Gaia Spaces + Mutualism
Where is your 'Gaia space'?
This week I have been easing myself back into the ‘kingdom of the well’, (to vaguely quote Susan Sontag), slowly increasing my work hours, gentle socialising, and working on film footage and sound collated during my time off sick.
I’ve been playing around more with Blender, which is tricky to figure out but once I get going, I find the sculpt mode extremely soothing. I don’t know how to animate yet, so the somewhat glitchy movement is generated by recording the sculpt screen through OBS (a great free tool for screen recording and live streaming).
Health-wise, I’m almost Colitis symptom-free, (as symptom-free as I can be) although building my physical strength back up will take a while. I’m not exactly athletic, but do have a regular schedule that includes dance, rollerskating, walking and occasional swimming that I need to do to counter-balance the enormous but unavoidable amount of time I spend sitting at a computer! At the moment, its just slowwww yoga and walking until I’m strong enough to dance and skate again.
Being post-flare up also allows me some mental distance: to be able to approach my condition from a less intense, all-consuming way. Long-term illness is opressive (especially when experiencing it in a capitalist society), so breaks from it are often met with a rare sense of wellbeing and reflection.
So this week I’ve been learning a little about the Gaia hypothesis:
‘The Gaia hypothesis (/ˈɡaɪ.ə/), also known as the Gaia theory, Gaia paradigm, or the Gaia principle, proposes that living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.' (from ye olde Wikipedia)
In this podcast with Dr Stephan Harding, he describes the importance of finding your ‘Gaia space’: a place in nature you can visit, ideally every day, to maintain ones’ connection to the earth. Whilst I live in a built-up city, I’m fortunate to live right by the sea, with the Sussex Downs and lots of woodland just short bus rides away. Of course, whilst I was unwell, my nature place became my very small patio, filled with many plants, and my indoor plants when I couldn’t leave my bed.
Anyone who knows me, will know how much I love my plants, especially my most treasured: four orchids, that I have somehow kept for years and continue to flower. I’m no expert orchid-keeper, but I’ve found they like heat (sunlight, or near a radiator too if possible), a weekly water (max), twice-weekly spray of orchid food and warm water and to make sure their roots are as exposed as possible to the sun.
Looking at them more often over these past few weeks, I’ve been reminded of how much I love their roots, in particular: tendril, finger-like or even gut-like forms that seem to creep up and out of their dirt. I’m repelled but fascinated in the same way I am when I see diagrams or images of intestines.
Orchids are epiphytic (tree-dwelling), growing on the side of other plants. This non-parasitic relationship is known in botany as Mutualism: a relationship where both organisms receive a benefit from the relationship. At the beginning of this residency and project, I was looking to explore the idea human community in relation to health, yet here I am looking at the communities within the body and the community we share with nature.
I’ve learned about orchids, queer ecology & ‘plant sex’ in this fascinating series of podcasts from the Serpentine Gallery. Also, the artist who hosts this series, Sin Wai Kin, has just been nominated for the Turner Prize and is worth looking into if you’re not familiar with their work, which incorporates identity, gender, ecology and speculative fiction in exciting ways.
Whilst looking through some past work, I’ve noticed how often I’ve returned to gut-like forms like the orchid roots in my work, such as the following abstract paintings from my first year of university:
Clearly guts have been on my brain for some time now. Did you know that serotonin is created within the gut?
This weekend, I had intended to see Kahraman’s ‘Gut Feelings’ exhibition in London, but time and tiredness got the better of me. Fortunately, Laurence from the SH Lab picked up this beautifully printed programme for me to take a look at.
This coming week I’m looking forward to connecting with a few new people through Sussex Uni that I hope will take the ideas I’m forming into a more developed direction.
I’ve also been to visit Lighthouse Gallery in Brighton, where I will be exhibiting the results of this residency from 6-11 July (put it in your diaries!) Looking forward to filling that massive space.
Finally, here’s an alternative version of the first film experiment. Turn on the sound for some soothing nature sounds, wherever you are.
Thanks for reading- keeping this blog is a really useful way for me to organise my sprawling thoughts and ideas, so seeing that people are enjoying reading it means a lot too. Please do spread the word if you enjoy reading it!
I’ve never been brave enough to test the theory that you can grow orchids in a shower caddy, but apparently it is possible: http://www.therainforestgarden.com/2015/02/turn-shower-caddy-into-vertical-garden.html