Doctor of Philosophy
Art and Visual Culture
Esfahani, Soheila Kolahdouz
This studio-based dissertation project emerges from my engagement with the concepts of animality, biophilia, and the Chthulucene. These concepts form central research topics amongst a host of supporting subthemes, contributing to a framework that webs together connections between human and nonhuman relationality and environmental remediation. I interrogate and problematize human-centric perspectives and hegemonic forces that encourage distance from animality and arguably enable environmental degradation. My work thus challenges ongoing legacies of colonialism that promote oppression and destruction. The written component of this project is part of an interdisciplinary thesis that includes artworks presented at Western University’s McIntosh Gallery from July 4 to July 30, 2022, in an exhibition entitled NODES: Animality and Kinship. The overarching themes of animality, biophilia, and the Chthulucene are mirrored in the writing and in the artworks, which were shown in a three-gallery presentation deploying video, drawing, sculpture, and installation. Together, the writing and the body of art proceed from my positionality within our complex geological times where, I argue, the need to recognize animality and multispecies relationality is of primary urgency in advocating for the preservation of connections amongst human and nonhuman species. As a whole, this dissertation project considers how animality, both as a subject and a framework, can work towards mending socio-cultural relationships and support environmental remediation. The written project is composed of three chapters and a conclusion, followed by a dossier documenting the exhibition and an appendix of related works and projects I created during my doctoral studies.
Summary for Lay Audience
This dissertation looks to three main areas of focus with the aim of decentering dominant Western beliefs regarding the human position in the more-than-human world and relationships between human and nonhuman species. These areas of focus, which are interlinked, are: 1. Animality—a contemporary and open perspective on human existence and human-animal relationships; 2. Biophilia—which, according to Edward O. Wilson’s conception of the term, addresses innate interconnectivity between species and to promote care for nonhuman species, including the vegetal/botanical; and 3. The Chthulucene—a contemporary perspective on our current epoch, with respect to the conceptualization of Donna Haraway. The core of this dissertation includes propositions regarding remediation and ongoingness when it comes to multispecies alliances and recuperative measures for the environment. While undertaking this research, I created artistic works that correspond to the themes addressed in each chapter of this thesis; a dossier documenting these works of art and an appendix with related artwork and projects follow.
Snook, Ashley, "Chthulucenic Living [and dying and composting]: Pursuing Ongoingness through Animality and Biophilia" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9311.