Here's a fanciful but almost-real scenario: the bees, squirrels, geese, bugs, trees, and other species of your local park have decided that they've had enough of human aggression and abuse. They're not going to take it anymore, and rise up and demand equal rights with humans. Through a series of interspecies assemblies, a treaty is negotiated to ensure that every living being in the local ecosystem can flourish.
This scenario is a "live action role-playing" (LARP) game devised by Furtherfield, a London-based arts collective as part of its stewardship of part of the Victorian-era Finsbury Park. Over the next three years, Furtherfield is inviting humans to don masks and play the roles of each of seven species in negotiating "The Treaty of Finsbury Park 2025" -- the name of the project.
By casting humans as beetles and squirrels attending Interspecies Assemblies as delegates of their species, the LARP aims to help people develop "empathic pathways to nonhuman lifeforms through play." There is even a Sentience Dial to help different species communicate with each other. Who knows, this process may actually make Finsbury Park a more lush and lively place?
This adventure in animism is just one project that Furtherfield has hosted over the past 25 years, most of which blend art, digital technologies, and social action in some creative fashion. In my latest Frontier of Commoning podcast (Episode #24), I speak with Ruth Catlow about Furtherfield's distinctive approach to participatory art as a way of thinking anew about the world.
Catlow, an artist, curator, and co-leader of Furtherfield, has been a guiding visionary for its many artistic projects since its inception in 1996. She helps orchestrate collaborations with various local, national and international partners -- but especially with ordinary people. The point of its many artworks and technology projects is to try to get us to see the world differently, and to honor the role of art in envisioning new futures for ourselves.