Mutualisms Symposium

As part of the group exhibition “Mutualisms” Erik Hagoort and Caroline Picard have organized a symposium to take place on Sunday 11th of September from 1-5 pm. That Sunday the artists participating in “Mutualisms” together with guests from Chicago (Kevin Kaempf, Jason Pallas, Anni Holm, Abigail Satinsky and Karsten Lund) and Holland  (Philippine Hoegen, Marjolijn Dijkman, and Rune Peitersen) will gather at the CoProsperity Sphere to address the theme of Art & Reciprocity. 

About Art & Reciprocity:
In general reciprocity is valued positively, especially in contemporary art where it is so often recognized as an essential part of community and resource-sharing. Reciprocity has become a buzzword, especially since the rise of interactive art practices, in which the public in one way or another is invited to participate. The appreciation of reciprocity has challenged the conventional distance and hierarchy between art, artists and the public. It has also triggered collaboration among artists.
Yet, if reciprocity becomes normative, we may start to feel uneasy. Expectations for ‘something in return’ can restrict freedom and autonomy. Mutual expectations may infect unconditional giving and hospitality with the urge of exchange. In the arts a strong tradition has opposed reciprocity. Art’s autonomy should prevail above exchange. So, the question is: what about art and reciprocity?
The aim of the symposium is not so much to answer but to confront this question from different perspectives. In short rounds guests and artists will come forward with their ideas on this matter, by personal stories, experiences, reflections, statements, examples of works.
About the panelists:

Anni Holm

Anni Holm, is the Co-Founder, Director and Curator of People Made Visible, Inc. (PMV). PMV is a non-for-profit organization based in the city of West Chicago with a mission to facilitate community while fulfilling the artistic, social, educational and cultural needs of the community through an innovative physical and web based presence. Besides claiming to be a conceptual artist, she works as the Art Coordinator at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL, and has been a teaching artist with CAPE (Chicago Arts Partnership in Education) since 2009.

Abigail Satinsky

Abigail Satinsky is the director of programming at Threewalls where she amongst other things initiated Community-Supported Art Chicago, a yearly art subscription service of locally produced art and developed PHONEBOOK 3, a directory of independent art spaces, programming, and projects throughout the United States. She is furthermore a member of InCUBATE, a research group dedicated to exploring new approaches to arts administration and arts funding. Their activities have manifested in a series traveling exhibitions called Other Options, an artist residency program, and various other projects such as Sunday Soup.

Karsten Lund

Since moving to Chicago, Karsten Lund has worked as a curator and a writer, and pursued a variety of other creative pursuits. He is currently a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and from 2007 to 2009 he worked as a research fellow at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP). Karsten is currently organizing an experimental exhibition, with four artists, which will be staged at a former factory in West Humboldt Park next month and again at the Hyde Park Art Center in fall 2012.

Jason Pallas

Jason Thomas Pallas (USA) has worked on collaborative, community-based projects for the past 8 years. As an example, he founded an after-school and summer arts organization for at-risk Latino youth called “Art Y Más”. In his artistic practice, J. Thomas has teamed up with the late activist Beauty Turner for a series of Ghetto Bus Tours, where participants visit Chicago Housing Authority sites to interact with the residents for mutual understanding. In general, Pallas’ work occupies the intersection of the popular, the personal, and the political.

Kevin Kaempf

“People Powered”, formed by Kevin Kaempf (USA) and Lora Lode(USA), designs experimental pilot programs that integrate art, environmentalism, and communities. Examples are the re-use of bikes (“Shared: Chicago Blue Bikes”) and the recycling of excess latex paint (“Loop Limited”). By presenting these projects in exhibitions and public locations in the city, People Powered creates a platform for discussing how these practices may intersect.

