Flags are both flamethrowers and sponges for meaning. They solidify and cipher myths, history and ideals.
They are claimed for the most significant social and political allegiances; for the cardinal constructs of collective value.
Hoisted is an interactive public artwork by Inkahoots exploring the recognition of sovereignty for the natural world.
We've built a user-generated interactive flag-formulator so human animals can design our own flags to celebrate local native flora and fauna.
In collaboration with the local community, Inkahoots identifies and researches a curated list of local plants and animals related to the installation site. These are presented on the Hoisted flag-building web-app with unique visual assets and information enabling users to create a flag based on their chosen species. These user-generated flags are then projected on site and are also collected and archived on the website (even when installation is not live).
We see Hoisted as a kind of parallel cultural play to the legal rights-of-nature movement. In New Zealand, and elsewhere, mountains, rivers and forests have been granted legal personhood to give them visibility and protection under the law.
Western legal systems have always treated nature as property, so the rights-of-nature approach shifts the legal status of nature from property to a subject with inalienable legal rights. Roger Stone's 1972 article Should Trees Have Standing? reminds us of the relatively recent granting of legal status to children, women, prisoners, First Nations peoples, even the legal personification of corporations.
Stone argued that the enlightenment folly of seeing nature as "collection of useful senseless objects" can only be undone by "giving up some psychic investment in our sense of separateness and specialness in the universe."
Inkahoots have developed a critical theoretical manoeuvre we're calling vexillografting. If vexillography is the established practice of flag design, vexillografting is the strategic transfer of meaning using the persuasive symbolic power of flags to champion neglected yet fundamental priorities.
Can this splicing of meaning through the process of inventing flags for native fauna and flora help change the way we value the natural environment, and our relationship to it?
Can vexillografting help induce a psychological shift of personal value priorities? Can it help us think differently and personalise our connection to the natural world? Can it help us deflate western religious myths of dominion by inspiring recognition of our mutual interdependence?
After all, Eucalypts have been in Australia for at least 20,000,000 years, humans for around 60,000 years. The first flag was flown here a mere 250 years ago. The raising of the Union Jack ignored ancient occupation. But sovereignty has never been ceded by Indigenous Australians, and the Australian Aboriginal Flag was officially recognised only 25 years ago.
Likewise, the flora and fauna of Australia has been rejected, displaced and exploited, with the relatively short period of European colonisation seeing the highest rate of mammalian extinction in the world. What if we could fully embrace and learn from Australia’s first peoples’ millennia custodianship, respect and continuing care of country? What if we also acknowledged the sovereignty of Australian plants and animals? What would their flags look like? Could the vexillological stigma of the first flag unfurling ever be sublimated by redirected regalia?
When you look at our existing official flags and emblems, flora and fauna are proudly presented as unique symbols of state. But if you look closer it's hard not to see them as symbols of dominion and domination over the natural world.
For example, in a perverse act of sad nostalgia Tasmania's coat of arms poses two extinct thylacines guarding a shield. Queensland's animal emblem is the Koala which is functionally extinct in parts of Queensland due to loss of habitat.
But what if our flora and fauna had
their own symbols of sovereignty?
What if they could escape the
semiotic servitude of state
symbolism? Before it's too late, in
the face of mass extinction driven
by climate change and the ravaging
of the environment – before homo
sapien's flags are forever lowered to
half-mast – what if other species'
flags were hoisted high?
Hoisted fauna & flora group flags
Mammals are divided into three groups - monotremes, marsupials and placentals, all of which have hair or fur, produce milk, and are warm-blooded.
Birds are a group of endothermic vertebrates, characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a strong yet lightweight skeleton.
Reptiles are cold-blooded, have scales and reproduce either by laying eggs or giving birth to live young. Some reptiles are aquatic, although most live on land.
Arthropods are invertebrates with segmented bodies and paired, jointed appendages. They make up about 75% of all animals on Earth and have a major role in maintaining ecosystems as pollinators, recyclers of nutrients, scavengers and food for other animals. Arthropods are divided into four major groups: insects; myriapods; arachnids; crustaceans.
Amphibians are ectothermic, tetrapod vertebrates. Most amphibians start out as larvae living in water. The young generally undergo metamorphosis from larva with gills to an adult air-breathing form with lungs.
Fish are gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals and are classified into two groups: cartilaginous fish or bony fish. The skin of most fish are covered with protective scales.
A moss is a flowerless, spore-producing plant - with the spores produced in small capsules. Due to their unique cell structure mosses have the ability to survive very dry conditions even when water losses are up to 90%. Identification of mosses often requires the use of a microscope.
Ferns are vascular plants that reproduce via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers. Most ferns are leptosporangiate ferns, sometimes referred to as true ferns. They produce spiral fiddleheads that uncoil and expand into fronds.
The flowering plants are seed-producing plants that also produce flowers, endosperm within the seeds, and fruits that contain the seeds. The function of flowers is reproduction. Flowers are seen and felt differently by bees. They have patterns of UV within their petals which attracts bees and guide them to their pollen. Flowers also have a negative electrical charge that aids the transfer of pollen when visited by a positively charged bee.