The Learned Pig

Art – Thinking – Nature – Writing

Leila Nadir and Cary Peppermint microbial selfies

Open Call: Rot


*** Rot is currently closed for submissions. We will reopen again soon. You can sign up to our newsletter for updates. ***


The world is full of both collaborations and contaminations. The evolutionary theory of symbiogenesis tells us that we are born of indigestion; some 2 billion years ago, one bacterial cell half-swallowed another and our first eukaryotic mother was born. Life’s diversity stems from this engulfment of once free-living mitochondria. Ever since, we have been made of bodies tumbled into bodies; symbiotic entanglements of microbes, crustaceans, viruses, bodies of water and bodies of knowledge ebb and flow through our histories.

In the midst of this hubris of humans becoming humus, we might find tools for living in a rotten age. Across the world, artists, activists, and academics are busy learning to give voice to the sympoetic; bat populations translate into flickering shadows, music composed for moth’s ears, an opera of 176 golden snails, a butoh dance about shrimp deranged by antidepressant medication overflowed into oceans. This is a genre of creative work interested in finding new ways to interrogate the underbelly of today’s ‘wicked problems.

Maybe it’s time to become a bad environmentalist by learning to love rotten ecologies…

This rotten section attends not only to our creaturely kin but also to our toxic progeny. It invites work that questions single-authorship through ecological entanglements, both destructive and useful; to follow both the matsutake and the mould spore. What becomes of these messy origin stories in the midst of late-stage capitalism and climate chaos? What tools and practices remind us that self-made Man is myth? Multispecies creativity offers modest tales of collaboration and coexistence amidst world-ending violence and disorder. Maybe it’s time to learn to become a bad environmentalist by learning to love rotten ecologies, brown and green.

Rot invites artists, scientists, activists, and writers with poorly disciplined curiosities to submit work that digs into this compost heap. We are especially interested in supporting dialogue around works in process; field notes, half-completed projects, the tangled in-between moments where cross-contaminations and co-creations occur.

We want to amplify the voices of people who are underrepresented in the fields of art and arts publishing – in particular, Black people, people of colour, people on low incomes, and those who self-identify as disabled, LGBTQI+ and/or working class.



Please send all work to The Learned Pig’s editor Tom Jeffreys (, who will forward it to the editor responsible for this section, Julia Cavicchi.

There is no word limit for written submissions. Please send as Word documents, not PDFs. For art and/or photography, please send no more than eight JPEGs, with a combined total no bigger than 3MB. We will get back to you within six weeks.

Please note: The Learned Pig is very much a labour of love. Our only income is from donations and these do not cover the costs of running the site. This means that, as much as we might like to, we are unable to pay contributors (or anybody else for that matter).

Image credit: Leila Nadir and Cary Adams, from the series Microbial Selfie (2017): digital images created with custom electronics and software that allow microbes to take their own ‘selfies’ and add image manipulation effects based on the shifting pH levels, oxygen, and color values of the fermentation process.


The Learned Pig