Rune Peitersen

Rune Peitersen (NL) is a visual artist, focusing on the retinal, but this doesn’t exclude taking position in society as an artist, when needed. Together with other artists Peitersen initiated Platform Re-set, an action group using the knowledge and tools that artists have, to react to alarming recent developments in the political climate in the Netherlands: “At the moment artists and the arts are being talked about, not addressed directly. We want to reaffirm our position in society. ”

Philippine Hoegen

Research, display, context, collaboration (often with Carolien Stikker) are some of the keynote concepts in the work and activities of Philippine Hoegen (NL). With other artists in 2010 Philippine Hoegen started Calcite Revolt: an initiative created to provide and research new models of interaction and collaboration between artists, curators and theorists. Critically regarding common structures and hierarchies, its aim is to develop productive, fluid and adventurous ways of contributing to each others development and practice.

Marjolijn Dijkman

Through her diverse work Marjolijn Dijkman (NL) often considers the foundations of how we perceive and experience our surroundings. Perception is for Dijkman always embedded, contextual, therefore her practice has concerned itself with for example futurology, public space, knowledge organisation, cartography, utopian architecture or environmentalism.

In 2005 together with Maarten Vanden Eynde she founded Enough Room for Space (ERforS). ERforS is an artist-run organization to create a platform where investigations by individual participants in projects can overlap and lead to new collaborations.

Mutualisms Chicago Exhibition Info

September 9-25
At Co-Prosperity Sphere , 3219 -21 South Morgan Street, Chicago
Opening September 9, 6-10 pm
Symposium: September 11, 1-5 pm
Opening times: Wed-Sun 1-5 pm

‘Mutualisms’ is a collaborative curatorial project organized by Lise Haller Baggesen and Kirsten Leenaars, exploring the ways in which networks of friendship and artistic collaboration can be used as a model for curating. ‘Mutualisms’ is looking into artistic strategies for finding hospitality and exchange in the context of contemporary art practices as well our own social domain.

Eight Dutch and eight American artists/artist duos were paired and worked together to create a collaborative presentation of their works. Iris Kensmil & Carol Jackson, Rune Peitersen & Mark Jeffery & Judd Morrissey, Marjolijn Dijkman & Lora Lode/Kevin Kaempf, Jonas Ohlsson & Selina Trepp, Magnus Monfeldt & Harold Mendez, Maurice Bogaert & Trevor Gainer, Caroline Stikker/Philippine Hoegen & Aron Gent and Saskia Janssen/George Korsmit & Adelheid Mers.

Mutualisms Symposium

Sunday September 1-5 pm at Co-Prosperity Sphere

A conversation with the participating Mutualisms artists will be followed by a panel discussion on ‘art and reciprocity’ moderated by Dutch art critic Erik Hagoort and Chicago based writer Caroline Picard.

Art & Reciprocity

In general reciprocity is valued positively, and so in contemporary art. Reciprocity has become a buzzword, especially since the rise of interactive art practices, in which the public in one way or another is invited to participate. The appreciation of reciprocity has challenged the conventional distance and hierarchy between art, artists and the public. It has also triggered collaboration among artists. Yet, if reciprocity becomes normative, we may start to feel uneasy. Expectations for ‘something in return’ can restrict freedom and autonomy. In the arts a strong tradition has opposed reciprocity; art’s autonomy should prevail above exchange. So, the question is: what about art and reciprocity? Panel to be announced on our blogs at a later date.

Art & Reciprocity blog:

For info and opening times: and

‘Mutualisms’ is supported, in part, by public funds from the Netherlands Cultural Services, the Mondriaan Foundation and the Propeller Fund.

Art&Reciprocity blog = Awesome

Check out this great blog by our writers Caroline Picard and Erik Hagoort:

see for some samples of their writings the posts below

Identity in Action

Identity in Action – Posted on July 10, 2011, Author: Caroline Picard

When I think of reciprocity, I visualize a call-and-response scenario: a give and take, or the meeting of a positive action with a subsequent positive action. In order to understand reciprocity one must therefore define boundaries: to attribute one action with its source, thereby attributing the subsequent action with its subsequent source. There is a cause/effect relationship embedded in the course of movement and, at first, it seems like separate identities are necessarily contained—because one must be able to hold a single body responsible. In thinking though, about how a shared action in common can generate a greater return, I started wondering after those boundaries. For instance, what does it mean for several people to enact an airport? Who is the author of such an action? At a certain point, the boundaries of authorship get murky.

