Rosalin Blake Artist Mink Trap Cyanotype copy
Rosalind Blake , 'Untitled (Mink Trap Series)', cyanotype, 2020

Rebecca Tamás’ words shimmer above a depth of thought rooted in radical care. Quenching the dryness left by a tradition of pontificating male nature writers, her writing is potent: salty, granular, nocturnal—and leaves the reader under no illusion that there is an option to indulge in ecological nostalgia. This is a feminist document, and one which holds emotion as a power source rather than an embarrassing appendage of experience. Emotion is recognised here as a key to understanding.

Throughout Strangers, Tamás gives generous attention to the work of other artists and writers. ‘On Greenness’ contains a deep consideration of the work of Ana Mendieta, whose contribution to ecological art and feminist practice is vital. ‘On Grief’ platforms Camille T. Dungy’s work Black Nature—an anthology of work from Black poets, confronting the intersections of social and environmental justice. ‘On Pain’ centres Ariana Reines’ poetic text—The Cow—connecting violence toward animals in late capitalism and violence inflicted on female bodies. Through this practice of acknowledgment and attention, Tamás elucidates the collaborative thought, through time and place, which makes up a body of work.

The text is shaped by a rejection of rigidity. ‘On Panpsychism’, ‘On Hospitality’, and ‘On Greenness’ all address that ‘the individual’ while being a powerful ideological unit of political ‘freedom’ [1] is a concept and not a state of being. By acknowledging nature that ‘rubs up against and inside of us’ [2], Tamás reflects the biological term ‘Holobiont’—the idea that all organisms are in fact a symbiotic cacophony. Biologist Scott Gilbert suggests that gut bacteria can even play a role in selecting an animal’s life partners [3], which takes the pressure off somewhat. Like an internal committee of 100 trillion discerning friends.

This rejection of individualism can, of course, be considered beyond the discipline of physiology, and used to dissolve ideas of otherness, both human and non-human. Such thinking carries deep importance for inter-human as well as interspecies relationships: through this modality we reject the established patterns of othering and colonisation that run through Western socio-political endeavours. Strangers is a manifesto for embracing entanglements and dismantling the edifice of bounded individualism.

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[1] Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, ed. by Anna Tsing and others (University of Minnesota Press, 2017)

<http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt1qft070>

[2] Rebecca Tamás, Strangers (Makina Books, 2020).

[3] Scott F Gilbert, ‘HOLOBIONT BY BIRTH’, in Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, ed. by Anna Tsing and others, Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), pp. 73–90 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt1qft070.23>.

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Rosalind Blake is an artist and academic based in North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. She runs a BA course in art at UHI with a focus on ecological practices. Rosalind likes critical and feminist pedagogies, Tidalectics, collaboration, and rock pools.

Rebecca Tamás is a poet based in York, where she works as a lecturer at York St John University. Her first collection, WITCH, focusing on feminist language and occult practice, was published by Penned in the Margins in March 2019. Strangers is available to pre-order through Makina books: https://makinabooks.com/product/strangers/