Wunderkammer Heritage and WildGarden Reinvention

The WildGarden Wunderkammer is a dissident and playful appropriation and reinvention of the “Cabinet of Curiosities” first seen in 16th C Europe. The particulars of these collections crossed the di- vides between the natural, the artificial and scientific inquiry. Wunderkammers were designed to provoke wonder and delight in the viewer, while simultaneously bolstering the social status of the collector. They emerge from the confluence (or ganma) of alchemy, science, and art and have all the usual contradictions of the practices of dominating Western culture. Thus our dissident dialogue.

Collective eco-arts projects are a means of practicing carnivalesque dialogue. One form developed by dian marino, who taught at York and FES for 20 years, until her death in 1993, is the Earthblanket, a collective mural and environmental education project that dian conceived of as making “blankets” with which to comfort our ailing world. The making of collective ‘zines as a form of classroom dia- logue has also been developed by chris cavanagh as well as rein- vented by Tim Leduc as a dialogue activity in the creation of the MES Plan of Study.

WildGarden’s Wunderkammer project asks you to consider what your curiosity about the world reveals. For your inspiration, download the wunderkammer zine.

Earthblanket inspired by dian marino


For your inspiration: Play with these Ideas

A Rainforest of Moveable Relations
Naturecultures & Environmental Studies

dian marino, writes:

Mine is not an unrelenting story of resistance. I see myself as very much embedded in my community, with all the complexities that accompany a sense of place.

The story of my education is like other stories, very untidy, cluttered with moments of clarity and simplicity as well as with curiously unfinished or incomplete thoughts. There is a wildness in me and the world I am a part of, which I have to respect, and at the same time I know I have undergone a process of social construction as an artist and educator.

My personal – and selective – history is not, then, a dichotomous development but rather a rain forest of moveable relations. (Landscape for an Easily Influenced Mind in Wild Garden: art, education, and the culture of resistance (Toronto: BTL, 1997), pp. 19-20.

What do you see in your rainforest of moveable relations?

Inspiration: Joseph Cornell Boxes

Reënchanting Available Materials
untitled (Can Major Constellation)

untitled (Can Major Constellation)

A self taught artist, Cornell is one of the most celebrated makers of boxed assemblages alternatively known as ‘shadow boxes’, memory boxes, or ‘poetic theatres’. Created from carefully juxtaposed found objects, Cornell made boxes about things we cannot see: ideas, memories, fantasies, and dreams.

Untitled (Hotel Eden)

Untitled (Hotel Eden)

Noël Sturgeon, Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies writes:

Climate change, water scarcity, failing food systems, energy challenges, suburban sprawl, pollution, overconsumption, waste, species extinction – understanding the environment has never been more important. The Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University is the place to critically examine these and other environmental problems and to craft solutions that are just and sustainable. …

From ecology to community arts, from environmental policy and planning to environmental education and philosophy, from international development to green business, from animal rights to wetlands restoration, from tropical forest preservation to thinking environ- mentally through writing, from indigenous studies to new energy technologies, FES offers exciting, innovative, and interdisciplinary programs …

From Deans Message 

What does “environment” mean to you? What is most urgent to confront? What is your hope for the future?

Inspiration: Yinka Shonibare’s ‘post-colonial’ hybrids

Global Flows


Yinka Shonibare identifies as a “post-colonial hybrid.” He tackles the legacies of colonialism, global movements and intersected identities through his signature medium, Dutch batik fabric. Dutch wax fabrics, designed in the former-Dutch colony Indonesia and manufactured in Manchester, England, ended up as an

export to Africa, thus inventing an “African” identity through fashion. “It’s the fallacy of that signification that I like, it’s the way I view culture – it’s an artificial construct.



Donna Haraway challenges the common binary opposition of na- ture/culture by theorizing “natureculture” as not two things but one and multiple. What we call “nature” is determined by culture.

From When Species Meet (2008, Univ. of Minnesota Press):

In layers of history, layers of biology, layers of naturecultures, complexity is the name of our game. We are both the freedom- hungry offspring of conquest, products of white settler colonies, leaping over hurdles and crawling through tunnels on the playing field. (p. 16)

Or maybe it is just my monomania to place baboons and humans together in situated histories, situated naturecultures, in which all the actors become who they are in the dance of relating, not from scratch, not ex nihilo, but full of the patterns of their sometimes- joined, sometimes-separate heritages both before and lateral to this encounter. All the dancers are redone through the patterns they enact. (p.25)

Ordinary identities emerge and are rightly cherished, but they remain always a relational web opening to non-Euclidean pasts, presents, and futures. The ordinary is a multipartner mud dance issuing from and in entangled species. It is turtles all the way down; the partners do not preexist their constitutive intra-action at every folded layer of time and space. These are the contagions and infections that wound the primary narcissism of those who still dream of human exceptionalism. These are also the cobblings together that give meaning to the “becoming with” of companion species in naturecultures. Cum panis, messmates, to look and to look back, to have truck with: those are the names of my game. (p.32)

Where in natureculture are you situated?

Inspiration: Mark Dion’s Cabinets of Curiosities

Modern Archeology
New England Digs

New England Digs

Dion mimics the process recapturing wonder of the early naturalists and amateur archeologists by ‘performing’ archaeological digs, natural history forays and museum curation and display. Through the use of allegory and humour, Dion creates a space for dialogue between con- temporary culture and Western systems of classification.

new england digs 2

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