Natura Naturans

Non classé

A collaboration with the Washington Project of the Arts  

In partnership with the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences (CPNAS)

From natura naturata (i.e., « nature natured » – nature as a passive matter) to natura naturans (i.e., « nature naturing » – nature as self-generating matter), the concept of « nature » has oscillated throughout the course of human history. This oscillation has accompanied the development of technologies that question the concept of creation itself. The Anthropocene defines an epoch dating from the beginning of the large-scale impact of human activities on the Earth’s ecosystems. Since the industrial era, the environment has been particularly impacted, transformed with the considerable accumulation of human artifacts. The ecological crisis reminds us of the contingency and the danger of large-scale transformations: if humans have been able to shape the world, that transformation, in turn, impacts our future. Despite various attempts to ignore climate change, we are now experiencing its consequences. As artists, scientists, and activists (inhabitants of Earth), our increased awareness of this phenomenon should encourage a rapid response that affords nature greater rights.

Natura Naturans is structured as convene with six sessions, grouped under three overarching themes: Nature / Culture, Visible / Invisible Pollution, and To Create / To Transform. The sessions are comprised of a Friday evening lecture followed by a Saturday or Sunday workshop or field trip.

fanzine – natura naturans – tropisme




« Nature » and « wilderness » are cultural representations: they are reflections of our own desires and phantasms. Despite their meanings and differences, these concepts both refer to what is non-human. The evolution of these notions reflects our relationship with the world. Are the notions of « nature » and « wilderness » helpful when thinking about our relationship with the environment or are they restrictive and outdated concepts? What happens when parts of nature become legal entities? How do we discuss the notion of « property » in the Anthropocene? How do we evaluate our moral responsibility for climate change? How do non-human made objects raise ethical questions about their legal statuses in our contemporary society?

> TALK: Friday, September 13, 7:30 – 9pm – WPA

Ben Price – Nature, Property, and Legal Rights


> WORKSHOP: Saturday, September 14, 2 – 3pm – WPA

Raina Martens – Haunted Ground: Slavery, Trash, Soil, and the Logics of Ecological Destruction



Human artifacts sometimes escape human control, interacting with the environment in ways that call into question the dichotomy between nature and culture. These collaborations stimulate new interactions and illustrate the possibility of life in « capitalist ruins ». They gradually generate their own rules, construct new architectural forms through a variety of transformations, and create new venues for life, enjoyment, and recycling. New kinds of architectonics can provide a conceptual framework to re-think our relationship with the environment. How do artifacts and non-man-made objects produce new – and sometimes unexpected – partnerships?

> TALK: Friday, September 27, 7:30 – 9pm – WPA

Ana Sosa – Microbial communities and micro-plastic particles interaction in the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem


> WORKSHOP: Sunday, September 29, 11:00am – 4:30pm – Mallows Bay

Atlantic Kayak Company – The Ghost Ships of Mallows Bay




Human noises affect wildlife. Scientific research has been conducted to show and to measure its impact on aquatic life (mammals, oysters, etc.). Acoustic transformations in nature tell us about the ecological impact of humans and climate change. What is acoustical trash? How do we measure its effects on the ecosystems? Quiet zones are places not disturbed by human noises, where we can listen to the non-human world. The United States National Radio Quiet Zone is an area in West Virginia where authorities limit all radio transmissions for scientific purposes. In the late 1960s, Bernie Krause started a bioacoustic catalog containing over 4,500 hours of wild soundscapes (aquatic and terrestrial). Half of the natural soundscapes are from habitats that either no longer exist, are radically altered because of human endeavor, or that have gone altogether silent. What is a silent place: a quiet place with no human noises or a soundscape losing its diversity?

> TALK: Friday, October 11, 7:30 – 9pm – WPA

Gordon Hempton – Soundscape: silent place and diversity


> WORKSHOP: Saturday, October 12, 2 – 3:30pm – WPA

CA Conrad – (Soma)tic Poetry Rituals



The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s oceans. It covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers and its mass is estimated to weigh 80,000 tons. It is also estimated that 1.15 to 2.41 million tons of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. Many plastics break into smaller pieces and becomes microplastic pollution. Some plastic fragments are already 5 millimeters in size or less before entering the environment. What are the consequences of microplastic pollution in local and international waters? The term space debris originally refers to the natural debris found in the solar system. However, it also describes the debris from the mass of defunct, artificially created objects in space, especially in Earth’s orbit. These include old satellites and spent rocket stages, as well as the fragments from their disintegration and collisions. In 1957, Sputnik brought to space the first pieces of space junk. In January 2019, more than 128 million bits of debris smaller than 1 cm, about 900,000 pieces of debris 1-10 cm, and around 34,000 of pieces larger than 10 cm were estimated to be in orbit around the Earth. What are the technical, economic, and legal aspects of the orbital debris?

