vertical density

April 2, 2010

Patrick Blanc has been featured all over the internet, but somehow I hadn’t picked up on the scale of his work before now.

A French contemporary landscape designer, he has perfected a kind of pared-down hydroponic system to enable large-scale vertical gardens.

But what landscapes!  Saturation! These are wall-of-sound-with screaming-feedback areas of plant intensities!  If Hunterwasser was reincarnated as a ? Japanese noise band horticulturalist?

A while back I had read one of his texts, from his then-unpublished book Vertical Gardens, but I had no idea of the possibilities he was taking vertical gardening to!

I am very curious about the system beneath the plants.  It seems to consist mainly of circulated water and nutrients, and drainage.  A metal frame is installed that supports two layers of polyamide felt . These layers mimic cliff-growing mosses and support the roots of many plants. A network of pipes provides a nutrient solution containing dissolved minerals.  The roots of the plants take up the nutrients they need, and excess water is collected at the bottom of the wall by a gutter before being re-injected into the network of pipes.

This polyamide felt – how strong is it?  I am assuming the plants grow right in to it, which would mean that it could be potentially pretty flexible, though I would imagine the waterflow from the pipes would need to be continuously feeding it.  There seemed to be some controversy there about the pipes being made from PVC, as has been discussed in the Topological media Lab’s system design.  I wonder if it is as long-term a system as implied. (I would like it to start eroding the surface of the building, and thus create areas of exchange, slowly transforming the buildings into living systems.*)

Nevertheless,  Blanc’s system is very elegant, to permit work on such scale. Very impressive.

Very intense.  Full-spectrum plant space.

Do check out his website, and a video interview.

Apartment Therapy has a list of websites for his work and his book here.

*Some examples of my favorite established, long-term living systems are highlighted over at Tokyo Damage Report, including this one:

!!! What I would’t give to see this in full summer!!!

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very gentle cobblestones

March 31, 2010

This is a bit of backstory for the last couple of posts, and an expansion upon what is turning out to be the seeds of the work I am doing now – the terrarium dissemination project.

In 2008 I collaborated with the Topological Media Lab at  Concordia University, and Patrick Harrop’s architecture grad students from the University of Manitoba. We put together plant systems for the Remedios’ Terrarium exhibition at the FOFA Gallery.

The aim was to build a living system to house aquatic plants in a technologically-mediated environment.  The exhibition lasted for three weeks, during which a few of the plants died, but several survived such closed quarters, augmented with daily distribution of fresh water through the system.

After the FOFA exhibition finished, there remained the still-living moss and pondweed.  From then on I began experimenting with aestheticising life-support systems, but in a non-futuristic sense.  Or the future as envisioned by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

At the same time, I was looking at Situationist practices.  I was intrigued by their ways of claiming their urban environment as a system of flows,  both with their concept of the dérive, and of articulating the softer ambiances that flow through the ‘hard’ infrastructures.  In a parallel fashion they claimed the revolutionary use  of text, as cobblestones to break down the increasingly corporatized urban reality of post-WWII Paris.   As I am not so text-oriented, I prefer to evade the symbolic in favour of the real, or existant.

I began therefore to think about the conditions that urban plants (weeds, technically) seek out to establish themselves in.   Following the Situationists’ example, I wandered the city and found places plants might survive in, as a sort of mapping of areas of neglect.

Leaky pipes in the Guy-Concordia Metro, for example, provided a space in which both moss and duckweed survived for several months, despite being in a busy, artificially lit underground.  The plants above did less well, essentially because they were too obvious to escape the eyes of the public servants.

The moss I was particularly surprised with, as it is a delicate organism sensitive to changes in its environment.  The space here is an empty billboard display, and as such is nearly invisible.  These social conditions are perfect for plants to go unnoticed until the manage to establish themselves.  Unfortunately the area is now boarded up.  The water is still audible behind, however!

Above ground, in the springtime Montreal streets,  the snowmelt creates temporary microclimates. 

