Spring 2023 - CA 412W E100

Advanced Seminar in Art and Performance Studies (4)

Plants in Contemporary Art and Culture

Class Number: 6412

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 4 – Apr 11, 2023: Thu, 5:30–8:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Eight upper division units; and one of CA (or FPA) 210W (or 210), 316 (or 337), 318 (or 335), or 357W.



Provides an in-depth investigation of a selected theoretical, historical or thematic topic in art and performance studies. This course requires independent research leading to a substantial paper, as well as directed reading preparation for seminars. Topics will vary from term to term. The course may be repeated four times for credit if the topic is different. May be of particular interest to students in other departments. Writing.


We are living on a damaged planet—one whose lands, waters, species, and atmosphere we continue to harm despite warnings from scientists that we will soon be past the point of no return. We hear and read about this destruction on a daily basis, but in what ways are we failing to listen and respond to these urgent messages? In what ways are facts and data often not enough to motivate us to individually and collectively act today so that we might all live and breathe tomorrow?

In recent decades, the field of Environmental Humanities has emerged in recognition of the impossibility of relying on any one system or culture of knowledge to save the world. Integrating ecological inquiry from the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts, the field has also insisted not only on the dismantling of all nature/culture divides but also on the dismantling of hierarchies between Western, Eastern, and Indigenous ways of knowing and relating. Taking this kind of intervention as its starting point, we will explore how art, philosophy, and decolonizing methodologies might help us to connect more intimately and imaginatively to the disaster of the present. In our online meetings, we will explore together the aspects of life that, in Isabel Stengers’ words, “have been anaesthetized, massacred, and dishonoured in the name of a progress that is reduced today to the imperative of economic growth.” In doing so, the seminar seeks to inspire hope and a sense of possibilities, and to catalyze creative solutions and collective action.

Course topics include: productive alternatives to apocalyptic thinking; cultivating deep listening; Indigenous and anthropological methods for “knowing from the inside”; studying the earth’s material witnessing; and building new worlds through an Indigenous understanding of deep time. Students will be asked to keep a journal of notes and questions; to engage with the intimate and astonishing nature of multisensory study; and to complete an essay or trans-medial project (that may involve writing, video, soundscape, etc.) that relates to one or more of the issues addressed in the course.


  • Five journal exercises 25%
  • Seminar reading summary and discussion facilitation 10%
  • Essay/project proposal and schedule of work 15%
  • Final essay/project presentations and final submission 50%



Readings will be available on Canvas (http://canvas.sfu.ca) as pdfs


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html