(Un)forgotten Flora

Creating (Un)forgotten Flora was very challenging, fascinating and experimental for me, the creator of the project [Francis Annagu] and for the artists who helped create it. It was designed to provide mutual experience and help reinvent with stories during the Co-iki HOME residency. Six international artists throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and South America shared their stellar narratives on “strange flowers” — meanwhile, their sense of improvisation of creations was appreciated for one thing: the artistic oomph.

My interaction with the participating artists gave way to the space that made it a successfully developed artistic project. The artists are keen to reconstruct new theories, stories, images of flowers in different culturally important perspectives and artistic fields, using texts, still and moving images even shared skillful narratives about humans, languages, beliefs, systems, technology, plants and relationships.

Ruminating historical events, floras played an important role in oral and written accounts, even in the era of colonialism and imperialism. One could see these truths in the narratives of the artists who all come from these historical backgrounds. Some of us are not familiar with some of the flowers; some are disconnected from their ‘strange meanings’, which for years have stood for sacred knowledge, semiotics, individual memories and geography.

Beyond these ‘strange’ narratives (Un)forgotten Flora show us the beauty of nature. We are reminded of our collective existence and the need to ensure the protection of the natural environment. This project has given me a space to rethink my perception of many materialities, including modernism and the traditional concept of home. If we are to create organic relationships, there is a lot of meaning when we embrace the home like not just a physical building, but as the driving force behind the co-existence of our distinctly shared identities.

There is no better time to reframe this concept than now, when public spaces and physical communication have been huddled in a crater due to the novel coronavirus. Home, practically [re]modeled the artistic process, and as this project used a participatory approach, the co-creative artists understood the very core of the idea and space offered by the Co.iki HOME residency. You will find stories from co-creating artists, like:

Caroline Mawer (painter / video artist)

Creation :: Quercus brantii and Citrus limon

Quercus brantii — My dad taught me a lot about living and, after his death, I wanted to highlight the Cycle of Life as part of his commemoration. In some Live Art, my tears at my dad’s death digitally ‘germinate’ an acorn. An English oak (Quercus rubor) grew, and I ‘grafted’ it onto the stunning mosaic trees in the Great Mosque of Damascus. A small digital forest developed. Then, all the warm water when I ‘washed’ my dad’s body helped the forest trees start to bear fruit.

The concept / word ‘paradise’ comes from ancient Persia, so I included Persian fruits in my Luscious Fruiting Forest of Dreams. Sadly, Quercus rubor underpins British globalisation, colonialism and imperialism. When the national anthem (mis)speaks of how Britain ‘rules the waves’, it is referring to ships originally built with English Oak.

Quercus

Citrus limon — My creation of a paper lemon tree was an attempt to take back some personal control in a really out-of-control time. With the torrent of very bad news affecting the whole world, it felt good to attach a trees-worth of leaves to my paper tree-trunk. And especially to create my realistically-plump lemons.

But I purposefully set my lemon tree very far away, to underline the ongoing isolation and separations following on the pandemic, and especially to emphasise how upsetting it was to be so far away from the huge-and-lovely natural world. The rest of my front room installation was about death and loss — but my lemon tree was a beacon of growth and life. Even if that was far away. The real-life tree on my small balcony, kept me sane as it blossomed and fruited. I live alone, and I knew I was very lucky to have something that I could touch and care for.

Shortly after lockdown started, my tree had a massive first crop of flowers. Seeing and smelling them was (literally!) intoxicating. The fruits started to develop. And then there was a second crop of flowers. So even though there is an ongoing massacre of the most vulnerable individuals, there is some hope in the natural world.

When I was allowed out of my flat, the first thing I’ve done is to get many more plants for my balcony. So that my lemon tree and I are surrounded by much more of the natural world. I know — even more than before — how important this is.

Lemon

Paulius Sliaupa (painter)

Creation :: Lilium candidum

Lilium candidum is my grandmother’s flower that watches over me when I sit on my terrace at night. It has a profound smell that fills the whole front yard in my village. One summer night after a strong rain I went to film this night creature. It was alive. The insects were dancing around it. This contact with the lily unfolded the deep mystery and the monumental slowness of the night. Looking straight into nature I could feel it not only outside but containing my own life in the vast darkness surrounding me. The lily became an entry point to feeling present in the night world.