Spring runoff  from an overpass wells up through a crack in the sidewalk on Ave du Parc.

I filled in the spaces in the line of plants with duckweed.   (A child was very curious about what I was doing all bent down.)

Pondweed placed in that “stream” survived until the runoff finished, six weeks later.

One of the things I enjoyed was the fact that though these were small gestures, duckweed is an invasive plant that can take over a watersystem, even drains and sewers.  (Though it would be far less harmful that what goes down Montreal drains – even the pipes in some neighbourhoods, I am told, are great lead pollutors.) If I were to pick up a cobblestone to smash capitalism, this would be the method I would choose. “Sous les pavés la plage” ( Under the cobblestones, the beach.)

Other sites were less successful, as they either attracted  attention, so lost their footing,

or were in the way of passersby and sidewalk cleaners.


I then began noticing the plants that had managed to insinuate themselves into quite hostile terrain, and though they may not flourish, they do survive.

These wanderings took me further afield, seeking out areas of neglect, of overgrowth, of accidental meadows.

It certainly did my heart good to discover these strong green things growing between the borders and condoned passageways of this city.

(Damn I miss access to those Mile-End trainyards!  I will have to find me some very gentle boltcutters!)

So here it is nearly two years later, and I find myself making terrariums.  It is not the single species plant I am interested in testing for survival in a variety of hospitable locales, but in establishing miniature plant communities which may then be disseminated.  Then the footprint of the human will seem less menacing, and members of the public will have the opportunity to become caring stewards if they like.  If not, the plants will continue to survive, and monitoring them will be an extension of my activities.  I just need to place them far away from those sidewalk vacuum menaces!  Cobblestones have nothing on those guys!

Artists, depression and moss – does this make it better?

March 29, 2010

When reading about links between creativity and depression, I recently came across this quote:

“Art may have evolved as a way of accentuating the emotional significance of communal rituals… It can still express shared spiritual and sacred meanings, although few exist in modern “secular” societies….

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1969 (I love this painting)

The depressed artist examines painfully the purpose of living and the possibility of dying in this spiritual vacuum, often at great personal cost, according to Schildkraut. “Yet depression in the artist may be of adaptive value to society at large,” he maintains.”

From an article here in Science News.(Italics mine) This is excerpted from a 1994 report in the American Journal of  Psychiatry.  Joseph J Schildchild, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, traced the depressive tendencies of several Abstract Expressionist painters. Only one of whom was still living; the rest had died tragically.  Their conclusion?  Art is a personal hell.  But profitable for the rest of us.

The irony of course being that the Abstract Expressionist painters were tremendously profitable for America.  They gave America a style that could be championed, wrestling world cultural authority away from a ruined Paris, and making several rich families very very rich and into cultural institutions.  Big art was big money, especially for the status-hungry nouveau riche of  1950-60’s America. The Abstract Expressionists effectively portrayed the heady experimentation and freedom from historical tradition that some were fortunate to experience.  (Even the CIA promoted Pollock for a culturally imperialist tour through the Soviet Union.)

Jackson Pollock, from artistquoteoftheday.wordpress.com

So, when considering their personal lives, it is somewhat sobering to note the correlation of public success and private suffering.  Or the parasitical nature of public success?  Perhaps it was more like a sensitive musician having a lifetime contract with a corrupt record company than we were lead to believe?  Are lead to believe?

Given the intoxicating economic and material frenzy of the 50’s and 60’s, perhaps this group of painters could be viewed as the soul, the collective sensitivity, that became public sacrifice to feed the gods of industry that grew fat on the spoils of war, the industrialization of the home, and the sexualization of the automobile? Is this the adaptive value Schildchild was talking about?  (I will have to start quoting  David Hickey soon.  I refer to his brilliant essay “The Birth of the Big, Beautiful Art Market,” which can be downloaded here.)

Pollock actually died quite early on.  Most of his work was done during two short years before his death, but boy, what a legacy it has had. Like Van Gogh, the amazing work from a pitiable  life becomes the stuff of entire economies.  More details of Pollock’s personal life can be found at the Artist Quote of the Day blog.

