The gourd is a delicate vine compared to the squash. The flowers are an ivory color, paper thin, almost transparent. The vigorous growth is directing me to go upwards. There is an interesting tension between the squash and the gourds. The gourds are vertical and the squash are horizontal.
Memories of shape.
“Every portion of matter may be conceived as a garden full of plants, and like a pond of fish. But every branch of a plant, every member of an animal, and every drop of the fluids within it, is also such a garden or such a pond”.
And although the ground and the air which lies between the plants in the garden, and the water which lies between the fish in the pond, are not themselves plant or fish, yet they nevertheless contain these, usually so small, however, as to be imperceptible to us (p.69, Leibniz, 1714 translated by George R. Montgomery, Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, 1992).
The Living Stupa
Two weeks later, the vigorous growth is in bloom. Golden yellow gourd flowers are being pollinated by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. The zinnias are also in flower and are being supported by the tendrils of the squash and gourds. The 🌿 basil is delicious. The gourd in particular reaches out beyond two feet, and correspondingly I am responding to that space.
The Living Stupa
My art is to make a collaborative living sculpture with plants in a way that plants are not merely manipulated for decoration, but are acknowledged for their ability to be interactive by their growth patterns, which shape their environs and space.
I will enter into an engagement with several plants to highlight the energy of biodiversity. For this project, titled “The Living Stupa”, I started with a mound of compost (three large wheelbarrows full) creating a base with a diameter of three feet and a height of two feet. In the Buddhist practice of making stupas—one of the most magnificent expressions is located in Bagan, Myanmar—the relic of a Buddha is enshrined within.
For this project, the compost enshrines the energy of life—teeming with thousands of microbes, earthworms, and insects. Planted in this mound are the seeds of gourds and squash, a gift from a neighbor. These plants will be the principal collaborators that will be interacting with me. Other planted seeds are zinnias of multiple shapes, colors and sizes, and basil, an Italian Genoese variety. I have deep personal memories of all these types of plants. They give me meaning on many different levels.
After a few days, germination was visible. By giving water to the seedlings, my relationship with the plants is reinforced in ways that provoke happiness and the wonder of life. This symbiotic relationship between plants and humans is an important experience for understanding our ecological connections that emphasize the value of our interactions.
After a few weeks of growth, the gourds and squash begin to exert their space. At this point I respond to their rapid movement of vine and tendrils, and began the construction of shapes that they could play with. I used seasoned sticks from last year’s tripods made from Ligustrum, a variety of wax leaf privet shrub.
I thank Alan Johnson for his last comment focusing on the future. Our dialogue is to seek new ways of thinking about how art can be a transformative process to see the natural world, the universe and us in different ways.
One artist whom I admire is Agnes Denes. She embraces the transformative process in art. As one of the first to explore concept-based art, and the relationship of science to art, Denes also pioneered the environmental art movement. In all her endeavors she viewed herself as an artist “…to create an art that is more than direction, commodity or political tool—an art that questions the status quo and the directions life has taken…”(p.ix, Krause Ottman, “Introduction”, in “The Human Argument: The Writings of Agnes Denes”, 2008. Edited with an Introduction by Krause Ottman. Putnam, Connecticut: Spring Publication).
In my understanding of Denes, she expanded her practice of art by incorporating knowledge from different disciplines, which opened pathways for new visions for humanity. More than a generation ago, Denes wrote about new thinking processes regarding what it means to be human. In her book “Book of Dust: The Beginning and the End of Time and Thereafter” (1971-1987), she talks about how being human will need to be redefined, especially in relation to AI (artificial intelligence). Her future speculations are now our current reality. Ai-Da, an AI robot, is exhibiting her paintings, drawings, sculptures and video art at Saint John’s College, Oxford University (June 12-July 6, 2019).
From an evolutionary perspective, Denes sees the future “…when H. Sapient has long been extinct and only our descendants are intelligent machines, those sentient beings may remember us with awe and reverence, for humanity was but a form of organic life with such a simple chemistry that it could be created spontaneously from the dusts of the earth, and yet through random forces of evolution it somehow, wondrously, developed a good enough brain to create machine intelligence, the higher form of intellect that eventually succeeded its creator” (pp. 50-52), “Book of Dust”).