Sympoietic Encounters

Artists: Capucine Bourcart, Melanie Elyse Brewster, Lulu Luyao Chang, Dana Donaty, Jamie Gustavson, Erin Hayde, James Jaxxa, Maria Markham, Grace McCoy, Kun Kyung Sok, Josh Stein, Jerry E. Strohkorb, Luis Valenzuela

Curated by Yindi Chen and Maria Markham

January 26 – February 13, 2023
Gramercy Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, New York

We are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction—a massive multi-species extinction affected by human-caused threats to ecosystems. The impacts of human activities on the planet are strikingly visible: deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change, and other catastrophic events. These environmental crises and the recent pandemic have worsened our experiences of anxiety, loneliness, and isolation, which cannot be separated from our ignorance about human interdependence with other-than-human species.

The ecological changes require us to rethink the “we” beyond our narcissistic, short-sighted centering of humans at the expense of all living beings on the planet. As the evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis suggests, life on Earth is formed by symbiotic cooperative entanglements—creatures “become-with” as they interact with each other to create complex living systems. Based on Margulis’ theories, the biologist and ecofeminist Donna Haraway proposed the term “sympoiesis” that refers to “making-with”: “Nothing makes itself... Sympoiesis is a word proper to complex, dynamic, responsive, situated, historical systems. It is a word for worlding-with, in company.”

Sympoietic Encounters: Making-With in the Sixth Great Extinction features practices that are created through co-evolved encounters between living and nonliving agencies. The exhibition brings works from 13 artists to provide embodied experience that touch on species extinction, climate violence, consumption-based lives, and histories of rituals. By creating new bonds and intimacies beyond humans, the works ask what it means to be in a sympoietic world—to discover, sense, and make life rather than extinguish it.