Personally, I only really get depressed when I think about my failure as a professional artist.  (Or I think in terms if failure because I am depressed.  I have not been able to work that one out.)  However, I do try to counter the personal-failure-feelings with a recognition that what I feel is part of the general end-game-reality presently at work in the world.   And focus on the fact that I would rather be true to what is, and feel the reality of this global failure, than try to maintain a false sense of optimism and feed the speculative cultural economy.

Nevertheless, other emerging artists are surviving and even thriving within this milieu.  Honestly speaking, I am not able to pay for my life let alone my art practice.  What then do I call this practice?  An unhealthy obsession with making things?  Is my work any less art if it never gets shown in a gallery?  If I never get a single grant?  If people forget I exist?  Do the plants care about that?  Is being a successful artist the best way to serve the aliveness in the world?

At the end of my career, I will have the damn finest living room ever!    From what it’s going to be like!

On another note, I went moss collecting today.  It is amazing to me that these little dark dry pads open up and bloom such a vibrant green when misted.  And it happens instantly, before your very eyes!  I am going to post an animation of this. But not today. Today I was casting concrete for the moss to grow on, while I get the miniature terrariums ready.  I hope they will be happy.

I think mosses are one of the life forms that have reached perfection. Like dolphins.  Except mosses have been around since the dinosaurs, since Pangea, and survived the massive die-offs at the end of that era, which is surprising given their environmental sensitivity.

The drawing at right is called “Muscinae” from Ernst Haeckel‘s Kunstformen der Natur, 1904.  I cannot recommend his amazing work enough.  What a sensitive and patient eye he had, long before our convenient recording technologies.

A very comprehensive moss-love site is here at pflantzenliebe. ♡!

This is not the first time I have worked with moss; I used it in an installation two years ago in the vitrines of the Concordia Art Gallery.  What was meant to be an installation ended up becoming a performance piece, as everyday I would go in and mist the moss to make it humid enough again. It was a massive struggle to keep the moss alive in a very dry and hostile environment, and ultimately a lot of it did not survive.

This time, however, I am making friends with the moss at each step along the way.  This is already much more enriching than treating it like an art material, as some sort of proving ground, so to speak.  This is a thread I am only recently picking up again: making friends with my materials.  Making friends with them as each is an aspect of the living world.

These hopefully happy mosses will be part of little tiny worlds.  Those little tiny bursts of aliveness will be scattered throughout the city, so those who need it most will find them.

Perhaps my experiences with depression are what drive me to reach out to  the work like this.  My whole heart is involved.  Apparently, the colour of the heart chakra is not only pink as I had previously thought; pink like a wound that is freshly healed, still sensitive, and easily re-opened.  The energetic colour of the heart is also green, the colour of new grass, the colour of bright moss opening up to drink in the water of the world.  Opening, breathing, reaching, growing taller, overcoming, slowly slowly at is own pace.

Perhaps  my ideas of what it means to be a successful artist in the world are in their necessary ferment, and are becoming the compost to nourish my opening heart.

Dare I dream that that is what the global economy is also undergoing?

very fragile cobblestones

March 27, 2010

So I’m starting to make miniature terrariums.  Not the most original thing to do, no radical gestures here, but one that would give the disseminated plants a higher chance of survival and a more comfortable existence.  Really, I can’t believe I haven’t done this before now- it seems a logical extension of geuerilla plant distribution and miniature landscapes.

These are nothing like some of the amazing plant art out there, for example Vietnamese Hon Non Bo artists Lit Phan &Mai Dinh.

The ancient art of Han No Bo is based on the natural beauty of the Vietnamese landscape, and the combination of mountains, trees and water.  Similar to bonsai, it is a carefully crafted and composed arrangement that requires a great deal of time, patience and skill to make.

Beyond the austere beauty (of this particular piece – visit their site for more examples), what I enjoy about them is that they are based on the landscape as it is, with its inherent harmonies, rugged rocks and twisting trees.

