August 2019

Manuela Infante: Estado Vegetal (Vegetative State)

Mercurial States

Playwright, theater director, writer, and musician Manuela Infante came to prominence in the Chilean theater scene for plays that foregrounded the fictional invention necessary to writing history. Infante has described her own practice as “a lab for embodied philosophy,” [1]1
“Performance as Philosophy: A Dialogue with Manuela Infante,” in Reclaiming Artistic Research, ed. Lucy Cotter (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2019).
and Estado Vegetal is the first performance in which she engages object-oriented ontology and the nonhuman turn in philosophy, with the aim of creating a post-human theater. This one-woman play, whose narrative structure recalls the branching of a plant, explores how plant intelligence could change human perspectives. Infante incorporates the findings of Stefano Mancuso—one of the pioneers of the new field of plant neurobiology—and plant philosopher Michael Marder, who notes that “to recognize a valid ‘other’ in plants is also beginning to recognize that vegetal other within us.” [2]2
Cited by Manuela Infante during a lecture entitled “Post-human Theatre,” held at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, April 27, 2019.
Using writing strategies, light, and sound to open up the “non-cognitive, non-ideational, and non-imagistic mode of thinking proper to plants," [3]3
Michael Marder, Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 10.
Estado Vegetal also makes a political proposition by rooting plants’ distributed model of organization and governance deeply in its own structure.

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