Eben Kirksey is a permanent faculty member in Environmental Humanities at UNSW Australia and a Visiting Research Scholar at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is the editor of The Multispecies Salon and the author of Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Architecture of Global Power, both also published by Duke University Press.
While many frogs have become endangered in an era of emerging diseases, at least one amphibious animal has flourished in worlds formed and transformed by humans and chytrids. The name of this creature means “strange foot” (xeno = strange, pus = foot) in Latin, while commonly it is known as the African clawed frog. The Xenopus pregnancy test, which was discovered in 1938, resulted in the exportation of hundreds of thousands of animals from South Africa. Reenacting this test in a Brooklyn art gallery in 2012, a group of interdisciplinary researchers conducted a performative experiment to distort and displace conventional scientific practices. This intervention tested an Out of Africa hypothesis linking the pregnancy test and chytrids to the mass extinction of other amphibians. It also was an experiment in choreographing intimate dances among multiple species to bring together things that are generally considered parts of different ontological orders.