Suus Agnes (NL) Cohabit: being parasite, 2020

Well, about the exhibition, I would like to contribute work that is part of the creative component of my research, as it fits the theme of “gaps” — gaps in our perception of our coexistence with overlooked creatures, who are a lot more intelligent, sensitive, and flexible than they are usually given credit for. The point is ‘posthuman’: that humans are not the pinnacle of intelligence and isolated, but fully entwined with many other intelligent beings. We could do with some more humility and learn from our fellow beings, perhaps even communicate with them…

At this stage I have two series of drawings under the collective title Cohabit. The first one talks about communications inside a pond. It includes a soundtrack: a field recording of aquatic insects mingled with hushed human voices in the background. The second one talks about identification with parasites, and the challenge of “eating at the same table”. This is a definition of commensalism, a form of symbiosis that is sometimes hard to distinguish from parasitism.

Suus Agnes

I. Cracking the code of the pond

View the full version of the work below on on the artist’s webpage.

What do you think about when you think of the sounds of water?

For a long time, water sounded like movement to me: splash, drip drip, gush, whirl. Ancient and timeless sounds. It never really occurred to me that water is filled with living sounds, secretive soundscapes very close to home. Any healthy freshwater body —even the smallest pond or stream— has the potential to host an orchestra where insects and other invertebrates are the players. We were all born from water. Insects provide a key to our hidden origins as aquatic creatures, as well as our hidden origins as music makers. The line between humans and insects becomes blurry.

II. Cohabit: being parasite

View the full version of the work on on the artist’s webpage.

What can parasites teach us?

I search for truth in strange places. Easily overlooked, parasites are not so strange however. They are primordial. Parasitism is one of the most common life strategies on earth and very successful: the main risk is to not get parasitised in turn.

These relationships are often misunderstood and not as easily categorised as they seem. A closer look helps to understand what it means to live (better) together with others, whether they are humans, insects, or other beings. Parasitism is a slippery slope. What starts out as harmless can become harmful. This is called the “Rasputin effect”. Or: what seems a nuisance at first, turns out to be beneficial. Relationships change constantly, just like among humans.

This flexibility is key. In cohabit: being parasite I trace moments of adaptability found among insects. Identities are blended: it is not clear where the insect ends and the human begins. It is a delicate dance between guest and host where the outcomes are varied. We can identify with the parasite, but also interact with them directly. Here is the challenge: to learn how to “eat at the same table”.

Suus Agnes is a comic artist and author-illustrator. Her work centers around her interest in environmental ethics and “the underdog.” She has been published in New Zealand and Australia and her work has been exhibited in galleries and festivals internationally, including in Russia, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands. She is a current PhD candidate at the Centre for Sustainability at Otago University in New Zealand.

3 thoughts on “Suus Agnes (NL) Cohabit: being parasite, 2020

  1. Wonderful watercolor images! And what beautiful streaks and contour lines! The views from underwater are especially successful.

    The naivety of the pictures made it possible to show quite unusual and even indecent, but quite natural processes that had not found artistic meaning before. Except for books on botany, and here we can say that this is a fascinating example of the development of the codex book format (the basic for us) for storing and transmitting information in e-books era.

What do you think about this?