Lilium candidum

Nosakhare Collins (poet / writer)

Creation :: Passion Flower

The Passion Flower has more than 400 different varieties and is known as the Clock Flower in India and Japan. When it was first encountered by Spanish missionaries it was given its name because of its likeness to elements in the story of Jesus’s crucifixion which is also called “The Passion”. The Passion Flower produces an amazing scent that’s used commercially as well as a tasty fruit, which is used in flavorings for a number of different culinary dishes.

Passion flower

Analia Adorni (painter / sculptor)

Creation :: Latin Oak

The relationship between the flower and my story is that “In Latin oak and strength are expressed with the same word: robur, symbolizing both physical and moral strength. Oak is one of the most appreciated trees by man, due to the nobility of the material. The fruit is manifested by an acorn that covers the seed as a casing.”

In my work I use the casing that covers the oak seed as a blanketing symbol, as a sturdy piece that supports, protecting a more fragile body, which carries inside life.” Nobility, fortress, a material that supports adversity and protects the human body. Yes in my culture, the Latin Oak symbolizes “fortaleza”, the possibility to support the adversity.

Latin Oak

Lavoslava Benčić (video artist)

Creation :: Phytolacca

The project is speculative in its nature. Two worlds meet: the plant world and the human world. Do they perceive each other? Do they understand each other? Are they sympathetic or hostile? Do they suffer, sense fear and joy together? Could the plant remember the past and current presence of the humans? Do they go along their journey in coexistence or do they cause the deconstruction of each other? Perhaps by opening our minds and hearts and simply talking with plants can destabilize our scientific knowledge, but also open new horizons that could one day, who knows, also be supported by science.

After an alleged scientific discovery in the Hindustan region (Rochford, 1885), Phytolacca generates an intense current flow of electricity from root to tip when it is in full bloom, especially in the early afternoon. There were many reports of this discovery in newspapers around the world at the time (e.g. Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/444). The indigenous people who lived in the region regarded Phytolacca with awe and reverence, never daring to get too close. Regrettably, on that point, there are no modern reports on the electrical conductivity of this plant, as later, similar cases of creating a strong current of electricity were no longer detected by scientists. That’s why Phytolacca seemed so charming and intriguing to me.

When I viewed Phytolacca in the inner courtyard of the Pisztory Palace in Bratislava (Slovakia) and placed it in a historical, political and social framework, the artistic context formed completely spontaneously. The technological solution, however, is enabled and shaped precisely by the “electrical” characteristics of the Phytolacca.

The proposed performance and video was taken in the inner courtyard of the Pisztory Palace. This palace (1890s) belonged to the pharmacist Felix Pisztory, who grew medicinal plants on the slope of Slavin hill, behind the palace.

After the impressive restoration of the palace (2012), the inner courtyard was carefully landscaped and enhanced with all kinds of medicinal plants and herbs to honor the memory of its first owner, pharmacist Felix Pisztory. Unfortunately, many of the original plants were overlaid with asphalt, but one can see and sense a strong spirit, strength, resilience and persistence of the plant world fighting for its life. In this discourse, the dialogue takes place between the author and the Phytolacca, where the above conceptual questions are actualized and concretized.

We use a SenseStage system (receiver and two transmitters). One transmitter sends the data from the accelerator sensor placed in the wearable/glove and the second transmitter sends the analogue data about capacitive properties of the Phytolacca to the receiver. Output sounds are manipulated and generated from graphical sounds and pre-recorded human voices.

Phytolacca

Dilda White (performance artist)

Creation :: Sunflower

I see Sunflower as the lover who waits every day for his love. The lover comes and goes and gives it the beauty, the color, the perfection, the bloom. One day it disappears forever; this planet is that flower which will see the sun gone soon.

Sunflower

Video works of all the participating artists :-

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Supporting art, culture, and research in Africa and Europe.

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Francis Annagu

Francis Annagu

curator, poet, researcher & doc. photographer

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