Resilient Plants of Resistance is an ongoing collaboration with Eva Sajovic. Since 2015 we have been testing out our approaches to human-plant relationships in collaboration with individuals, institutions and plants. We have held workshops, exhibitions, performances and conversations to investigate the hierarchies between human and plant life.
In 2015, working with People’s Bureau, I exchanged cuttings of my grandmother’s geraniums for stories and memories related to plants and gardens at the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and Tate Britain. Later that year I worked with Eva Sajovic on an evolving installation and performance at 198 Arts & Learning, Brixton, One Thousand Flowers From a Test Tube, (shown as part of In/Visible Cities, 13 November - 19 December 2015, with Keith Piper, Dubmorphology, Ines Von Bonhorst, Yuri Pirondi and Fatima Bianchi). We brought ‘the Red Jan Line’ – descendants of my grandmother Janet’s geraniums – into contact with one thousand plug plant geraniums bought from a wholesaler in the Netherlands. These plants (in diminished numbers) were then included in the installation Five Hundred Flowers and the Mother Plant at London College of Communication in March 2016 before being absorbed into the Grow Elephant community garden. The loss of the plants is recorded in Counting performance for video.
The performance ‘Eating the Bones’, developed at 198 and LCC, is part of my ongoing work of the same name, reflecting on the shamanistic rituals of imbibing certain plants to facilitate a change of consciousness, funeral rites that see mourners burning loved ones' bodies and imbibing the ashes, and recognising how knowledge – through books, music and ideas as well as through biological family lines – is passed down, internalized, absorbed into the self.
The local activists that formed Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust in Liverpool used planting in public spaces and in the gardens of boarded up houses as an act of resistance to proposed demolition of their housing. In 2017, invited by the CLT, we worked with a group of local people to develop a Herbarium of Resilient Plants of Resistance.
In 2016 and 2017 we were artists in residence at Darat al Funun, Amman, where we created a map of Darat al Funun’s historically significant garden. During two research trips to Jordan, through workshops, conversations, and garden walks with local people, we collected botanical information and personal stories on some of the garden’s edible plants. We travelled throughout Jordan, gathering knowledge on staple Jordanian crops from farmers involved in large-scale agriculture, as well as smaller permaculture projects, and scientists whose work explores the impact of rising temperatures and lessening precipitation.
The map we created contains all these layers of information, considering the present state of the garden’s edible plants, reaching back into the colonial history when Darat’s garden was first established, and forwards into the future, to consider challenges that might be faced as a result of the climate crisis, including human and plant displacement.
In 2019 we will be returning to Jordan and also working in Cuba and the Balkans on an AHRC funded project with Dr Agnes Czajka and the Open University to develop networks between grassroots organisations and individuals in each of these places for knowledge sharing and solidarity, in relation to current climate violence that is affecting landscape and livelihoods.