – Naturally Artificial Intelligence Art association in Karlsruhe, Germany. Together they create visionary and networked artworks – from pioneering internet radio experiments in 1990s, to artistic investigations in electromagnetic spectrum and collaborations with radio astronomers, and more recent “techno-ecological” explorations. Their projects have been nominated (Purvitis Prize 2019, 2021, International Public Arts Award – Euroasia region 2021), awarded (Ars Electronica 1998, Falling Walls – Science Breakthrough 2021) and shown widely including at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Latvian National Museum of Arts, House of Electronic Arts in Basel, Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, and other venues, exhibitions and festivals in Europe, US, Canada and Asia. Smite holds a PhD in sociology of media and culture; her thesis Creative Networks. Her In the Rear-View Mirror of Eastern European History (2011) was published by The Amsterdam Institute for Network Cultures. Currently she is a Professor of New Media Art at Liepaja University, and Senior Researcher at FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel, Switzerland. Smits holds his doctoral degree in arts, and he is a Professor at the Art Academy of Latvia. In 2017 Smits was a Fulbright Researcher in the Graduate Center of NYC.

Jane Tingley is an artist, curator, Director of the SLOlab: Sympoietic Living Ontologies Lab and Associate Professor at York University. Her studio work combines traditional studio practice with new media tools, and spans responsive/interactive installation, performative robotics, and telematically connected distributed sculptures/installations. Her works is interdisciplinary in nature and explores the creation of spaces and experiences that push the boundaries between science and magic, interactivity, and playfulness, and offer an experience to the viewer that is accessible both intellectually and technologically. Using distributed technologies, her current work investigates the hidden complexity found in the natural world and explores the deep interconnections between the human and non-human relationships. As a curator her interests lie at the intersection art, science, and technology with a special interest in collaborative creativity as impetus for innovation and discovery. Recent exhibitions include Hedonistika (2014) at the Musée d’art contemporain (Mtl, CA), INTERACTION (2016) and Agents for Change (2020) at THE MUSEUM (Kitchener, CA). As an artist she has participated in exhibitions and festivals in the Americas, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, including translife International Triennial of Media Art at the National Art Museum of China, Beijing, Elektra Festival in Montréal (CA) and the Künstlerhause in Vienna (AT). She received the Kenneth Finkelstein Prize in Sculpture (CA), the first prize in the iNTERFACES – Interactive Art Competition (PT).

Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning is an interdisciplinary artist and Queen’s National Scholar in Anishinaabe Language, Knowledge, and Culture (ALKC) in the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. Manning has expertise in Anishinaabe ontology, mnidoo interrelationality, phenomenology, and art. A member of Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation, her primary philosophical influence and source of creativity is her early childhood grounding in Anishinaabe onto- epistemology. She is Principal Investigator of Earthdiver: Land-Based Worlding (MITACS), and Co-Investigator on Pluriversal Worlding with Extended Reality. Manning co-directs the cross- institutional Peripheral Visions Co-Lab (York and Queen’s). She is an affiliate of Revision Centre for Art and Social Justice, and Fellow of The International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI).