Keynote Speakers

Vinciane Despret

Vinciane Despret

Vinciane Despret is Maître de conferences at the University of Liège and at the Free University of Brussels. She is a philosopher of sciences who has published extensively on the use of animals in the construction of scientific knowledge. Her first field work was in the Negev desert, in Israel, where she explored the possibility of making an “ethology of the ethologists.” Since then, she has worked intensively with animals, and with the humans who observe them, live with them or simply know them.  She has been scientific curator of the exhibition “Bêtes et Hommes” held at the Grande halle de la Villette, Parc de La Villette, Paris , September 11th 2007-January 20th 2008. Her last book Que diraient les animaux si… on leur posait de bonnes questions ?, will be published in English translation in 2015 in the Posthumanities series at the University of Minnesota Press. For more information about her work, visit: A sampling of her work may be found at:


Mark Dion

Mark Dion Mark Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1961. He received a BFA (1986) and an honorary doctorate (2003) from the University of Hartford, Hartford Art  School,  in Connecticut. He also attended the prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program. Dion’s work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. The job of the artist, he says, is to go against the grain of dominant culture, to challenge perception and convention. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between ‘objective’ (‘rational’) scientific methods and ‘subjective’ (‘irrational’) influences. The artist’s spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on Wunderkammen  of the 16th Century, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Mark Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society.

He has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001) The Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2007) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s  Lucida Art Award (2008).  He has had major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003);  Tate Gallery, London (1999), and the British Museum of Natural History in London (2007) . “Neukom Vivarium” (2006), a permanent outdoor installation and learning lab for the Olympic Sculpture Park, was commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum. Dion has recently completed a major permanent commission, ‘OCEANOMANIA: Souvenirs of Mysterious Seas’ for the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. He is the co-director of Mildred’s Land an innovative visual art education and residency program in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.

For over two decades Dion has worked in the public realm on a wide range of scales, from architecture projects to  print project in newspaper. Some of his most recent large scale pubic project include “The Amateur Ornithologist  Clubhouse” a Captain Nemo-like interior constructed in a vast gas tank in Essen, Germany, “The Hanging Garden” a collaboration with the landscape design firm Gross Max in central London, which consists of a fire escape-like vertical garden. and “Den” a large scale folly in Norway’s mountainous landscape which feature a massive sculpture of a sleeping bear resting on a hill of material culture form the neolithic to the present. Dion also produce a large scale permanent commissions for Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany as well as for the Montevideo Biannale in Uruguay, The Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle and the Port of Los Angeles.

Dion lives with his wife and frequent collaborator Dana Sherwood in New York City and works worldwide.

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