Last updateThu, 19 Sep 2013 6pm

The Monsanto Hearings


This year’s edition of dOCUMENTA (13) reined in the new year by staging a collaborative intervention with the artist-run collective AND AND AND on January 28th, 2012. Working with a grass-roots organization known as the Compass of the Midwest Radical Culture Corridor, AND AND AND will hold a series of public hearings aimed at putting the Monsanto Corporation on trial. Participants are encouraged to share their stories by way of spoken word, images, sounds and objects to engage others in a communal process of exploration and debate. The first hearing aptly took place in Middle-America, the main hub of Monstanto’s activity and immediate influence; Carbondale, Illinois. 

The Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor is a group that promulgates the opening of dialogue regarding new, complex power relations that have a bearing on most aspects of contemporary life. Without being too specific, their programs and events tend to focus very much on deciphering the corporate hegemony that has arisen in the Midwestern United States and is now stretching its grasp throughout the globe. The Monsanto Corporation is one that towers atop several agricultural industries; namely in its mass-production of herbicide, its monopoly on seeds and its continued research in biotechnology that has afforded some suspicious scrutiny. MRCC has expressly witnessed the harm done by agribusiness given its impermeable attitude toward the reckless proliferation of genetically-modified crops. It would like to provide this as an opportunity to speak out against the current status-quo, which accepts the absurdity of acknowledging corporate entities as possessing the same level of freedom and entitlement as an individual, human being.

Operating from an undeniably art-heavy context, the legal proceedings are carried out akin to performance. By eliminating the rigid conduct of a real courtroom, the content of the exchange becomes more porous, self-aware and simply able to include the voicing of numerous, varied grievances on one stage. The event summons farmers, lawyers, scientists, citizens, and even animals to present their individual conceptions, questions and conclusions surrounding the corporate mogul; however tragic, constructive or uninformed. This allows for a dimension of exchange that engages a multiplicity of perspectives, rather than those “in-the-know”. With starvation still running rampant throughout the globe, the insatiable rate at which these conglomerates have taken over the production of food, our nourishment, should be observed by all. Hearing from migrant workers, environmental activists, researchers and puppeteers, a myriad of performances are put on view to break down respective layers of engagement with the worrying effect of agribusiness on many crucial areas of life. 

Due to its subversive enacting of a democratic process endowed by our society with the utmost credence, the Monstanto Hearings, in their affect, will fly in the face of so-called truths we hear echoed throughout the mainstream media. Its lack of any real legal legitimacy allows for an unfettered discussion that will hopefully produce productive ideas and allow others to become more informed about an increasingly dire political and economic issue. In addition, being an artistic form of protest, it will privilege subjective expression and the working-through of emotion.  Informed by its overarching understanding of the nature of the world as being wholly interconnected, MRCC aims to avert systematically-engineered bodies of knowledge by laying bare the ecological and societal impacts of these profit-driven exploits-gone-haywire.

The chief organizer of the hearings, Sarah Lewison, plans to film the entire event and will broadcast a documentary account for those unable to attend. Fortunately, we won’t be seeing the end of this much-needed intervention of the capitalist machine.


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