Micro Abstractions is the first of an upcoming collection of visual narratives.
This experiment is at once earthly and otherworldly. i want to get to know the lives of mosses, insects, mushrooms, lichens, rocks, and explore how can try to talk to these cryptic creatures.
not by using words and grammar
but using my whole body, all the senses, movements, small actions
paying attention to what they pay attention to, and how they respond
see how far i can take it.
Micro Abstractions sets the scene: it highlights beginnings of life on Earth, and how humans were made possible from humble bits of green, some cells, some dirt — from the inside out and outside in, up into the pores in our skin. What kinds of conversations can emerge here?
Greetings to all!
I imagine myself talking to the first bits of green that ever appeared on Earth, more than 400 million years ago... small humble plants: mosses, liverworts and hornworts.
The land was rather rocky, minerally and barren in those days, plus some other early life forms: fungi and bacteria.
Grow, mosses, grow! Here is some encouragement for you. Earth will turn out to be pretty awesome because of you.
Earth’s earliest land creatures talk ancient conversations – in the air, in the earth, inside one another.
moss and lichen turn sun into sugar and give off oxygen. Ah, let’s breathe.
they also play a role in turning rocks into sand and dirt, together with streams of rainwater that run down cracks and crevices. To make things even better, invertebrates came to land, and together with fungi they help breaking down decaying matter, creating fertile soil. Ah, plants, let’s grow.
and all these little fellows sustain one another: insects find shelter in moss and help mosses to spread, fungi provide food for many and help plants to establish by penetrating their cells, small creatures become food for big creatures, etc. etc.
these lives and processes paved the way for bigger life forms to emerge, including us. how else would we breathe? eat?
and can we return the favour?
our buildings, gardens, and bodies are homes for microcommunities, too.
A little more background information to this 3-year project:
Under the name NOTICER: speaking with insects, plants, and fungi i'm creating a series of visual narratives for my multispecies PhD thesis about 'unloved' microcommunities.
I am interested in how we might imagine better relationships with the environment from the macro to the micro. But how can I imagine better relationships when I hardly grasp what is going on all around me? I respond to Anna Tsing’s call for ‘passionate immersion in the lives of nonhumans’ or a ‘field philosophy’ described by Thom van Dooren where, through art, we can find ways to spend time in and learn about these ‘other worlds’.
In these works, I am interested in gestures of care towards the environment that can only ever be humble. I dwell with them, notice their marks, ask questions, and try to make sense of their lively stories.
NOTICER asks boldly: How can I learn to speak with other creatures? Some kind of exchange through smells, sounds, touches, tastes, and combinations of them – to become more present, curiously trying to make sense even though it’s confusing, mysterious, and i might never become fluent.
By engaging sense and story, I’m setting up a range of small experiments in noticing and responding.
Synaesthesia helps me to think about how i might expand my awareness of what's happening all around me. My goal is to draw creatures into worlds of colour, sounds, smells, and dance, to help thinking about them differently and inspire curiosity about how we relate to one another.
Instead of stereotypical ideas like ‘they eat and sleep, grow and die’ I want to convey something about how they might experience being alive - how they sense and respond to things and, in return, create messages for others to respond to, including humans. I want to let senses correspond in unexpected ways, and think about the human body from their perspective.
We are included and excluded: What we do is noticed by them, whether it is by swaying around with arms, setting the next footstep, sowing seeds, digging earth, wearing light coloured clothing, perfume, sweat. What they do can be noticed by us –sometimes– and surprising similarities between us arise, both real and imagined. They dance, sway from side to side, hang out together, attract and repel, rest, wait for the right moment, and are picky, very very picky, about the smells, tastes and colours they prefer.
Can these thoughts and small actions only be short-lived traces eventually eroded by Earth’s cyclical processes? Or can they become a starting point for expanded horizons, for being present with an entire body, for entering new conversations in this more-than-human life?