In his book, The Ecological Thought (Harvard UP, 2010) Timothy Morton reassesses the individual’s relationship to nature, encouraging us to recognize a fundamental and interstitiary “mesh” of which we are all a part. He is not examining art communities. Instead he studies scientific allocations of species and how its distinctions frame humanity’s specific relationship to nature. Over the course of his book, he continues to break down the most basic categorical distinctions—pointing out the blurry line between plant and animal by examining species that occupy abutting biological kingdoms. There is such a minimal difference between an anemone, say, and a fungus that assigning one the attributes of plant and the other those of an animal becomes arbitrary. Only via farther-out consequences—for instance when comparing a palm tree and a lion—does the difference seem apparent. Each member of the “mesh” is distinct, “The mesh is…the entanglement of strangers” (p. 47). We are not so categorically different, but rather necessarily contingent. This approach disrupts ideas of hierarchical thinking. “Thinking interdependence involves dissolving the barrier between ‘over there’ and ‘over here,’ and more fundamentally, the metaphysical illusion of rigid narrow boundaries between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’”(39). Morton focuses on the idea of cooperation, arguing that the mesh consists of countless, various bodies acting independently but in congress. Its members gain from being a part of a group so that there is a built-in reciprocity. He emphasizes “cooperation,” because those individual parts are serving their own interest—what is compromised and enhanced by the additional purposes working with, against and around it. Rather than focusing on a local effort, Morton suggests we inhabit an inclusive mind-space that accounts for the whole mesh. By expanding our awareness beyond an immediate vicinity, he argues, we expand our consciousness to reflect not only other humans in other parts of the world, but also animals and—he would argue—stars. The specialness of community, therefore, lies in an apprehension of the entire, massively intricate system. Which is where the idea starts pressing into something mystical even without the personal connection that mystical experience often boasts. In tandem with this view is kind of death of self-as-center. Can our ideas of community survive such a non-center?

The other question that comes to mind for me: can we admit a degree of categorical poresness, while still being inspired to respond through action? If we are, all us, responsible for participating in the whole mesh, then where does one’s own responsibility stop? And where does this leave us with regard to “ownership?”

Beyond Reciprocity

Beyond reciprocity -Posted on July 18, 2011, Author: Erik Hagoort

Invitation The New Conversations 1: La chaîne est belle (The Chain is Beautiful), front side

Joseph Beuys: “If I take care of you, others will take care of me.”

Stanislav Menshikov: “If I take less, others have more.”

These two quotations still resonate in my mind since I attended “La chaîne est belle”; the New Conversations 1, a two and a half day workshop, held at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp last June, on the initiative of artist Nico Dockx, in collaboration with Louwrien Wijers.

The front side of the invitation for the workshop showed these two quotations, printed as if written in white chalk on blackboard, just like Joseph Beuys used to make his statements. Beuys’s statement was written down by Louwrien Wijers, while she was attending one of his sessions at the end of 1970s. The second quote is by someone less known in the art world: Russian economist Stanislav Menshikov. While preparing the workshop Nico Dockx and Louwrien Wijers combined both quotations, as guidelines for this workshop on art and economy.

The phrase of Beuys speaks of chain-reciprocity. This is not a dualistic interplay between isolated subjected. It is not “if I take care of you, you will take care of me”, but: “others will take care of me”. The self is not isolated, it is a connected self. This self forms part of a community. The person who cares may reckon on some sort of chain effect, a transposition of care, a solidarity which goes over from one person to the other, as if from one bead in a chain or necklace, to the other. So in the end you may trust that you, being part of this chain, will be cared for too. Here, at first, I started to feel a little bit uneasy with the saying of Beuys. This chain reaction, if I’m right, seems to work as a boomerang. A positive boomerang, a caring boomerang, for sure, but still a boomerang. This reciprocity is about returning to the self. It starts with the self (“If I…”) and it ends with the self (“…of me”). Menshikov’s phrase seemed to me more extreme, more radical: generous. By taking less, he says, others have more. That’s it. No return of favors, no reciprocal expectations, no chain reaction, no boomerang, no possibility of counting on others to be helpful in return. Just stepping back, so there’s more space for somebody else.

