Open call for contributions: Litmus the lichen issue

Submissions deadline: February 21st 2020

It is relatively well known that a litmus test is an age–old method of identifying whether a solution is acidic or alkaline. Similarly understood is that, figuratively, a litmus test is a decisive activity that reveals an indicative quality about a person or situation. However, the knowledge that litmus is a pigment extracted from lichens, is perhaps not so widely known: the work that litmus does being more significant than its materiality.

In recent years lichen has come to represent a spectrum of cultural and political signifiers from ecological becomings to perceptual networks/remodellings. From Donna Haraway’s popularisation of Scott Gilbert’s phrase ’we are all lichens now’, to Drew Milne’s poetic series Lichens for Marxists and recent essay ‘Notes on "Lichen"’, as well as artist Olafur Eliasson’s Moss Wall [which is, confusingly, a lichen called Reindeer Moss] lichens have become literal and symbolic figures in a growing number of theoretical and creative projects in recent years. Drawing on the symbiosis of these critters, lichens provide some with imaginative possibilities to think of different futures, but is it wise to be so hopeful about this nascent zeitgeist?

Thus, the fifth issue of Litmus sets out to be a litmus test for lichen itself.

We invite creative and critical (and everything in–between, beyond and under) responses to the utopian potential, cultural aesthetics, scientific illuminations or metaphorical–limitations of lichen. Submissions such as, poetry, prose, essays, fragments, artistic works, field notes etc., may consider, but are not limited to, lichen and:

  • literature
  • cultural representation
  • the intersection of science and art
  • ontology, ecology, ethics
  • gender, sexuality, reproduction
  • historical uses and understandings
  • botany, taxonomy, colonialism,
  • indigenous knowledges and practices
  • utopian ideals
  • materiality and economics
  • climate crisis and climate justice

    We strongly encourage contributions from under–represented groups, such as writers of colour, those who identify as LGBTQIA, working class, disabled or chronically sick.

    Proposals of no more than 300 words, OR submissions* of no more than 2500 words, 6 poems or 3 visual works should be sent to Declan Wiffen at by the Februay 21st 2020 along with a short bio of no more than 100 words.

    *All submissions should be formatted in A5 page layout.

    To assist you we have prepared a simple A5 word document which can be used as a template. Downloaded it here


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