> TALK: Friday, October 25, 7:30 – 9pm – WPA

Alicia Cate, Steven Mirmina and Kimberly Warner – Tragedy of the Commons:  Ocean Plastics and Space Junk


> WORKSHOP: Saturday, October 26, 2 – 4pm – Anacostia river

Anacostia Riverkeeper – Plastics in our Local Waterways




Man-made objects question the notions of « nature » and « culture ». They also question the notion of « creation » itself, as humans have developed technologies capable of editing the DNA of living organisms. From genetically modified plants and animals to gene editing on humans, scientists are now able to modify the whole ecosystem. Will science and creativity become a tool to face – for example – climate change? Will animals, plants, and humans be obsolete in the future? How will the concepts of partnership and power be redefined? How is technology transforming the world?

> TALK: Friday, November 8, 7:30 – 9pm – WPA

Glenn Davis Stone – GMOs: history, perspectives, ethics


> WORKSHOP: Saturday, November 9, 2 – 3:30pm – George Washington University

Arnaud Martin – CRISPR Genome Editing and Butterfly Genomics research at George Washington University



The International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education. Light pollution is a macroscopic phenomenon which will transform the history of astronomy for the next generations. The sky has been gradually re-shaped by luminous objects set in orbit in the last century: satellites, planes, artifacts. How will our representation of the sky change as humans populate it with more and more luminous artifacts?

> TALK: Friday, November 22, 7:30 – 9pm – WPA

Kevin B. Marvel – Luminous artifacts in the Universe: Reality or Fiction


> WORKSHOP: Saturday, November 16, 2 – 3:30pm – National Academy of Sciences

Tom Di Liberto, Margot Greenlee, and Dance Exchange – Representing the Celestial 

Presented in partnership with the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences (CPNAS)



Alicia Cate is a senior counsel at Oceana. Prior to joining Oceana, Ms. Cate served as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State and as an Associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. Ms. Cate’s prior experience also includes environmental law and policy work for the Environmental Law Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Shizuoka Prefecture Government Environmental Policy Office, and the Center for Environmental Information Science in Tokyo.

CAConrad is a 2019 Creative Capital Fellow, and the author of 9 books of poetry and essays. While Standing in Line for Death (Wave Books), received the 2018 Lambda Award. A recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, they also received The Believer Magazine Book Award and The Gil Ott Book Award. Their work has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Polish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Danish, French and German. They teach regularly at Columbia University in NYC, and Sandberg Art Institute in Amsterdam and they can be found online at

Dance Exchange supports creativity and builds community to deepen understanding of ourselves and the world we share. Fueled by generosity and curiosity, Dance Exchange expands who gets to dance, where dance happens, what dance is about, and why dance matters. For more than 43 years, Dance Exchange has collaborated across generations, disciplines, and communities to channel the power of dancemaking as a means for dialogue, a source of critical reflection, and a creative engine for thought and action. Founded in 1976 by Liz Lerman and under the artistic direction of Cassie Meador since 2011, Dance Exchange is a non-profit dance organization based in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Tom Di Liberto is a climatologist and science communicator working as a federal contractor at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Program Office as the consulting climatologist for NOAA’s Tom was named America’s first Scientist Idol in 2013 after winning a competition at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Since, he has given well-received, humorous, informal science talks on weather and climate across the US. In 2015 and 2016, he served as emcee of the Department of State’s U.S. Center at the United Nations climate change conferences COP21—where the Paris Agreement was forged—and COP22.