I like very much this idea, of beautiful living models of particular landscapes.  A Eastern Woodlands forest of southern Quebec.  A lush BC temperate rainforest.  (If only!  A bonsai of a douglas fir!) Or more of my favorite places: An overgrown village in the exclusion zone in the Ukraine.  A small strip of the demilitarized zone of North Korea.  Even a Detroit street around 8 mile.  (Some of my abandoned fixations will have to wait until a further post…)   These would be small testaments to the power of veridas when given the chance to take over.

The terrariums I am making, however, are much simpler affairsMoss figures prominently, and small plants.  For now I am settled on small herbs, and groundcover plants.  I have been watching the cracks in the pavement for regrowth, but the plants here make such a bolt for it, with these few precious months for growing things.  (Today it was -8℃ !)  Slow growers, we want slow growers for a small and humid environment.

Spring is coming slowly – in jars.

more and more and more

March 25, 2010

I love these guys: Emi Honda and Jordan Mackenzie

I have been tracking their activities since they moved to this city, (thanks Danna!) and their installations just keep getting more amazing.

In 2007 emi honda had a show at SKOL, entitled wasted – growing – space.  In it, she repurposes consumer detritus and remnants of the city to create a space of intersecting communities and transformation.

From the SKOL archives: “Honda’s extraordinary sculptural creatures of highly adaptable life forms will be symbolically mixed with urban waste in order to encourage, by association, these deadened objects to make their way back into the regeneration process by quite literally rotting their way back to life.”

Check out an earlier piece flora & fauna from the growing sea of engines, a collaboration with Scott Evans.  There is a nice write-up about them at Villa Villa Nola, focusing on Emi & Jordan’s band, Elfin Saddle.  I am very excited about their work, not only because of their inclusion of plants, and the organic growth of repurposed junk into cute/lovely animated landscapes, but because they remind me of what it was like to be a BC artist, to create living things withing a living, breathing, magical environment.  Their focus is not a return to the forest, but of a world in which everything becomes forest – cities, garbage, buildings, – all bits and pieces of strange geographies.  Ecologies.

"Half dream world, half sociological critique, this exhibition transplants the artists' subconscious into the physical space of the gallery through a complex network of stream-of-conscious installations."

I cannot say I would make work like them, but their work reminds me of everything that is real to me about making art; narratives of things, materials, landscapes as they are or could become, rather than standing in as symbols for statements made, and endless human stories.    Undoing art school seems like such a project to me at the moment.  Fortunately there are shining examples like Emi and Jordan out their making their own special kind of magic in the world.

They  have a great group exhibition on at Galerie B-312, entitled Science Fictions and Constellations, up until Apr 17th.  See it if you can – it’s a very cosy and organic type of spacey.

I just came across a stop-motion animation trailer for Wurld.  Starting with the sprouting of seeds, a world grows.

One of the best film roles for plants I’ve seen in a while. So lovely, and kinda sad, as is the world.  The film in its entirety will debut at the MAC May 7th.   They will also be the summer artists in residency at KIAC in Dawson city this year.

forest sounds

March 23, 2010

Link to excerpt of 2005 Funky Forest: First Contact

A lovely sequence from a very wacky film.  There is a mix of languages spoken and subtitled,  but it’s mostly about listening to (spacey) forest harmonies.

This is another entry in which I find signs of life in the universe rather than leave my apartment.  Freezing rain today.  Makes dreams of misty forest songs much more enticing.

plant artist

March 19, 2010

Paula Haynes is a sculptor/landscape artist who builds living objects.  Whether jewelery, planters, birdhouses or terrarium-sculptures, her focus is on the relation we have to these living systems.  A condition of the sale of one of her terrariums is an agreement that the owner signs, to ensure the continued care and growth of the life inside, and a recognition that the sculpture is never really finished.

Not only do I like her work, but I am also intrigued by the way she thinks about the human within its milieu, or unconsciously within it: contemporary subjectivities.

