Rehearsing Nonhuman Perspectives / Nicht-Menschliche Perspektiven proben

Julia Grillmayr
Fine Arts and Media Art, Site Specific Art
2020W, Vorlesung und Übungen (VU), 2.0 ECTS, 2.0 semester hours, course number S03442


What if we addressed the Anthropocene as a problem of communication and an issue of mutual understanding? Could it help to actively translate the wants, needs and experiences of non-humans into human language? Following the question of how to give a voice to plants, animals, fungi, places or whole landscapes, we read speculative fiction and theory that deals with sentient bamboo, tentacular protagonists and spidery narrators as well as gorillas that use sign language and the linguistics of eggplant.

Well aware that we can never fully understand or accomplish a non-human speech act, we rehearse conversations with non-humans with the help of fictional narratives, storytelling games and artistic forms. We discuss what kinds of approximations to such a conversation could help us to understand the Anthropocene; the current situation of mass extinction and environmental destruction. We enter the cringy territories of anthropomorphism, we revive ecofeminist discussions of making kin with animals. We ask, how we can speak up for non-humans without speaking for (instead of) them. What would a „speaking nearby“ (Trinh T. Minh-ha) non-humans look like? How not to erase their „significant otherness“ (Donna Haraway) in the translation? How to take the other’s “point of view compassionately, but without pretending to be the other” (Rosi Braidotti et al)?


Examination Modalities

We will meet bi-weekly and discuss these questions by reference to a heterogenous list of images, texts, film and audio documents that I’ll provide at the beginning of the semester and that we will extend together in the course of the seminar. Together in class, we will do close readings of short essays and theory chapters/quotes. Furthermore, we will try find ways to "rehearse" non-human speech acts with the help of storytelling games, RPGs or scenario writing methods.

Each participant will read one speculative fiction (novel or short story) that includes or deals with non-human narration and discuss it in class. At the departmen of site-specific art there will be a little Non-Human Library with some books at your disposal.

As final project/paper, I want you to reflect on one aspect we have discussed in the framework of the seminar and write a short text (essay, short story, description of an artwork).



Due to the current regulations, the places in this course are limited. The registration will close on the 11th of october. Thanks four your understanding!


In case, we are not able to meet, because of another lockdown, I will provide reading materials as well as inputs in podcast format. We will meet live per Zoom and furthermore find ways of asynchronous exchange.

In any case, there will be a shared etherpad to exchange short texts, ideas and links.

Our Non-Human Library:

  • Abi Andrews: The Word for Woman is Wilderness, 2018
  •  Octavia Butler: Lilith's Brood (1987-89)
  • Sue Burke: Semiosis, 2018
  • Ursula K. LeGuin: The Unreal & The Real, Volume 2, (short stories), 2012
  • Nnedi Okorafor: Lagoon, 2014
  • Jeff VanderMeer: Annihilation, 2014


The program you find below is preliminary - it can change according to what participants' interest; let's decide together what we want to focus on.

Futhermore, this conference (held in Vienna and online) could be interesting input:


Key Words

posthumanism, animal studies, cultural studies, science fiction, critical posthumanism, Donna Haraway, Speculative Fiction, literature


09 October 2020, 10:00–13:00 Seminar Room Site-Specific Art and Sculpture and Space , "Thinking "the Other" without "Othering - general discussion"
16 October 2020, 10:00–13:00 (ZOOM) , "The Problem of Representation (ZOOM)"
30 October 2020, 10:00–13:00 Seminar Room Site-Specific Art and Sculpture and Space , "Our favorite monsters"
13 November 2020, 10:00–13:00 , "Tentacles and Slime (Zoom)"
27 November 2020, 10:00–13:00 Tentacle and Slime Monsters RPG on Zoom
11 December 2020, 10:00–13:00 Seminar Room Site-Specific Art and Sculpture and Space , "Against Plant-Blindness"
08 January 2021, 10:00–13:00 , "Plants RPG on Zoom"
22 January 2021, 10:00–13:00 Seminar Room Site-Specific Art and Sculpture and Space , "What have we learned? What to do with it?"

Course Enrolment

From 01 September 2020, 09:26
The online registration was already closed

co-registration: possible

Fine Arts (2. Section): Artistic and Research Practice: Free Electives out of Artistic and Research Practice

Individual courses: possible