Minibeasts, Mark-making and Me: Contemporary Embodied Drawing Approaches to Multispecies Worlds

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Against the background of a biodiversity crisis and the ongoing debate around invertebrate sen1ence, this prac1ce-based PhD inves1gates and contextualises the untapped poten1al of subjec1vist approaches to drawing and mark-making within human-invertebrate encounters. The thesis adopts a mul1species-centred autoethnographic, open-ended, experimental, diffrac1ve, prac1ce-based methodology to inves1gate the lived experience of human-minibeast encounters using an embodied drawing approach. A focus on the domes1c seWng was developed during the Covid-19 pandemic as a response to iden1fying the various limita1ons of encountering preserved insect specimens within natural history museums and bu+erflies housed within tropical bu+erfly houses and to the na1onal lockdown. Minibeasts that were encountered living within the house and garden included snails, slugs, spiders, bu+erflies, bees, woodlice, and beetles. Specific non-containment drawing and mark-making techniques are presented as part of an ethically responsible prac1ce, which seeks to explicitly inves1gate agency within human and nonhuman encounters. Developing a structured, in-situ, embodied approach to working alongside the minibeasts encountered, the drawing prompts Mee1ng Places, Feelings, Sounds, Bodies, and Movement evolve into a framework of prac1ce alongside three drawing processes. Three main drawing and mark-making prac1ces are presented as DES (drawing with eyes shut), DMB (drawing moving the body), and DWL (drawing without looking at the paper). These are used to explore minibeast encounters as dynamically as possible using all the senses. Drawings, reflec1ve autoethnography, wri+en records and videos of prac1ce were co-ordinated and curated for an exhibi1on and a visual blog. This research aims to widen the prac1ce of natural history drawing from the dominance of objec1ve illustra1on focussed on anatomical accuracy to include more subjec1ve and abstract responses to minibeast encounters. The prac1ce is analysed using a mul1species autoethnographic approach within a diffrac1ve framework which combines drawing prompts from the developed model of prac1ce with posthumanist and feminist new materialist concepts. Recommenda1ons are made as to how this model of prac1ce might be applied within schools and environmental educa1on seWngs in the future to enhance an awareness of ecological interconnectedness and gently cri1que the ethical, experien1al, and educa1onal dimensions of current prac1ces including minibeast hunts.
Keywords: mul1species, encounter, mark-making.
Date of Award7 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLouis Netter (Supervisor), Marius Kwint (Supervisor) & Simone Gumtau (Supervisor)

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