: placeholder for future coexistence
The future is a virtual space. It flourishes the best in our imagination. What is the future that you imagine? What kind of creatures inhabit it, and what are their relationships? What kind of place is your future? Here, Semina futuri (seed of the future), is a placeholder for one such potentiality. It is fiction based in science, an inter-species, inter-disciplinary creation, documenting the intimate relationships of a possible future.
This seed has not been stored in the sterile environment of a seed bank, but has lived and mingled with so many other species. It has continuously experienced and absorbed its environment, not only the acidity of the soil and the rain and sun, but also technologies, culture, pollution and genetic modification. It is absorbing and living fully immersed in dark ecology2x2“Dark Ecology argues that ecological reality requires an awareness that at first has the characteristics of tragic melancholy and negativity, concerning inextricable coexistence with a host of entities that surround and penetrate us, but which evolves paradoxically into an anarchic, comedic [joyous] sense of coexistence.”
Timothy Morton, “Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence”. Its biotope is abandoned places that thrive with diversity.
A rare Latvian orchid species, Cypripedium calceolus3x3Cypripedium calceolus is a special plant, not only for its extravagant aesthetic qualities, but also for its pollination technologies and the close relationships with other species it forms throughout its lifetime. This protected orchid is acutely aware of its environment and takes its time to grow. It spends the first 3-4 years of its life underground, then it grows leaves every year for 10 consecutive years before it blossoms for the first time., and a woman have come together in one embodiment. By interacting with it, this grafting germinates and blossoms, pollinating minds and sowing wild seeds in the imagination. This is a celebration of a coming together until a sickening point of nausea, where everything is in motion and boundaries blur. It is the most creative and fertile place to be.
This seed does not grow in the sterile and cold environment of a seed bank, nor does it germinate in a test tube or the controlled and de-weeded environment of a garden, as valuable as these places are. Semina futuri lives and thrives in wild and abandoned places.
It can be found blossoming and spreading its seeds in the places that have been left to do their own thing, where there is “a room of one’s own”6x6Virginia Woolf. But they are not left alone, that is far from the reality of these incredibly diverse and rich places. They host so many encounters, exchanges and collaborations, short- and long-term relationships, casual encounters, as well as play amongst differences and intensities. In these places intermingling occurs between species and fields of enquiry. Art, science, nature, culture, technology, humans, and plants are all interconnected. They are all infecting, forming, breathing and feeding one another. These fields are home to many plants, animals, insects and fungi. French botanist and gardener Gilles Clément called these places the third landscape7x7“The third landscape – an undetermined fragment of the Planetary Garden – designates the sum of the space left over by man to landscape evolution – to nature alone. Included in this category are left behind urban or rural sites, transitional spaces, neglected land, swamps, moors, peat bogs, but also roadsides, shores, railroad embankments, etc…
Compared to the territories submitted to the control and exploitation of man, the Third Landscape forms a privileged area of receptivity to biological diversity. […] The variety of species in a field, cultivated land, or managed forest is low in comparison to that of a neighbouring unattended space.
From this point of view, the Third Landscape can be considered as the genetic reservoir of the planet, the space of the future.”
Cross pollination, hybridization, mixing and mingling (saziedēšanās) occur in these fields, increasing the genetic amplitude of its inhabitants. This is an important quality to have in rapidly changing environmental conditions – the more genetic information you have the more able you are to adapt. Plants, which can’t usually travel too far within their lifetimes, instead of trying to change their environment, are specialists in changing and metamorphosing themselves. Adaptation and the knowledge gained in direct reciprocity with the place is one of the incredible characteristics of plant life that humans can learn a lot from. Plants are holding place within themselves as well as being placeholders for us, so that one day we can absorb the carefully (photo)synthesized knowledge, digest it and, perhaps, root ourselves just that bit deeper.
“As soon as I recognise the otherness of the other as irreducible to me or to my own, the world itself becomes irreducible to single world: there are always at least two worlds.”8x8Luce Irigaray
“Sharing the World”
Orchids (from the Orchidaceae family) are the most diverse group of flowering plants in the world and one of the largest families of plants. There are 25-30 thousand species of orchid, within which are hundreds of genera. They are also a great example of cross-species friendships, play and collaboration.