A page from her diary reads:

Are we getting inside of ourselves, by ourselves, then sharing the edited self, often and fragmented or continually and un-manned? Are all of the communication devices and technological information disseminators secret editors of being, propagating new selves that we then secretly relate to, like mirrors with an antennas? Who are we?

ladybird

March 4, 2010

Helen Nodding is an  English artist I’ve had my eye on for a while. She is pretty active, pretty interesting, pretty inspiring.  She takes sensitivity seriously, and makes magic in the cracks and corners of the city.

Weed Enclosure

http://www.storiesfromspace.co.uk/data/html/menu.html

getting intimate within the forgotten spaces of the city

March 4, 2010

Miru Kim is a NY  artist who photographs herself naked in derelict buildings and tunnels of the world’s cities.  Immersion! Dirty feet! Cuts and scrapes from rusty metal, broken glass, used medical equipment: would that I had the courage to be in the world like this.  What could be yet another study of the female nude in landscape becomes a study of vulnerability in the forgotten, dirty spaces of the world.

This is the human counterpart to plants growing up through the cracks: naked, without a country or social coding, lightly wandering the world beneath the world.

A Ted talk video opens in new window:  http://video.ted.com/talks/podcast/MiruKim_2008P.mp4

Her website is  http://www.mirukim.com/

The Woods – our stories or theirs?

March 2, 2010

The plants and trees of the world’s forests speak, but in a voice we do not hear: for the most part, we do not know how to listen.  It is all too common among us humans to view the forest as a mere setting in which other, more important human dramas unfold.  ‘The woods’ therefore as a concept becomes charged with metaphor well-exploited by Hollywood popular culture projects, usually to evoke the uncanny, the horrific, the hidden and wild aspects of human experience we shy away from.  However, there are a few examples in which the trees and plants of the forest take on more active roles.    If these movies support a more active engagement with the woods, how then may we walk among them?

Forest of Death, or Sum Yuen, is a 2007 Hong Kong Horror movie in which the plants tell the story of brutalities they have been witness to.

True to human stories, the plants do not speak, but instead are used as Secret-Life-of-Plants-type lie detectors.  Their electromagnetic responses are used to identify a killer and solve a crime.  It would be interesting to view the story from the plants’ perspective:  human animal storm of rage and violence occurs in their midst.  They are, understandably shocked by it, and later experience a stress response when presented with the agent of this trauma.  They are hooked up to machines, fed an electrical monitoring current, and watched closely by other humans who approach them with another human storm of desire, expectation, and skepticism.  Then if they are lucky they are returned to their previous state, and left alone to continue to grow for the rest of the year, a few years, or several decades. There is the occasional human storm rapidly passing through, and countless animal, bird and insect interactions during cyclical weather patterns and day/night respiration.

Certainly this would be a very different movie – one more attuned to documentary films such as Microcosmos, and would require a considerably longer attention span.  However, Forest of Death brings up an interesting point – that of plants and memory.  Our traumatic memories are apparently stored in our muscles and cells, as body stress responses.  A variety of bodywork techniques focus on accessing and releasing these held memories.  If plants do a similar thing electromagnetically, how long can they remember?  If plant communities are closer to a group mind (like slime molds) as I am beginning to think, do remembered stresses become shared throughout the group?

Group mind is hard to fathom for an individual like me, as I identify with ‘my’ memories as being proof that ‘I’ exist as a particular entity.  I once knew a twin who had shared memories with her sister, but the event only happened to one of them.  I also watch animes that deal with animism and identity of various forms, (Miyazaki‘s works, Mushishi, Moyashimon, Wolf’s Rain ), but there is still such a tendency to anthropomorphize other, non-human ways of knowing and being.

If plants remember what has happened both to them and around them, how long do they remember for?  A twisted, knarled yew tree, does it remember the romans?  The countless raping and pillaging happening the centuries? Do ivies remember fires and acts of cruelty from inside the walls they cling to?

