Pollinating Agents : Resilient Beings
1. The seam, both connector and divider, is in essence a form of dialogue. A seam’s function is to attach two pieces of cloth together. To do so, a needle pierces the edges of both surfaces, and by travelling back and forth on each side of the two pieces of cloth, a connection is created; thread holding it together. A seam is strong, and seemingly permanent, but it can still tear when subject to force. Connecting separate elements always bears a paradox of strength and vulnerability.
2. “A truly amazing feature of the reproductive behavior of some species of hermaphroditic snails is the way they stab a calcareous love dart into each other prior to copulation.”
3. “By piercing that bubble, getting under your skin and disrupting the intimacy of self-love, the other kills you symbolically, as he or she wipes out your former understanding of yourself. True recognition, according to Hegel, implies that two people go through an experience together where they wipe each other out and annihilate who they were on their own.”
4. “What is good is always being destroyed.”
5. “The mother of an adult child sees her work completed and undone at the same time. If this holds true, I may have to withstand not only rage, but also my undoing. Can one prepare for one's undoing? How has my mother withstood mine? Why do I continue to undo her, when what I want to express above all else is that I love her very much?”
6. Daughter screams: – “I will never be like you!”
Wise woman answers: – “Mend the fate that pride has torn.”
7. “Why is it that a woman going through a significant and/or traumatic time in her life is so often denoted in film and television by a spontaneous, vigorous, tearful, cathartic haircutting scene?”
8. Have you ever heard of a weeping willow’s broken
branch, travelling down the river stream,
tossed around by the flow,
beaten down by the rocks,
until the resilient offshoot gets entangled to a porous net of roots.
Captive, she blossoms.
9. In French, plant offshoots are called rejets, which literally translates as rejections.
I learned recently that it is an old botanical term, to be understood as re-jet or re-growth (or more accurately re-squirt) appearing on a plant as a result of a natural break or a man-made cut as means of defence.
In my mother tongue, rejection and rejuvenation are interchangeable.
10. “We are contaminated by our encounters; they change who we are as we make way for others. As contamination changes world-making projects, mutual worlds and new directions may emerge. Everyone carries a history of contamination; purity is not an option.”
11. “Plants communicate through their roots. They are linked via their fungal mycelial connections. Seemingly separate organisms are often connected and may depend on each other. Fungi colonize the roots of the plant, connecting one plant to another, creating an underground network. Plants provide fungi with food in the form of carbohydrates and in exchange the fungi help the plant suck up water. Seedlings rapidly obtain fungal partners which allow them to compete successfully. Without this help, many seedlings wouldn’t survive.”
12. Your feet are what I remember from your first hour.
It’s a cliché we all know, I had to count your toes to make sure they were only ten. Feet like your father’s, animal shaped, cutest platypus. My best collaborative project, mixing genes and brewing for a while; this time, no one can contest I did all the work. Holding these tiny weapons that kicked my insides and stretched my belly as a reclined rectangle. Otter-feet roaming the nest to run away. I hold them tight in my hands, elongated treasures you refuse to wash. Bare-foot world explorer, you proudly carry your dirt, and I wonder; does it protect you?
– “I am your mother and I want you clean: will you ever surrender?”
Negotiation. I learned to negotiate with you. So, I will try again :
But you already slipped away from my finger-tips
before I could even i-ni-ti-a-te
the terms of our relationships.
You ask me :
– “Mummy, why are you always angry?”
13. “Cleaner shrimps look for dead scales, parasites, and bits of food in the fish’s mouth. They pluck these things with the help of their small pinchers and eat them. Then they enter the fish’s body through their mouth, clean their throat and then exit through the gills.”
14. “A rocking dance is used by cleaner shrimps to advertise cleaning services. Shrimps rock dance when approaching potential client fish and do so more when they are hungry. When given a choice, clients preferred hungry rocking shrimps.”
15. I heard of a cleaning station near the coral reef. I know I have to get there, it’s a rendez-vous I cannot miss. xxx fishes will meet me there, eager and hungry, and I will give them what they look for. Will I really feel lighter?
I can’t stand anymore carrying my dirt, my parasites, skin-spreaders and outer-self-weakeners. I need to preserve the membrane that channels through both worlds. I surrender to the little creatures, I feel them feasting on me; those suckers!
