CalArts Alumni Magazine

Re: Alex Wand

As a fellow CalArtian practicing in the world of arts and ecology, I applaud your reporting on Alex Wand’s Camino de las Monarcas project. When Alex first told me about his plan to migrate with the monarchs to their winter terminus in Michoacán by bike, I was in disbelief. The following spring, we reconnected: he arrived back to LA with 50lbs less milkweed seed, and about 50 minutes of cinematic heroism.

Inspired by his personal form of filmmaking, I invited Wand to participate in the first of a series of two-person shows, which I curate at Plant Material, a new storefront for ecological design, gardening, and art. Interested in radical definitions of ‘personhood’ and with respect to indigenous ways of relating to the nonhuman, I partnered Wand’s work with the work of the narrowleaf milkweed. The milkweed acts as a caterpillar nursery, providing food and shelter. The plant, once a common feature in our landscape, has been greatly reduced by development and industrialized agriculture. The monarch population has declined in unison, dropping 90% since the 1990s.

It is widely accepted that we are culpable for a climax of extinctions and a cascade of other environmental crises. Though all sharing responsibility as individuals, I place greater culpability on the forces of capitalist extraction economy and its founding colonial relationships with land and living beings as inert ‘natural resources.’ New relationships of empathy, reciprocity, and respect must ground a new economy. Artists are among the leaders who will model these changes, difficult as they may be. Perhaps we can all lead in ways as courageous as Wand’s project.