This is the theme of the 2006 film The Woods.  The resentful, bitter woods wreak havoc on a New England girl’s school, in search of revenge.  Unfortunately, it ends up being a group of witches manipulating them.  Certainly there are countless other stories, horror enterprises or no – this ‘something’s out there’ tingly feeling, and evil in the woods has been a part of western fairytales since the beginning.  I wonder if this is some sort of sensory data that makes possible communication or communion with the non-human that we in our fear and self-absorbed amnesia feel but cannot acess?   Like avoiding a painful memory, we focus on other things.

Perhaps out of this habit of self-preoccupation, we keep placing people at the centre of the story, serial killers, witches, strange hermits, inbred families.  For sure people can stray far from the status quo when left to themselves in the forest, but these are stories  we have been telling  to ourselves for centuries,  ever since we conceived of wilderness as the untamed grounds beyond the city walls, where survival was a struggle, and man(sic) had to use his wits in a solitary negotiation of the territory.  (Though, in actual fact it was never solitary, and those who survived and flourished were those who listened to the animals and plants around them.)  The wild forest archetype contains a degree of tittilation of having to come to terms with the fact that we can be prey as well.  Like wilderness hiking in BC – you have to keep you wits about you.  What is interesting about bear country to me is how inappropriate the fear response can be to an imagined threat.  That is what these movies are banking on.

Having recently re-watched David Lynch’s Twin Peaks series, I was struck by the problematics of violence against women and the proximity of the woods, in which something strange dwelt.  This was highly sexualized violence,  and was portrayed as wreaked by a disembodied entity, a near -cannibalistic ‘force of nature.’ 

Yet despite this tale of human -female- suffering and murder, what made the show what it was and why it is a gem even now, is the non-linear investigation of both the murder mystery and the relationship the townspeople had with the woods.   Through the idiosynchratic and intuitive navigation by the main character of Agent Cooper, we learn to listen for hidden signs, for the small voices that are easily overlooked.  Slowly the history of the woods unfolds.   In the dream sequences and pinnalce scene, there is a near-incomprehensible logic that cannot readily be perceived, but unfolds with patient witnessing.  This is the time when crucial information is conveyed, but it is in signs, and spoken backwards or not at all. Yet it is ultimately a story left unresolved – it is left hanging and bleeds out of the TV series format, into the thicket of our collective paranoias.

This is not to say these fears are not unfounded.  When I lived in Nova Scotia, it was not unheard of for people to walk out their back door and disappear, making their way back two weeks later suffering from exposure and hopelessly disoriented.  The Eastern woodlands were dense, even before the trees were cut, and grew back denser for being a uniform age and species.  I used to joke about the Eastern woodlands being the site of negotiation, whether between native peoples or colonialists, just because you couldn’t see straight.  It turns out, however, that Nova Scotia is the world capital of people getting lost in the woods.  Tricky to see, tricky to orient, easy to get turned around, not much shelter to be had, and hard to shake the fear.  It is no wonder that asthetically, the landscape genre in the east was portrayed as a site of settlement, of human stories against a background of a forest that had been cleared, that had been wrestled into submission.    (Until  Toronto investors got a hold of the Group of Seven).

On the West coast, the landscape genre assumes an entirely new meaning. I am old enough to remember the few bits of old growth forest that existed on the southern parts of Vancouver Island, and the power and majesty of those woods.  The trees grew tall, but with relatively low underbrush, enabling a much clearer view of the surroundings.  The navigation was at times not easy, but it was an over-and-under adventure of nursery trees and hidden streams and everywhere deep mosses.  It remains light enough to see where you are, and trees are individual enough to remember where you had passed.  The forest was damp, and at times sopping wet, but young cedar trees offered effective shelter.  Pardon me for waxing nostalgic.  I miss it so.   However, being out there in these forests is not a pleasant stroll.  There are bears, cougars, and humans to watch out for.  If you get wet, it can be pretty hard to get dry again.  And there are the winter storms, fantastic and terrifying.  These are alive places.