Later on, my thoughts were changing. In Menshikov’s statement, one can still discern the language of ranking and banking. Taking less. Having more. As in a debet-credit balance. This doesn’t erase the generosity, but the terms remain within the framework of the stockmarket. On the other hand, underlying Menshikov’s phrase is his concept of compassionate economy. Menshikov advocates an economy based on compassion, enhancing generosity. Compassion goes beyond the stockmarket. Compassion can’t be counted, can’t be balanced, can’t be returned, it goes beyond reciprocity.

Care, used in Beuys’s phrase, also goes beyond reciprocity. A person who cares, doesn’t ‘care’ about reciprocity at all. Care doesn’t limit itself to a chain reaction. Care can’t be calculated. Care doens’t come back. Care is about love, comfort, friendship. By using a word such as care in his lectures on the Erweiterte Kunstbegriff (=Expanded Art Concept) Beuys lets his own way of thinking, which according to his quote seems to be still bound by the reciprocal ‘returning a favor’, expand beyond reciprocity.

Both Beuys and Menshikov use strong words, even catching phrases, which help them to go beyond their (and our?) own way of thinking.

This post: by invitation of Nico Dockx.

Invitation The New Conversations 1: La chaîne est belle (The Chain is Beautiful), back side

More about Compassionate Economy by Stanislav Menshikov:

Inspiration from Nature


Mutualism is a positive reciprocal relationship between two species. Through this relationship both species enhance their survival, growth or fitness. To a certain extent the relationship is more a reciprocal exploitation rather than a cooperative effort on the part of the individuals involved. (Smith, Ecology & Field Biology).

Mutualism can take on many forms:

Symbiosis: in which both organisms live together in closely proximity, and in which both generally derive benefit. The relationship is obligate, meaning at least one of the species must be involved in the relationship to survive.

Non-symbiotic mutualism: the species do not live together, nor are dependent on each other; the relationship is facultative or opportunistic but does profit the organisms when together.

Many mutualistic relationships have been documented.

The wood termite-protozoa relationship, the yucca-moth relationship & ant acacia described below courtesy of the web sites are common examples given in textbooks.

How can mutualism evolve?

Most agree that mutualistic relationships evolved from negative associations ( predator prey, parasitism etc.).Basically the organism being negatively impacted had two options: escape the relationship or adapt to it, and in the process make the relationship more advantageous to itself.

A potential example is (fungal) mycorrhizae- initially they may have been parasitic on the roots they inhabited. -However in those couplings where mineral nutrients leached from the fungal tissue to the plant host resulting in better survival of the plant, more carbohydrate were then available for the fungus. Eventually a truly mutually beneficial association evolved.

Birds, bats & insects who visited plants for a number of reasons and in the process picked up pollen, allowed those plants hosted a greater opportunity for genetic diversity. If enhanced outcrossing lead to higher reproductive success, those plants who encouraged visitors with enticements of nectar, pollen or pseudo-mating opportunities naturally increased in frequency over time.

Mutualism may also be defined by a functional approach:

Nutritional Symbiosis:

* Termite fungus gardens

* Cockroach endosymbionts

Shelter Symbiosis:

* Ant mimics (inquilines)

* Slavemaker ants

* Gall insects

Transport Symbiosis:

* Torsalo (Human bot flies): think back to my parsite problem

* Scelionid wasps

Pollination Symbiosis:

* Nectar guides

* Yucca moths

* Bumblebees and scotch broom

* Fig wasps

* Pseudocopulation in orchids

Defensive Symbiosis

* Ants and acacias

* Aphid farmers

Theory of mutualism

1. This is a relatively poorly studied ecological interaction

Alternative way to present this is as:

dN1/dt = r1N1[(K1-N1+a12N2)/K1]

dN2/dt = r2N2[(K2-N2+a21N1)/K2];

where all variables are same as in logistic model, except for a21 is mutualistic per capita effect of species 1 on species 2, and a21 is effect of species 1 on species 2.

