Creative Interspecies Conversations:
Art and Ecological Thinking
表現工学科 James JACK(ジャック・ジェームズ)


What can we learn from more than human species? Art

provides a method for understanding other species. I have

seen Chinu fish communicate feelings with each other and

Uguisu singing to talk to other species who are listening.

Earthworms tell stories to each other as they dig, eat

and reproduce inside of the soil. Some conversations can

be observed with our senses keenly attuned to other

species, and others require imaginative leaps based on our

own lived experiences. Artists including myself open

spaces for creative interspecies communication such as

a guide to loving water, to learn from living materials.


For example, observe a plant in your immediate
surroundings now. A round leafed Crassula ovata (kane no

naru ki) plant sits near me while writing this article with
bright pink buds preparing to blossom even in the

coldest days of winter. Recently each of my students

brought a plant and a story to class where we all learned

of intimate kinships with these living things as friends.

In kinship with the more than human world, ethnobotanist

Gary Paul Nabhantouches a plant each day to get away

from the computer. When we connect with plants away

fromour devices, we return refreshed in our digital

communications linked with other species. These

conversations can be inserted into the screens we are

on right now and shared through fresh waves of wifi.


Conversations with other species take colorful forms in

artworks. For example, “Shhhh! Plants Talking” artwork

displayed as part of lumbung: documenta fifteen

encourages us to shift our dailiy communications to

include botanic friends. This bright yellow artwork

displayed at facing a public street with frequent

pedestrians reminds humans to pay attention to plants

in our daily conversations. It existed within the ecosystem

of an upcycled shopping center repurposed to become

ruruHaus, the central hub of activity in this quinquennial

exhibit. The free admission public art spaces of ruruHaus

are alive with conversations over coffee beans, fishing

nets and brewed hops including activations by the

Composting Network my art collective is a part of.


The sea is also full of other than human species for us to

learn from. For example, in Setouchi (Kagawa Prefecture)

the Teshima Art Museum is an open teardrop shape

enhances human sensitivity to self in connection with

other species. Sounds of the wind, uguisu birds and the

occasional falling leaf resonate off the softly bleached

walls and floors of the museum designed by architect

Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito. A space that is both

indoor and outdoor at the same time, micro water droplets

are transformed into gigantic geological shapes inside of

this expansive space. On the nearby island of Naoshima,

the artwork Slag Buddha 88 – Eighty-eight Buddha

Statues Created Using Slag from Industrial Waste at

Teshima transforms human waste into sculptures of

healing for the environment. Artist Ozawa Tsuyoshi is

deeply concerned with the positive impact humans can

have on each other, plants and animals including a

current fascination with behavior of goats for a new



As an artist and researcher, I communicate with what

Van Horn calls “other than human species” and share

these transmissions with others  in creative ways.

Deep listening to water, plants, seaweed, fish, birds and

more than human life nourishes ecological thinking.

Respectfully working with waves of wifi, I aim to spread

positive relations between species in exhibits, teaching

and publications. In symbiosis with other disciplines, art

opens opportunities to learn together in open ways

where sharing benefits diverse species and elements

involved in dialogue.