Beth Carruthers


Beth Carruthers, Independent Scholar, Environmental Humanities and Social Sciences

Presentation Summary

Exploring and considering the connection between ethics and aesthetics has been an ongoing project within the field of environmental aesthetics. In recent years these questions and conversations have appeared and increased across related disciplines. This presentation touches on my ongoing project developing a theory of “Deep Aesthetics”, and in particular does so through the example of the 6-year SongBird project, based at Vancouver Canada (1998 through 2002).

SongBird is understood as connective practice conjoining social sculpture and what Val Plumwood discussed as a philosophical animism. SongBird was overall an attempt to bridge the vastly different perceptual worlds of human and non-human in an enhanced understanding of the nature of community, and the ethical responsibility of relationship within the complexity of ecosystem community. It is in the SongBird Oratorio where this is perhaps most readily observed. This presentation primarily explores the Oratorio, presenting some audio while focusing on the research and ideas embodied and expressed in and through the work.


Beth is a multi-disciplinary scholar whose research across environmental humanities and social sciences has for more than a quarter century investigated the human-world relationship. A significant aspect of this research has explored a “shared ontology” among all beings.

In particular, the work investigates the role of cultural practices and artefacts in translating, navigating, informing, and potentially transforming, human relations with the non-human world. Much of that research has explored artmaking as collaboration with place and non-human agency. This work is widely studied, and taught across the humanities, arts, and social sciences in universities internationally. She is best known for her work investigating Ecological Arts practices since the 1970s, and the role of these in transforming nature-culture relations. Currently, Beth is revisiting Val Plumwood’s ideas of philosophical animism, while continuing a quest for a post-humanist, relational ontology.

For a more information and a list of talks and publications, please see: