Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Rendering Life, Refiguring Diversity from the Highlands of New Guinea
Laura Cassidy Rogers
2nd Author
Justin Schuetz (Photographer)
3rd Author
Master of Arts
Number of Pages
San Francisco Art Institute
Thesis Supervisor
Jeannene Przyblyski
Supervisor e-mail
jprzyblyski AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Krista Geneviève Lynes, Warren Sack
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Exhibition and Museum Studies
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
modernity, art and science, biodiversity, extinction, conservation, tropics, rhizome, data visualizations, museum studies
Abstract: 200-500 words
Conserving biodiversity became an urgent matter at the turn of the twentieth century as scientists observed the increasing rate of species extinction due to human (in)activity. After multiple visits to the Highland Tropics Gallery at The Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, I recognized that underpinning the crisis of biodiversity is what Bruno Latour calls the crisis of modernity. The threat of vanishing organisms, behaviors, genetic information, and knowledge is in direct tension with the threat of proliferating hybrids. It is impossible to preserve pure forms in nature. A thorough cross-disciplinary examination of the assumptions that guide museological and other conservation practices is imperative. There is a cross-institutional tour in development between the Conservatory of Flowers, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, and California Academy of Sciences that provides a platform for interrogating the ways we understand and conserve diversity. In anticipation of this tour, I have generated an experiential exposé that takes as its starting point the culture of a highland orchid, Diplocaulobium centrale, slated for display at the Conservatory of Flowers and adopts the premise of Actor Network Theory to follow networks of material-semiotic association across the boundaries of conventional classification systems into the other Golden Gate Park institutions. Not only do I consider D. centrale in relation with other plants, horticulturalists, and the greenhouse infrastructure, but also with artworks, curators, birds, and scientists. I attempt to refigure the orchid as a lateral web of movement, a gesture of diversity as dynamic process. In doing so, what currently seems a double threat becomes a generative opportunity. My narrative is accompanied by photographic images produced by Justin Schuetz. Our collaboration emerged out of a common interest in the space of museum collections and display, though his images do not function as illustrations of my text nor does my text directly comment on his images. We consider our two modes of inquiry and mediums of expression to have their own integrity, though our compositions certainly converge as generative processes: renderings of life.