Behavior of model? Very simplistic, this leads to an “orgy” of spiraling upwards populations of both species involved in mutualism .Such spiraling population abundances do not actually occur in nature, so this model must be substantially unrealistic, and inapplicable to nature.

Better models not yet developed.

What generalizations can be made about mutualism, to give us a more realistic picture?

The need for mutualism (and thus the benefit) decreases with increased resource availability.

i. Examples: Leguminous plants like alders dominate in nitrogen-poor environments, because legumes frequently have nitrogen-fixing bacteria as mutualists; mycorrhizal fungi in nutrient poor soils (phosphorus limiting)

Theory of mutualisms must incorporate resource-use dynamics

Mutualisms are most frequent in stressful habitats

i. E.g., tropical dry forests, severely stressed seasonally by water shortages)

ii. Thus, theory of mutualism must increase life-history characteristics, and how these provide negative feedback against simple population expansion of both participants in mutualistic relationship

Penalties accrue to mutualists that provide more resources to partner than necessary; one would expect natural selection to favor just enough contribution by mutualists to other species involved to maintain mutualism, and no more–i.e., selection for some “optimum level” of participation (e.g., plants that produce nectar just sweet enough to attract pollinator, but no sweeter so as not to waste energy & metabolic products)

Mutualisms are more complicated than just positive feedback, cooperation, or altruism.

Also mutualisms, alone, do not necessarily stabilize interaction of two species

Here are examples of symbiotic relationships:

II. Examples of mutualisms: obligate nonsymbiotic relationship

Ant-acacia mutualism:

“In this relationship found most commonly in Central America savannas, the ant hollows out the large thorns of the plant for nests, feed on sweet secretions from the four nectaries at the base of each petiole and on the protein rich Beltian bodies found on the tips of the leaves, which together provide an almost complete diet for the ant. The ants in return protect these trees from invertebrate as well as vertebrate herbivores. With any movement of the branch, the ants emerge releasing a nasty odor as well as physically attacking the surprised herbivore. They are quite effective.

African ants and acacia trees get along great: The ants live in the acacia’s special swollen thorns and pay the tree “rent” by attacking leaf-eating insects. But the ants steer clear of bees and other insects that pollinate the acacia’s flowers, allowing the tree to reproduce, which in turn keeps alive the symbiotic relationship. Now scientists know why the ants turn up their feelers at pollinators: The tree exudes a chemical that tells ants to keep away. The findings, reported in Nature, show how a plant has evolved a way to thwart a potential conflict with a symbiotic insect. Studying acacia trees in Tanzania, ecologists Pat Willmer of theUniversity of St. Andrews in Fife, the United Kingdom, and Graham Stone of the University of Oxford observed that Crematogaster ants seem to avoid crawling over young, fresh flowers but not older ones that had already been pollinated. They were puzzled until they realized that on rainy days, “the effect seemed to disappear,” Willmer recalls, and the ants would patrol new flowers as well. Thinking the young flowers might be making a water-soluble repellent, Willmer rubbed a young flower on an old one. The ants avoided that older flower. The researchers are still trying to identify the warning compound, although they speculate that pollen from the acacia blossom might be it. The bottom line, says Willmer, is that “the plants can manipulate the insects to do what they want.”

The temporary repellent is particularly ingenious because it ends up maximizing the number of seeds the acacia can produce. After pollination, when the repellent wears off, the renewed presence of the ants protects the developing seeds from being eaten, says Ted Schultz, an entomologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History inWashington, D.C. This work is among the first to demonstrate conflict resolution in plant-animal interactions, he adds. “But there are probably all sorts of conflicts and controls [in such symbiotic relationships]. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg.”

Backward evolution?