It is an unspoken agreement, it is a fluid promise of surrender.
Selfless co-operation or mutual selfishness? We met at the cleaning station, in an anonymous reciprocal service.
16. For years, she specialized in dust removal of National archives’ documents, a delicate and technical procedure. Her secret touch is to use old panty-hoses filled with rubber flakes. With a balance of speed and softness, she scrubs the entire surface of ancient documents, rejuvenating their worth-to-preserve skin.
– “When I work on an old parchment, it’s almost climactic to see the difference between before and after!”
Applying gentle pressure in circular motion, she lifts the grey layer of dust, always with a conniving smile.
17. – “Earthworms can be cut in half and continue living as two separate entities.”
Two separate adults delivered this statement as I was sharing thoughts on worms. Having just read an article that debunks this myth, I can’t recall in full honesty if I ever believed it. To defend cruel human naivety, worms’ heads aren’t very defined from their ends. And no babe, they don’t have eyes, but they definitely have a mouth. A mouth leading to intestines, through which 10 tons of earth are ingested annually, small stones triturated and broken down to minerals, released at its opposite end as castings. Small extruded shapes of the finest earth; intricate vertical pilings, positives of excavated earth pores. Unstoppable diggers, worms breathe through their skin. Moisten in mucus, they slide deep into the earth, mouth first.
18. “It all started with a wondrous present. She had received a few caterpillars. We can only guess at the little girl’s joy at this gift, for she loved beetles and worms more than anything else. But these caterpillars were different from any that she had observed in nature. They were as white as flour. They were silkworms, from whose cocoons people had been making silk, only in China for more than 3000 years. It was so valuable that its worth was measured in gold until the secret of the silk thread, the betrayal of which was punished by death, was smuggled out of the Middle Kingdom by two Persian monks in their bamboo sticks. This, the legend goes, is how the silkworm made its way to the Western world.”
19. We sat on a bench and talked for hours; I was holding a green caterpillar crawling back and forth over my finger. When the fluorescent critter escaped, my daughter was disappointed in me as she assigned me the task of holding onto it. What can I say; I am a bad caterpillar caretaker, and I let it wiggle away. Despite my negligence, a closure was found that day.
20. The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.
– “Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shily
– “I–I hardly know, Sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
21. “The successful bee waggle dances for hive mates in the shape of a figure of eight. The speed at which the bee shakes its hindquarters back and forth indicates the distance to food. If even insects could communicate so brilliantly, what were the implications for the perceived difference between animals and humans”.
22. A layer of snow has accumulated on the streets. A layer of dust is rising on my shelves. My daughter plays a cleaner on my balcony, she brushes the white snow off the outdoor furniture. I put an old sock over my hand and rub wax on my indoor furniture. We look at each other through the window glass. Replicating each other's gestures, we play mother and daughter.
23. “In human social psychology, the term mimicry is used to describe unconscious imitation of someone else’s movements or posture. Humans often spontaneously mirror each other’s behavior, for example, by smiling, yawning, or crossing their legs. Humans who feel connected to someone will imitate that person more often, and mimicry can also excite connectedness: humans who imitate each other understand each other better, and their emotions become more attuned to another”.
24. “In all human cultures premastication, kiss-feeding or kissing between mother and infant has been observed, kissing believed to be a socially ritualized form of feeding premasticated food. There is high similarity in the execution of kiss-feeding and human kisses ; in the former, the tongue is used to push food from mother to child with the child receiving both the mother's food and tongue in sucking movements, and the latter simply forgoes the premasticated food. In fact, observations across various species and cultures confirms that the act of kissing and premastication have most likely evolved from the similar relationship-based feeding behaviours.”
25. For research purposes, I will need more kissing.
26. “Carpenters ants throw up on each other to say hello. Hormones transmitted in ant vomit contain messages and influence the growth of baby ants.”
27. Earlier in the day I went filming the pounding process of medical archives. There, I collected bags of paper shreds, dusty document flakes. I now sit in a former isolation cell of the psychiatric hospital, a handful of shredded paper covering the crease of my legs. The action I am about to perform needs to be visceral, I will chew and spit the discarded archive fragments. A friend warns me about ingesting toxic ink; I am worried about silverfish and basement fungus. Just in case, I have a large bottle of Listerine near my side. Chewing paper is strangely familiar, I remember now I did it a lot as a child. It feels like absorbing secrets. But those flakes have an unbearable taste; bitter as the inner part of almond cores, I imagine as cyanide or ammoniac. I chew, I gag, I breathe, I purge. Arching my back for maximum velocity, I spit out the chewed matter as hard as I can towards the terrazzo floor. The expelling sound resonates loudly in the cell. I rinse my mouth with turquoise wash. I repeat.
