Sitting with Species at Risk
Elyse Portal’s project brings attention to local Vancouver Island plant species in risk of extinction. Portal builds an altar for species-at-risk out of the gallery’s neighbourhood found and trash objects. She invites the public to build clay bowls for each near extinction northwest coast plant, candles are lit in each bowl and added to the altar. At the close of the project the bowls are fitted with at-risk plant seeds and left outdoors with a chance to propagate.
I heard this question asked at Greenwoosh: What does connection with nature have to do with sustainability? For answers I was told to consult the baby Garry oaks swaddled in pots on the gallery’s floor. I introduced myself to an oak with 5 leaves, offered him a tidbit of tobacco and spoke the question aloud: what does connection with nature have to do with sustainability? It took me several minutes to stop the chatter in my brain, to be receptive and listen to the plant language. After a quiet while, “FOOD” was the word I heard.
Nature is not our property, it’s the other way round: the land owns us, the land feeds us and sustains us. It is civilization that cannot be sustained.
The artists’ projects in Greenwoosh invite us to consider how our actions, in affecting the environment, are likely to affect others. These same projects invite us to enter into a relationship with nature or Nature Beings; trees, plants, rivers and ecosystems are living breathing responsive beings. Plants are eager to share their wisdom, comfort and inspiration if asked. What if you were respectful of that relationship and that bond? What if you were to awaken and realize you have been fouling your own environmental nest?
You’d notice the military lawn mower campaign going on in the corner to kill the grass; you’d notice the haunting digital projection of a slice of game code longing to be a real representation of nature. At the water station, you’d feel shame at being bottle-fed water all your life instead of drinking from Mother Nature’s breast. At the penguin breeding site, discover your sorry lack of courtship skills. On the wall next to you, a hand drawn map of the city will show you little spores of nature in a grid of concrete. When you turn the corner and come upon Moss Man you’ll be surprised that plants grow fine without us (and can make a better representation of a human than we can of nature).
How we perceive the world is how we behave in the world. Do you want to see trees as $, or as friends? Remember the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’? It doesn’t mean survival of the meanest; it asks: how do you fit into your surroundings? How is your sense of this place? How are your relationships with First Nations people? Reflect on what is an extraordinary deep place, here, the west coast.
Civilization cannot be sustained. Change life and continue to have life.
Stained (piped sugar graffiti) by Shelly Miller
Sugar piped onto a public wall a decorative architectural ephemeral image of a colonial conquest ship carrying sugar and slaves – wealth for some, ruin for others. The sugar graffiti will crumble over time. In Waddington Alley, Victoria BC. Shelly Miller’s project blog
I am on my knees, a penitent.
I view as if drunk with this solution from the past, intentional, willed, chosen until the place where I am now has become amended; and then I can leave it, and then it was.
Christine Clark a year’s worth of beer cans at The Ministry of Casual Living March 2011; collected and converted aluminum beer cans cut into eucharist sized flakes.