Yellow lady’s slipper is a rare and protected species in Latvia and Europe. It is in the 2nd category in the Red Book, which lists the protected and endangered species of Latvia. This rare orchid is also included in the Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers on the List of Specially Protected Species and Specially Protected Species for Restricted Use.
It is found in sparse deciduous forests, shrubland, forest meadows and areas of calcareous soils scattered throughout Latvia. Although these places are secret and known only by a trusted few, there are several in-situ locations of these natural orchid growths that are well monitored by scientists.
9x9The earliest known colour illustration of C. calceolus is that by Conrad Gesner (or Gessner) dating from 1541. It is an accomplished likeness, although the botanical accuracy and detail of the rhizome, fruit and column will not match for another two hundred or more years. http://lankesteriana.org/lankesteriana/Lankesteriana%2013(3)/09%20Cribb.pdf
Sometimes new places are discovered by those that have studied this plant for the large part of their lives, who can just sense what the Yellow lady’s slipper can sense. One of these people is Dr. Gaida Ābele Emeritus, who found the Cypripedium calceolus growth which you can see in all of the photos.
Cypripedium calceolus or the Yellow lady’s slipper is a plant that is acutely aware of its environment and carefully considers the time when to start growing. It spends first 3-4 years of its life underground. Then, year after year it will meticulously produce leaves, gathering up enough energy to blossom. After ten years it will bloom and produce offspring for the first time. In more scientific language, this orchid is a long-lived, herbaceous, perennial plant which produces new growths from a rhizome (a swollen underground stem) each season. That is, if nothing goes wrong.
Orchid seeds are tiny, almost dust-like, and Cypripedium calceolus is not an exception. The young seed is not given a big dowry when it is sent off on its new life. In fact, none at all. However, it is precisely this emptiness that can take them very far, literally. The non-existent endosperm (the green part in an avocado, for example) leaves space for the air to enter, which works as a balloon and can take the germ, located within, farther away from the mother plant. This also leaves a lot of room for friendship.
In order for the Cypripedium calceolus seed to germinate, it needs to meet a certain mycorrhizal fungus of the Tulasnellaceae family. This friendship, which starts at the very beginning of the orchid’s life, will last a lifetime; the fungi will remain and live alongside the orchid within its roots.
“The wisdom of the plants: even when they have roots, there is always an outside where they form rhizome with something else – with the wind, an animal, human beings (and there is also an aspect under which animals themselves form rhizomes, as do people, etc.).”11x11Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
“Thousand Plateaus: Capitalisms and Schizophrenia”
Another interspecies connection that the orchids famously form are with their pollinators. The orchid flower takes the shape of a specific pollinating female bee species. Their flowers might not look like a female bee to us, because what we actually see is the orchid’s interpretation of how the female bee looks from the male bee’s perspective.
In Latvia, Cypripedium calceolus is pollinated by various bee species.
Sometimes this relationship is described as a deception from the orchid’s part, sometimes it is called an interaction with no reward. But recent scientific insights12x12That the male bee, one of the orchid’s pollinator species, is actually not deceived. The male bee understands that it is not the female bee he is mating with, that it is the orchid playing to be the female bee. And it loves it, nevertheless. have rephrased and replaced this semi-Darwinian, quasi-capitalist lexicon of gain and loss, and survival of the strongest, with more cooperative terms that acknowledge the intimacy of strangers13x13“Lynn Margulis, a radical evolutionary theorist and cellular biologist, has derived from her studies of microbes and bacteria the concept of ‘the intimacy of strangers’ as the most fundamental practice of becoming-with with each other in Earth’s history.”
Lynn Margulis, “Symbolic Planet. A New Look at Evolution”
“The core of Margulis view of life was that new Kind of cell, tissue, organ and species evolve primarily through the long-lasting intimacy of strangers.”
“Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet”
This term “Intimacy of strangers” was also borrowed for Linda Boļšakova’s recent exhibition with the same title. and the lively14x14Indeed, life giving and life continuing play of love, of sharing and togetherness.
