The Labour of Nature

Wed 22 May, 6:00pm - 7:30pm

Venue: MHL1.17, Martin Hall

Book Tickets

A Radar event organised with support from the Gender Identities Research Theme, Loughborough University.

Through film, a reading and conversation this event will explore, unpick and reconfigure the entanglements between nature, labour and gender. Taking as its starting point the contention that there is nothing ‘natural’ about nature, it will consider how nature and gender are produced by narrative, labour and struggle. Crucially, it will consider how this might be done differently: how we can tell stories that are richly ecological but deeply technological; and how these alternative ecological understandings pose opportunities and problems for remaking our world. Questioning forms and processes that might seem entirely ‘natural’—the family, pregnancy, the lives of insects, the working day, gender identities, the forest—it will expand the horizons of both the natural and the possible.

The event will open with a screening of Amy Cutler’s short film All Her Beautiful Green Remains In Tears. This consists of re-edited footage from Walt Disney's Nature's Half Acre (1951), with its sexist parables about domesticated post-war suburbia: nest building, chick rearing, mother love, industrious insects, and traditional gender roles. In this case, the new voiceover - replacing the paternal voice of Winston Hibler - also focuses on romantic anthropomorphism. The difference is that this voiceover has been generated by a neural network in collaboration with data artist Anna Ridler, using an A.I. which has learned its existence entirely from reading the female protagonist voice in 14 million passages of romance novels. Using image recognition and closed captioning, it tells an entirely different story of the “birds and the bees” of nature documentary: one of female desire, trauma, masochism, and emotional fantasy. The film is soundtracked by the musician Leafcutter John, who specialises in creating natural landscapes and ecologies from generated noise, often using DIY gadgets.

Following this, Sophie Lewis will read a new piece expanding on themes presented in her book, Full Surrogacy Now (Verso, 2019). She’ll consider the politics of water and the ‘bio-bag,’ in which scientists are “automatically gestating” sheep foetuses. Drawing on and critiquing the mind-expanding and world-building feminisms of thinkers such as Shulamith Firestone, Maggie Nelson and Marge Piercy, Lewis will consider what such automation poses for struggles against the tyranny of work, and how water might be a common feature of seemingly disparate political and ecological struggles. Lewis and Cutler will then have a conversation interrogating each others’ work, which will be opened up for questions from the audience.

Amy Cutler is an artist, cultural geographer, curator, writer, and film-maker who works with ideas of geography and nonhuman others.

Sophie Lewis is a writer, translator and feminist geographer living in Philadelphia. Her book Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family is published by Verso on the 7th May. She is a member of the Out of the Woods collective, whose first book is to be published by Common Notions in 2019, an editor at Blind Field: A Journal of Cultural Inquiry, and a queer feminist committed to cyborg ecology and anti-fascism. 

Further information and online booking is available on the Radar event page.


Loughborough University Arts

Martin Hall Building

Loughborough University

Loughborough LE11 3TU, UK

01509 222 948