Margot Greenlee is a choreographer and a teaching artist. She brings her artistic team of professional performers and arts therapists to lead programs in educational, healthcare, and corporate settings. As an artist working at the intersection of art and advocacy, Greenlee had developed a new approach to civic engagement. PerForum (Performance + Civic Dialogue) is a way to become more curious and invested in important community issues. Using both theatrical elements and expert testimony, recent topics have focused on public health policies that impact families such as Food Equity, Accessibility & Inclusion, Immigrant Rights, and Sex Education. Current project partners include Dance Exchange, the Department of Education, the Eurasia Foundation, Fairfax County Department of Therapeutic Recreation, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist and Emmy award–winning sound recordist. He has received recognition from the Charles A. Lindbergh Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. He studied botany and plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin. His sound portraits, which record quickly vanishing natural soundscapes, have been featured in People magazine and a national PBS television documentary, Vanishing Dawn Chorus, which earned him an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement. Hempton is subject of a feature film, Soundtracker and co-author of One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest to Preserve Quiet. He is Founder of The One Square Inch of Silence Foundation, Quiet Planet ® and Quiet Parks International. Hempton has now circled the globe three times in pursuit of nature’s music and produced more than 60 albums available on iTunes. He lectures widely on the importance of listening.

Raina Martens a transdisciplinary artist from Washington, D.C. Using trash, industrial waste, and soil as source material, they make ceramic artifacts that slip between geologic and human timescales, telling stories grounded in the earth but decidedly entangled with the social. Raina is a founding member of Urban Soils Institute’s Art Extension Service and helped design Project: Soils, a collaborative initiative between artists and soil scientists.

Arnaud Martin is an Assistant Professor at the George Washington University and has been carrying research in the field of Evolutionary Developmental Biology for the past 12 years. He has specialized in the study of the genetic and developmental mechanisms behind butterfly wing patterns and his team is focusing on the use of CRISPR genome editing to understand how butterflies and moths, which encompass one out ten of all species with a name, have become so incredibly diverse.

Kevin B. Marvel has served as the Executive Officer for the American Astronomical Society, the largest professional organization for researchers in astronomy and related disciplines, since July of 2006.  He began work with the AAS as Associate Executive Officer for Public Policy in 1998 establishing the Society’s public policy program becoming Deputy Executive Officer in 2003.  Before taking up a position with the American Astronomical Society in 1998 he served as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology’s (CALTECH’s) Owens Valley Radio Observatory. He received his Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1996 from New Mexico State University. He serves on the Executive Board of the National Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and has served on the governing boards of the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives and the American Institute of Physics.

Steven Mirmina teaches Outer Space Law at Georgetown Law Center in Washington, DC, as well as at UCONN Law School in Connecticut. He is a dynamic and entertaining speaker, who has lectured widely and authored numerous articles in the fields of international air and space law.  He has been interviewed by a range of publications, ranging from the New York Times, National Public Radio, and National Geographic to Gizmodo, the New Yorker, and Slate magazines.

Ben G. Price is National Organizing Director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). In 2006 he helped draft and see enacted the very first law on Earth to recognize enforceable rights for Nature. This accomplishment led to his organization being invited to help draft the language in Ecuador’s 2010 adopted national constitution recognizing the rights of Mother Earth – the first nation on the planet to do so. Over thirty other U.S. communities have enacted CELDF laws recognizing the Rights of Nature, including the City of Pittsburgh in 2010. This year, the citizens of Toledo enacted the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, to protect this once great lake from industrial ecocide. Ben’s book, titled “How Wealth Rules the World: Saving Our Communities and Freedoms from the Dictatorship of Property,” was published by Berrett-Kohler in May, 2019.

Ana Sosa is a Ph.D. student in the Marine Estuarine Environmental Science program in the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. She does her research at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Ana works in the marine microbial ecology laboratory of Dr. Feng Chen. She graduated with a biotechnology engineering degree from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Mexico, her home country. Her research focuses on the taxonomy and ecological roles of microbial communities forming biofilms on microplastic particles in the Chesapeake Bay.

Glenn Davis Stone is an anthropologist whose work centers on the politics and ecology of food and agriculture, including smallholder, alternative, and capitalist industrial agriculture and agricultural biotechnology (GMO’s).  His ethnographic fieldwork has been in Nigeria, India, the Philippines, and Appalachia, with additional research in prehistoric archaeology in the US Midwest and Southwest and in a biotechnology laboratory.  Author of one book and and over 60 academic articles, he has been awarded fellowships by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the School for Advanced Research, and most recently the Simon Guggenheim Foundation. He is past president of the Anthropology & Environment Society.  He is currently Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

Kimberly Warner is a senior scientist at Oceana. Since 2005, she has researched and developed scientific basis for Oceana’s successful campaigns on contaminated seafood and seafood fraud, and marine plastic pollution. She has represented Oceana in over 100 interviews with regional, national and international newspapers, radio and in documentary films. She earned her Ph.D. in marine, estuarine and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland and her B.S. in environmental science from the University of the District of Columbia.