28. With warmth and benevolence, the representative of an industrial shredder company discloses to me:
– "Every day I try to adopt the principle of impermanence. Everything we carry with us is weight to free ourselves from.
Trust me, I sell shredders all day long!”
29. “Looking back in this way takes us to seeing again, to respecere, to the act of respect. To hold in regard, to respond, to look back reciprocally, to notice, to pay attention, to have courteous regard for, to esteem: all of that is tied to polite greeting, to constituting the polis, where and when species meet.”
30. My daughter is taking a shower. Lulled by the tune of a monotonous water stream, my mind drifts away to savor the exquisite calmness of this moment. I suddenly remember that I left my gardening scissors near the shower and rush in a panic to find her. When I open the bathroom door, I find my little girl standing high on a stool amidst a mist of steam; radiant with pride, she appears glowing as a waterfall goddess. In a silent and ceremonial gesture she moves forward her joined hands, holding a handful of her self-clipped hair. Entrusted to me by the most fierceful creature of the wetland, I receive this tuft of dampened hair, brown as wet soil. I hold onto her fibers.
31. “Collaboration means working across differences, which leads to contamination. Without collaborations, we all die.”
– Excerpt of artistic essay by Marie Ilse Bourlanges, 2021
Published in Fellows in Print, 2021
Performative reading during symposium and exhibition of Artistic Research fellowship of Rietveld Academie and Sandberg Instituut, 18 November 2021
(1) “To patchwork an archive”, contribution to SISU magazine, 2020
(2) Act of Love, A visual dictionary of animal courtship, by Hiroshi Hizawa, (2015 Human research inc. Tokyo, Japan) p.138
(3) “Masters and servants or lovers, On Love as a way to Not Recognize the Other”, by Jan Verwoert p170
(4), (5) Praise for the Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson (Melville House, 2015) p 174,175
(6) Inspired by Brave, directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (Walt Disney, 2012)
(7) “Haircut Supercut: When women lose their minds and manes on screen”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-ehR_BuUcw&t=50s, accessed 16-06-2020
(10) The mushroom at the end of the world, On the possibility of life in Capitalist Ruins, by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (Princeton University Press, 2015) p. 27
(11) transcript Black Pond, directed by Sarah Jessica Rinland, 2018
(13) “Coral Reef Ecology Laboratory”, http://www.cleanerfish.com/the-cleaner-fish-chronicles.html, accessed 03-12-2020
(17) “On Charming Worms, and other wiggling miscellanea”, contribution to P/////AKT Pool by Brigitte Louter, 2020
(18) A Butterfly Journey : the Life and Art of Maria Sibylla Merian, by Boris Friedewald (Groothandel - Fab, 2015) p.13
(20) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, chapter 5 “Advice from a Caterpillar”, by Lewis Carroll (Airmont Publishing Company, 1965), p.49
(21) “Dancing with bees”, article by Tina Heidborn in Culture & Society _ History of Science, on Tania Munz from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin researching on Karl Von Frisch; “decoding of the waggle dance of the honeybee earned the behavioral biologist the Nobel Prize in 1973”. p.76
(23) When Animals Speak, Towards an Interspecies Democracy, by Eva Meijer, (New York : New York University Press, 2019) p 49-50
(24) Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Irenäus (1983), "Chapter 3: A comparative approach to human ethology", in Rajecki, D. W. (ed.), Comparing behavior: studying man studying animals, Routledge
(26) “Carpenters ants throw up on each other to say hello”, article by Matt Reynolds on Wired, published 29 November 2016, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/ants-throwing-up-hormones-development, accessed 05-12-2020
(28) “Mother’s Milk”, script for performance, 2020
(29) When Species Meet, by Donna J.Haraway (University of Minnesota Press, 2008) p.19
(31) The mushroom at the end of the world, On the possibility of life in Capitalist Ruins, by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (Princeton University Press, 2015) p. 28