The Golden Snail Opera
Lecture/performance by Anna Tsing (University of California Santa Cruz), introduced by the research and design collective Rotor.
On the evening of May 28, Archipel, the Bruges Triennial and the Ghent Centre for Global Studies invite anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing to give a presentation in the Concert Hall in Bruges on her research into invasive species.
For this edition of the Bruges Triennial, the work of the Brussels-based research and design group Rotor, as a point of departure the presence, in the world-famed Bruges canals, of a non-native fresh-water crab species, Eriocheir sinensis (Chinese mitten crab, CMC). Starting from that given, observed almost accidentally, Rotor presents, in one of the city’s medieval landmarks, a micro-museum in which they try and unravel the entangled storylines to be drawn from CMC as an “invasive species” in Bruges.
Anna Tsing, professor at the Aarhus Universitet (DK) and the UC Santa Cruz (US), has been working for many years on the impact of invasive species on our environment. In her book “The Mushroom at the End of the World”, she describes, for example, the story of the matsutake, one of the most desirable mushrooms in the world. The matsutake is a true delicacy which commands extraordinary prices. It is also an environmental wonder that can nurture trees, revive ailing woods and allow vegetation to grow in inhospitable regions. The matsutake stands in this account as a metaphor for our contemporary society. The mushroom, thanks to the international ecological catastrophe, was spared not by good will but by capitalism. The longer this trend lasts, the more it impacts our global existence. According to Tsing, it is important therefore that we look for a shared narrative in which humans and other species can live together in a shared vulnerability. It is only by doing so that we can achieve change, in her view.
On this evening, Tsing will perform her “The Golden Snail Opera” for the first time in public. The performance is inspired by a Taiwanese opera, and tells the story of the golden, or apple snail, a South American freshwater snail that was exported to Taiwan in the twentieth century as a ‘delicacy’. However, the local population had different ideas. The creature was released into nature and today has become a pest to local farmers and flora and fauna. As with the project of Rotor about Chinese mitten crab, there are two options: exterminate or accept.