From ENN: Parasitic ants ; In a study that may help define the line between a mutualistic interaction and a parasitic one researchers at the University of California, Davis, have been studying a species of African ants that are killing the acacia trees that host them. Many specialized plant-ant species live cooperatively with their hosts; the plants house and feed the ant colony, while the ants protect their hosts from herbivores, pathogens and competitors. Not so with the African ant C. nigriceps. Maureen Stanton, a professor of evolution and ecology, says their results suggest that the selfish pruning behavior has evolved because it increases the life span of C. nigriceps colonies, even though it removes all the host tree’s flowers and stops the tree from reproducing. The study was published in the Oct. 6 issue of the journal Nature.

Termites protozoa:

From a web site on termites…….

“Termites eat wood, a lot of wood. But this dietary preference for cellulose is most unusual because cellulose, the macromolecules forming the cell walls of green plants, is a tough, insoluble carbohydrate,a potential sources of energy but indigestible by all but a few animals. Termites, cockroaches, cows and other grazers can use it only because their guts contain tens of thousands of microorganisms which convert cellulose to sugars, usable by both microorganism and host. Termites are much more efficient than cows and other grazers; they remove undigested cellulose from cow pies.

Termites eat dead plant material and animal dung, thereby removing this litter from the surface of the land, permitting sunlight and moisture to reach new growth. On its own, dung and other organic plant material decomposes slowly in a dry environment. Without subterranean termites to break it down, the dry litter would cover the land.

When dead plant material is broken down inside a termite’s gut, carbon and minerals (N, P, S) are released. These nutrients are used by the insect and its gut flora, or returned to the soil, where they can again be recycled. In these ways subterranean termites are responsible for most of the cycling of carbon and other nutrients in a desert or desert grassland.

As subterranean termites build their nests and foraging galleries, they greatly improve the fertility and productivity of the soil. In plots of soil from which they had chemically excluded termites, scientists found that water infiltrated much more slowly, and that the soil was more dense and stored less water than in plots which contained termites. Foraging galleries around dead grass stems and other food items are made with material brought up from deep in the soil. These galleries eventually erode and are added to the surface soil – at a rate of 44 kilograms per hectare (about 40 pounds per acre) per day, according to one study. Over time, the turnover of soil significantly affects the content and even the creation of soil. “

Lichens:an obligate symbiotic relationship & mycorrhizae

The basic structure of a lichen is a mass of fungal hyphae; imbedded in this mass is a zone of algae .

25+ different algal species are involved in associations, with the majority of them green algae (although some species are cyanobacteria ( blue-greens)).

The fungus partner itself is generally an ascomycete, although again many different species of fungi can form this relationship.

The fungi gain nutrition from the photosynthetic algae while the fungi house and supposedly protect the algae from the elements providing moisture, perhaps protection from the sun and a source of minerals.

There is some dispute how mutualistic the relationship is. There is a fine line between the role of protector and hostage holder. It may be, that as the algae can do well on their own that the relationship may be less obligate, though certainly intimate. Nutrients may be simply leaking out of the algae; it may be that the fungi is benignly parasitizing the algae.

SEM of lichen: the linear fungal hyphae and the roundball-like algal groupings.

Mycorrhizae is the relationship between a fungus and a higher plant’s root system. In this relationship, the plant feeds the fungus, while the fungus supplies the plant with mineral nutrients ( especially phosphorous) and according to some sources additional moisture.

(Note red inclusions in root cells – these are the endomycorrhizae living in parenchyma cells)

In endomycorrhizae, the fungus actually penetrates the root cells, forming a network in the root itself. In ectomycorrhizae, the fungus develops a mantle about the root that extends into the soil and internally about the cells. The relationship is critical in nutrient deficient soil, with the fungi aiding in the absorption of the nutrients as well as the breakdown of decomposing materials. The fungi also aid the plant in defending it against pathogen invasion by preventing carbohydrates from leaching out through the root thus attracting potential invaders.

This relationship is so important, that some researchers believe the the association formed early in evolution, allowing the first land plants to survive on a soiless, nutrient poor landscape.

When reestablishing forests in areas decimated by intense logging or forest death due to pollution ( from copper smelting for example) seedlings are first inoculated with spores of symbiotic fungal species to aid in successful reintroduction.

Check out the Art and Reciprocity blog

Erik and Caroline are getting started on their blog