Letters to my neighbours. Letters to my neighbours. What is it like to be a door snail?
About communication and co-creation with different life forms
Letters to my neighbours
In 2021 at my summer house, I started writing letters to those I found beside me – to the great tit, the blackbird, the mouse, the chaffinch, the cuckoo, the hare, the snail and others. With these letters I am exploring the possibility and impossibility of communicating with other species, as well as the act of communication itself. I am delving into the specifics of each species, making connections to my own life, pondering how they might see me and more generally thinking about the relationship between humans and other creatures – the differences and similarities between species, the importance of the (home)environment, ways of communicating and interpreting and post-humanist ethics. These letters are the impetus for this exhibition at Vaal Gallery.
What can we do together?
I am interested in ways of understanding and interpreting the life experience of other species, communicating with them and working collaboratively. What would it be like to stretch my wings and glide from a branch down towards the ground? What would it be like to feel a bird’s nest on my branches? What would it be like to be an ichneumon wasp and sense just the right spot in a log to use my ovipositor to lay my eggs in a long-horned beetle larva. As an artist I seek ways to use visuals in interspecies communication, ways of including other species in the creative process and amplifying their creative work. I have enticed bees to make freeform honeycombs, built installations for bees and felted wasp nests. Interpreting works made by other species, I use natural and where possible local materials like lambswool and clay, and avoid automated production chains.
2022--2023, collaboratively produced installations
Walking to Lake Õdri
2022--2023, collaboratively produced installations with wasps, honey bees, bats, heather, soil and Olivia Till, Liina Lehis, Artur Kuchmezov, Marta Johanna Kuchmezov
Wasp nests, felted rugs made using the wool from sheep from Karula, freeform honeycombs, wood, remains of bat nesting colony, clay, heather, yarn dyed using heather on knitted and felted lambswool, lambswool, soil, soil pigments and chalk on canvas primed with rabbit-skin glue
An experience of nature is multisensory. How is it possible to communicate this using visual media? Painting has traditionally shown nature from a distance and from above, or it has focused on noteworthy subjects. Both methods create a separation between the viewer and nature. To emphasise being present and the totality of the experience, in this work I represent nature without a subject but as a complete multisensory experience. Over a two-year period, I documented my walks into the forest in Karula National Park near Lake Õdri. From each trip there are twelve squares 20 x 20 cm, forming an abstract trope – a colour chart of the forest. The colours we see are essential for other species as features of their habitat. Colour depends on the depth of shadow, the degree of decay, chlorophyll content, the undulation of the ground, how open the blossoms are, and many other features. Each painting is accompanied by documentation of the time and place of the walk and the source of the colour.
From another perspectives
The mechanisms of perception of different species have developed to support their survival in their environment. With its mosaic-eyes an insect gets the view they need to manage, just as humans have the vision they need for living their lives. I cannot experience life as someone else, but I can learn to understand the way their perception works and compare it with the human experience. The series of paintings “From another perspective” aims to put non-human species into the story as the main characters and shows other-than-usual views of my surroundings, like an appetising rotting apple, a low perspective view of a blueberry or a dark forest. I am looking for ways to reduce my control over the image and (via the painting) achieve the feeling of being in nature.
Of the soil and more: self-animal, self-stump, self-plant, self-fungi, self-nest
2022, oil, graphite on canvas, various dimension
At the centre of the paintings are layers of soil, rich in life and colour, from which everything else grows – plants, mushrooms, insects, mammals. Our future depends on us recognising their agency. History and future potential hide in the decaying vegetation, the humus and other layers in the soil. Over centuries different kinds of living creatures and mineral particles in the soil take part in producing the layer of humus. Time is accumulated in the soil. Soil is a layer of culture – the denser the soil the more connections and the richer it is. The soil also holds the future, and on this the entire growth of the community depends. Bacteria, fungi and insects, who live in the soil are an important part of the ecosystem and as they decay, they create new opportunities for the future. The richer the soil the more relationships and communication there is, and the denser the network that humans affect with their excessive intervention.