Yes, you read that right.
I went to an art exhibition with a difference the other day. The venue – Furtherfield Gallery – is the tiniest I’ve been to, 10 people gathered in there began to feel like a tight squeeze. And it was located in the middle of Finsbury Park. That represented a first for me on both counts of location and venue. Then the exhibits themselves were eye-popping and intriguing not only because of their aesthetic qualties (baby dragon flower, anyone?) but also because of the clear, focused and frankly wonderfully bonkers intentions behind the so-called art. I can honestly say that I’d never encountered anything quite like this before.
terra0 is a self-owning augmented forest. According to the blurb on the website: “the project is meant to be an ongoing art project that strives to set up a prototype of a self-utilised piece of land.” Put simply, this is a scenario where it is possible for a forest to eventually buy itself so that it becomes its own owner! Which would then mean that it is in the position to buy more ground and expand.
I’m so fascinated by this idea that I’ve since signed up to the mailing list but on the day of the exhibition, I actually contributed some money towards the project. This involved converting £2 into cryptocurrency which in turn would make the plant-like exhibits made of metal, glass and electricity acknowledge your contribution by doing a little dance.
Dancing Plantoid 2 from Dzifa Benson on Vimeo.
My mind is still blown from this and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole notion but I like that it questions the concepts of economics, ownership, personhood, purpose, function, property, blockchain technology, nature, culture……it turns so many things on their heads. You could do worse than taking half an hour out of your day to read up about it.
As a writer, one of my major preoccupations and sources of inspiration is the body. It is the interface through which we experience and interact with the world and each other. It’s an object of locomotion, articulation, industry, fuel and beauty. It’s a very effective computing, plumbing and replicating system. It has hinges, a pump and electricity. And that’s just the physical. It is also, of course, the centre of emotion, spirituality and metaphysicality. It is the link between the dead, the living and the unborn.
I think about all of that and more when I watch this video of body parts morphing into each other by Dutch artist Diederik Klomberg. It’s fascinating, creepy, cool and amazing all at the same time.
Flesh from Diederik Klomberg on Vimeo.
“The beautiful dirt of a spiritual process.”
That’s just about the most apt way to describe work of German painter Jonas Burgert. Words from the man’s own mouth. Which suggest to me that here is an artist supremely aware and in charge of his intention when he makes a painting. Ever since I came across his work a couple of months ago, I have been unable to get it out of my mind. It speaks to me in ways that art hasn’t spoken to me in the longest time. There are many things I could say about his paintings but I’m going to stick to the most overwhelming thing: they tip me over into the realm of story and I love that. It’s all I ask of a piece of art, whatever mode it’s expressed in. Now, I’ll shut up and let the man himself AND his paintings do the talking.
Gaddafi, Gaddafi, Gaddafi by Hannah Silva from Penned in the Margins on Vimeo.
I have long been an admirer of Hannah Silva’s particular brand of poetry. She is a bold, unpredictably rangy poet, incorporating sonic repetition (on the page and on stage), collage, the language of social media, sonnets and other experiments in the deployment of writing and voicing language in her oeuvre. The first time I encountered her work was in performance at an event celebrating Tears in the Fence literary journal’s 25th anniversary. She performed a poem that consisted entirely of bird-like whistles. I’d never seen or heard anything like it before. It was completely mesmerising. I was blown away. Since then, I’ve read her work or watched her in performance any chance I get. This poem Gaddafi, a rolling chamber of sound, is a fine example of her politically charged experimentation. There’s no poet quite like her.
Yes, I would posit that a snake can be an object of desire. I don’t understand why but many people keep snakes as pets. Certainly, to a snake charmer a cobra is more than just an object of desire. And as for how thoroughly the serpent manipulated Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by playing on their desires…We are fascinated by them even while we recoil from them. I’m thinking about all those pictures I’ve seen of anacondas swallowing something as improbable as an alligator and killing themselves in the process because of their greed. Where were they when somebody said you should never attempt to eat anything that is bigger than your head?
Still they are God’s own creatures and they have been used as symbols of positivity and spirituality. Witness the Ouroboros, an ancient symbol of a snake devouring its own tail.
Not to mention the caduceus which is not to be confused with the Rod of Asclepius, a snake coiled around a wooden staff that is also the universal symbol of medicine and healthcare. The irony that something that represents poison is also something that represents healing is not lost on me.
The Rod of Asclepius
This piece of permanent public art rising out of the Loire River where it empties out into the Bay of Biscay near Nantes, France is called Serpent d’ocean. It’s a 130 metres long and created by the artist Huang Yong Ping. It makes me think of all the prehistoric leviathans that roamed the earth before human beings appeared. It connects us to our past and where we came from. It is an eye-catching piece of art that creates a point of startling interest on an otherwise bathetic stretch of beach. It shows us what it is possible to do in order to uplift the landscape without raping it. It’s a feat of artistic and engineering ingenuity. I really like it. It’s scary, exciting, startling and thought provoking. It makes a snake qualify as an object of desire.