This is not a human presence, but there is no doubt the forests of the Northwest coast are very alive, with a power all their own.  The few undisturbed  forests are old and vast, with growing on scales that dwarf us – even the ferns on the forest floor can be chest-level.  Settlement and forestry has given rise to invader species – Himalayan Blackberry and Scotch Broom grow in thick and twisted thickets, denser and more virulent to native species each year, unless actively cut back.

The Kwakwaka’wakw peoples of northern Vancouver Island have a rich history of living in and with this environment for centuries.  Their highly developed culture is expressed through elaborate  and theatrical dance-rituals, informed by the power and fury of these forests.  One of their most important are the winter ceremonials, held near the time of the solstice during the dark and stormy part of the year, is essential for the ongoing well-being of the community.  From what I remember of my non-western art history classes, the Hamatsa dance  was part of their shamans’ training, which began weeks before.  These young men would go live in the forest, purifying themselves and attracting the attentions of the spirits, in particular that of the

Hamatsa’s Cannibal spirit, the devouring force both in and of the forest. When the time came, the initiate would re-enter the community during the dance, and over several days the spirit would be tamed.  The spirits of  several animal and bird clans are crucial to the dance, and lending their aid to the human community in the  civilizing of the cannibal spirit’s power, for the shaman to be able to draw upon. This is the connection to the spirit realm that is so important to the health of the community. As such this powerful dance remains closed to outsiders, but for theatrical demonstrations during the summer for tourists.  The masks are elaborate, and are meant to be safely hidden  from view to preserve them as abodes of the respective spirits.  (Unfortunately this rule has not always been respected.)

In this way the human presence as a civilizing force in the forest comes not from cutting it and planting crops, but from an attentive and involved witnessing of the forest itself. Instead of being feared, and the site of psychological exile,  what is “out there” in the forest  becomes a source of information, and working with it in dance – active movement- and alliances with non-human ways of knowing and being both heals and tames its destructive power.

Cooper in Twin Peaks was not able to do this.  He was working only within the human realm, although owls, for example, were as important to the story of Twin Peaks as the Owl clan is to the Hamatsa dance.  Their non-human integrative abilities remained unknown to him, and became instead a vessel for the killer spirit.  Though “there was always music in the air,” the dancing was only done by the killer, and the rest of the community’s ability to resonate and slowly shift the furious energies was left untapped.

This integrative process of the Hamatsa dance is re-enacted on a much smaller scale when engaged in spiritual or energy-type bodywork.  The body’s memories of trauma are released through attentive listening, witnessing, resonance and release, usually with a number of allies or aids, whether material or immaterial.  Plants in one form or another play a powerful role in these subtle healing techniques, and are often described as expressing their individual ‘wisdom.’  (Even in the slash-and-burn methods of allopathic healing, plants are crucial to treatment and recovery.)

These types of alliances point to a very different way of being.  The afore-mentioned seventies’ classic The Secret Life of Plants outlines a series of experiments with lie-detectors attached to plants.  What was interesting to me was the plants would react to the intent to harm, as well as the actual experience of being harmed by a human.  The stress response would be triggered by the sheer presence of the person in question, even if much later, and the person was not thinking of them at all.  As well, that seemed to have no bearing on geographical distance.   As explored in The Forest, the first film mentioned, there is much potential information that we can use to solve crimes, etc.  But, like Cooper, as long as we are motivated by intellectual or human-centric pursuit of knowledge, we miss the potential of a collective integration of the power of subtler, non-human voices.  I don’t know what they sound like.  I know that there is great potential in existing in a world in which everything has a story to tell, if we can only watch the signs, listen and bear witness to it. 

Though we may think it crazy, which was the cross the Log Lady bore, it may well be necessary for the killing to stop: whether plant, animal, or human. Though it may be excruciating to bear, the fear of pain is often more limiting to growth than the pain itself.   Or the reliving of a buried memory.  As these stories, these aspects of human culture tell us, there is a lost but cruicial part of us that needs to feel this sensitivity to the plant and forest realm.  For all of our continued existence on this green earth.