“Mossification”: Subverting the Human-Centric Portrait with a More-Than-Human Triptych

Sanita Fejzić 1
  • 1 Queen's University, , K7L 3N6, Canada


Motivated by a sense of ethical obligation and environmental urgency, I commissioned a Toronto-based artist to take a portrait of a “more-than-human” me that embodied nonhuman elements. The aim of this artistic endeavor was to re-evaluate humans' impact on and relationship with the organic and non-organic beings and stuff with which we are entangled. My aim with the resulting portrait, “Mossification,” was three-fold: to visually represent a more-than-human (multiple-singular) self; to subvert the human-centric portrait by giving moss and lichen more visual space and symbolic agency; finally, to suggest, through movement in the form of a triptych, that if we do not change, humans will end up buried under by nature. This short essay is broken down in three parts. In the first two, I provide philosophical context then synthesize a brief history of portraiture with the aim of showing how “Mossification” subverts the genre. In the final part, I demonstrate how “Mossification” might be positively received but nonetheless fails to embody transcorporeality because of its entanglement with neoliberal systems that instrumentalize and objectify nature. I conclude that even though “Mossification” is problematic, it remains a productive visual experiment because of its generative capacity to destabilize human-centric representative traditions and symbolic codes.

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