The body of Cypripedium calceolus has been ingeniously shaped so that it invites insects into its labellum*. Perhaps, it whispers a sweet love song. With only one way out of its juicy mouth – at the back of the labellum where pollinia are located – the pollinia sticks to the backs of the insect and are then carried to another flower for pollination.
* Latin diminutive of labrum, meaning lip.interplay amongst species. This difference in linguistic terms could prove useful if translated into other fields.
“A human being is an ecosystem of nonhumans, a fuzzy set like a meadow, or the biosphere, a climate, a frog, a eukaryotic cell, a DNA strand. We might be thinking of these things as wholes that are weirdly less than the sum of their parts, contra the usual rather theistic holism where the whole is always greater than its parts. […] In order to allow these fuzzy sets to exist, logic must relax its grip on Law of Noncontradiction […]. We had certainly better do so if we are going to think symbiosis.”15x15Timothy Morton “Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence”
At the Semina futuri our particular, human, embodiment is questioned and probed, subjected to the dissecting gaze of scientific knowledge, and our imagination stretched. Here, in the dimension of future potentiality, human embodiment is different but equal amongst the fabric of material existences of so many solid, ephemeral, fluid, porous, explosive and still lives.
We are the living manifestations of so many, like the living plant on a massive heap of biological and cultural compost that descends into deep time. We are a process, a catalyst and a constituting force. We are multiple. “We are multilineage organisms.”16x16“Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet” We are already in communities and ecosystems within uncountable relationships. We are already cyborgs17x17“Cyborg as the mixed material, semiotic, mixed physical and ideological tool for thinking about what kinds of futures we want to bring into being.”
(Dr. Danya Glabau https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC9VZSicXgY )
“Cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality. The two joined centers structuring any possibility of historical transformation.”
(Donna J. Haraway “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”)
“Characterized by partial connections, the parts do not add up to any whole; but they do add up to the worlds of nonoptional, stratified, webbed, and unfinished living and dying, appearing and disappearing. Cyborgs are constitutively full of multiscalar, multitemporal, multimaterial critters of both living and noliving persuasions. Cyborgs matter in terran worlding.”
(Donna J. Haraway “Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene”) chimeras18x18“Chimera with its mythic past, is a single organism composed of cells with more than one distinct genotype.” and symbionts19x19Symbiont is an organism living in symbiosis.
“Art of Living on a Damaged Planet”. To become aware of this is to imagine the future differently.
“The imagined autonomy of the individuals [all along the twentieth century] was tied to the autonomy of the species. Each species was thought to rise or fall on its own merit, that is, through the fitness of the individuals it produced. Individuals were just one kind of self-contained unit that could be summed up or divided like building blocks, from gene to populations to species. As biologist Scott Gilbert tells us,
“Existence is not an individual affair. Individuals do not preexist their interactions; rather, individuals emerge through and as part of their entangled intra-relating. Which is not to say that emergence happens once and for all, as an event or as a process that takes place according to some external measure of space and of time, but rather that time and space, like matter and meaning, come into existence, are iteratively reconfigured through each intra-action, thereby making it impossible to differentiate in any absolute sense between creation and renewal, beginning and returning, continuity and discontinuity, here and there, past and future.”21x21Karen Barad,
“Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning”
As part of the exhibition at Sculpture Quadrennial Riga, a reading group was organised where we read Natasha Myers “How to grow livable worlds: ten not so easy steps”. This was followed by a tour to the work.
Moderated by Līna Birzaka-Priekule
Hosted by the Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia
This multifaceted project that talks about coexistence of various creatures in the future ecosystem has joined people from various disciplines.
Linda Boļšakova, Dace Kļaviņa, Ieva Druva-Lūsīte
Jānis Kokins (bass)
Dināra Rudāne (koloratūras soprāns)
Vendija Lazdiņa, Gaida Ābele, Ieva Druva-Lūsīte, Cory McLeod, Anastasija Shneps-Shneppe, Eva Liepiņa, Madara Keidža, Alise Vabiščeviča, Laima Graždanoviča
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