Toppfält: innehåll
Master Fri konst

Camilla Johansson Bäcklund

Plant-Human Relations and Entangled Ethics

 

 

An inquiring into plant-human relationships and ethical issues, linked to my own everyday actions. 

One focus of inquiry during my two years of MFA studies has been the ethics derived from plant related everyday actions and how they are connected to, and have affect, as part of both global and local structures.

How human desires throughout history have produced and produces mattering structures. Colonial heritage of monoculture, trading and exploitation of plants. The behaviour of re-arranging structures to, in first place, be human-useful and human-pleasant. A result of us placing ourselves outside nature, acting as were apart instead of a part.  

I mainly use carefully staged actions – performance – as a space for thinking and expanding on a researched phenomenon. In this work I have partly used the acts of gardening and cultivating as entangled method.

Two plants have come to have extra strong importance in this process; the spruce, and the tea plant

The spruce
While trying to transform my easy-care evergreen 70 ś garden into a forest garden, an agroforestry system with woodland ecosystems and biodiversity, the planning of sawing down spruces to make place for fruit trees made me think of my actions in relation to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Article 17 says: Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. 

It’s hard to resist the absurdity in how this wording at the same time formulates an intention of equality, and implicates a lot of asymmetries of power. There are traces from human history of capitalism, nationalism and human centrism. Texts derived from human desires and somehow, in all its good will, a ticket to continue exploit and colonize nature. Why do I have right to kill a tree just because I own the land? And why do I have right to own land in the first place? 

The process of gardening became, by this, actualized within my artistic practice, and I decided to film myself sawing down one of the spruces. 

In May I travel to Fulufjället in Dalarna with the artist and researcher Annette Arlander to visit the 9 550-year-old spruce Old Tjikko. I had found similarities in our ways of working while reading her article Agential cuts and performance as research. For example, the iterative processes, the note-taking, and the interest for using Karen Barad´s Agential Realism as theoretical framework for our artistic practice. 

Annette and I stand with Old Tjikko fifteen minutes every hour during one day. I take notes after each act.  

The act of sawing down the tree in my garden and the act of standing with Old Tjikko was put together to a four-minute video, showing me standing with Tjikko, accompanied by the sound of me sawing down an unnamed spruce in my garden. This video is part of that later work that I have chosen to show here. 

The tea
The spruce-process made me change focus to my own actions and the connections to how plants are affected by human desires and ideas of valuation and knowledge. I decided to depart from one plant-related everyday action and follow it. The action of having a cup of tea. I initiated a pilot study in growing and making my own tea from the Chinese tea plant Camellia sinensis sinensis. The study resulted in a 500 square meter spot for wild-grown tea in a forest nearby where I live.

To use cultivation and the craft of processing tea as part of the artistic practice has turned out to be important to get to know tea as material, and to expand on thoughts and knowledge of biodiversity, sustainability and plant-human-relations. 

The tea, and the ethical aspects entangled to the act of having a cup of tea were in focus in my work planned for the cancelled show at Göteborgs Konsthall in April. 

The shed
The shed – made of spruce – was at first a way to bridge the exhibition room in Konsthallen and the tea-cultivation space in the forest. As a space in the space. A space for co-inquiring with the visitors through visuo-spatial based methods.  

I designed the shed to be built in sections so that it easily could be re-placed in other spaces; a square, a forest, another gallery or a train station. 

When we entered the pandemic situation, the closing of the workshops at HDK-Valand and the cancellation of our show at Göteborgs Konsthall, I decided to re-place the shed in the tea cultivation spot. The process of iterate the shed-construction tied together several parts from my MFA-time in total and served as a new beginning, including the intra-active performance A spruce is a Spruce is A spruce.

During summer 2020 the shed will be a space for further material-discursive artistic research.

 

camilla@camillart.se

camillart.se

instagram.com/camilla.j.b