Lecture & performance by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, introduced by Rotor
What’s Eating the Chinese Mitten Crab, Rotor’s project for Triennial Bruges, orchestrates the meeting between the public from two arts festivals: the Triennale in Bruges and Beaufort in Zeebrugge. The reason for the project is the massive presence of an exotic crab in the Bruges canals and canals: the Chinese mitten crab or Eriocheir sinensis. In China this crab is considered a delicacy, but here the animal colonizes our watercourses, causing the natural balance to be disrupted. Scientists try to respond to this by looking for ways to destroy this crab population or to investigate forms of society with native animal and plant species.
The Rotor project provides the impetus to go deeper into this form of natural disturbance. How do we deal with invasive species? Should we keep out ‘vermin’ or try to live in harmony with it?
Tsing, professor at the University of Aarhus (DK) and the University of California – Santa Cruz (US), has been working for years on the impact of exotics on our environment. For example, in her book The Mushroom at the End of the World she describes the story of the matsutake, one of the most sought-after mushrooms in the world. The matsutake is a true delicacy, where big money is paid. It is also an eco-miracle that can nourish trees, restore damaged forests and grow vegetation in inhospitable areas. The matsutake in this story is a metaphor for our contemporary society. The mushroom is preserved in spite of the worldwide ecological catastrophe, not through goodwill but through capitalism. More and more this evolution determines our global existence. According to Tsing, it is therefore important that we look for a common story in which people and other species can live together in shared vulnerability. Only in this way do we, according to her, change.
For this evening, Tsing will be presenting her performance The Golden Snail Opera for the first time. The performance is inspired by a Taiwanese opera and tells the story of the apple snail, a South American freshwater snail that was exported to Taiwan in the twentieth century as ‘delicacy’. Only the locals thought otherwise. The animal was released in nature and today forms a plague for local agriculture and fauna and flora. Just like with the Chinese mitten crab, there are two options: to destroy or to accept.