Reassembling the Natural is an ongoing curatorial research project by Anna-Sophie Springer and Dr. Etienne Turpin. Since 2013, they have developed a unique collaborative practice that draws on their respective disciplinary training and expertise to enable our distinctive work in exhibition making and publishing related to urgent issues across fields such as aesthetics, environmental history, design, museology, and philosophy. The project combines ethnographic research, field work, archival study, and art-science collaboration in order to convene together and curate scientists, artists, and theorists from the Americas, Europe, Amazonia, Southeast Asia, and China for a sustained conversation about the future of “natural history” on Earth.
Reassembling the Natural takes as its objective a serious, transdisciplinary review of the concept of nature—including its role within the knowledge infrastructure of the sciences, its elaborate housing of myths and cultural heritage, and its consistent place within the arts and humanities—in the context of our accelerating planetary extinction. How can those fields of inquiry through which nature came to be shared, studied, and conserved in human cultures begin to reassemble knowledges among the fragmented worlds threatened by anthropogenic transformation? How can new forms of inquiry and collaboration begin to unground the assumptions of knowledge, futurity, and security which limit the discourse of our contemporary environmental crisis? How can we reassemble and exhibit an exemplary plea for a reconsideration of the natural and its vital role in visual culture, design, science and beyond?
Springer and Turpin explore issues around the collection, classification, and display of knowledge; they see this curatorial work as a critical practice because it is a way to encourage various communities and public audiences to learn through unorthodox reinterpretations, appropriations, and juxtapositions that affect the world by changing perspectives of it. Unfolding at the intersection of contemporary art, exhibition-led inquiry, applied philosophy, and environmental justice, their collaborative curatorial work provokes transfers and semiotic shifts between objects, images, texts, media, and ideas in order to critically investigate both traditional museological display practices and contemporary environmental politics through artistic points of view. It is in this sense that their practice has approached the Anthropocene thesis; indeed, Springer and Turpin are committed to rethinking traditional divisions of knowledge production, promoting multidisciplinary and multi-stable images of “nature,” and advancing postcolonial vocabularies and literacies as part of a cultural turn toward species extinction and climate change.
The primary objective of Reassembling the Natural is to bring artists, scientists, and activists into an intercultural, collaborative reassessment of colonial natural history collections in order to produce relevant, contemporary work about both the history of European colonialism and its environmental legacy in the present. The secondary objective is the extensive dissemination of the findings from this research agenda by way of international exhibitions and the distribution of a series of edited publications.