Month: September 2018

Meeting #3: FRI 21 Sept 1 – 4pm

**Next meeting at IFP on Friday afternoon, 21 September, 1pm**

life is a product of putrefaction, and it depends on both death and the dungheap[i]

At the last meeting we took some sound recordings to begin an extinction audio book cassette library, which could eventually share some of our activities beyond the group. This week we’re going to read for the library a chapter from Thom van Dooren’s Flight Ways (2014), ‘Circling Vultures: Life and Death at the Dull Edge of Extinction’, concerned with Indian vultures and ‘the dynamics and practicalities of eating and being eaten in multispecies communities’. We’ll also look at the Introduction to Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death, and Generations (2017), which gives a good overview of why lively stories on this topic matter right now.

Afterwards we’ll have a discussion about the local relevance of this kind of work and thinking. No prior preparation needed, newcomers always welcome.

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[image L: Lionel Lindsay, Indian Vulture, 1933. wood engraving. National Library of Australia / image R: cover, Thom van Dooren, Deborah Bird Rose, Matthew Chrulew (eds.) Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death, and Generations (2017), New York: CUP]

[i] Georges Bataille, ‘Death.’ In The Bataille Reader, Fred Botting and Scott Wilson (eds.) (1997) Oxford: Blackwell. p. 224. Cited in Thom van Dooren Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (2014) New York: CUP p. 45

Natural History Museum, Beijing

A visit to Beijing’s Natural History Museum! If you’re hoping to find out information about extinct species in China like the baiji (Yangtze river dolphin), this might not be the place. In several floors of classic once-stately but now somewhat shabby museum style, there is just one stuffed finless porpoise (not Lipotes vexillifer at all), mysteriously labelled ‘river dolphin’. A little sad, to say the least!

There is however an unarguably remarkable Jurassic Park-style robotic dinosaur display, complete with quick glassy eyes and roaring sound effects. And many, many marauding children, whose parents try desperately to photograph them in front of dusty dioramas of poised tigers and silent forest monkeys. Wild in unexpected ways.

Chinese alligator, extremely rare nowadays.

fossil plants

The only dolphins in sight – happy (sea) dolphins decorating the back wall of a dimly-lit basement aquarium, home to slowly moping sturgeon, swordfish and swirls of brightly coloured smaller fish.

A taste of things to come… de-extinction, anyone?

[all photos taken by the author]


Meeting #2: SUN 9 Sept 1 – 4pm

Next meeting will be at IFP on Sunday 9 September, 1 – 4pm.

Continuing last meeting’s avian thread, and ‘thinking with’ the fleet of racing pigeons living just beside IFP, this time we’ll read a short piece by Belgian philosopher of science Vinciane Despret on the extinct passenger pigeon, ‘Afterword: It Is an Entire World That Has Disappeared’, from the recent edited collection Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death, and Generations (2017). We could then take a look at an article by the same author (with Michel Meuret), ‘Cosmoecological Sheep and the Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet’ (2016), from the open-access journal Environmental Humanities, about some surprising proactive responses to the extinction of ways-of-life, rather than species.

We’ll also consider how such lines of thinking resonate here in China, in connection with particular local extinctions, and how they may be translated into the form of an art project, that you could be part of.

RSVP with your email address for further details.



Welcome readers!

The reading group had its first meeting a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon with around nine participants. We started by together reading through the introduction to Thom van Dooren’s Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction, which focuses on disappearing birds and the relationships they take with them. We also shared some tea and talked about where the idea for the group came from and how it could develop from here.