(full text of final presentation 1st year DAS)

An introduction - This text was brought during the first year presentations at DAStheatre. It was combined with a spacial & light installation by artist Vinny Jones in which muscle sensors were used on different plants to operate several LED lights in the space. Text by Ingrid Vranken, with fragments adapted from writings by Timothy Morton, Mark Fisher and Nicole Kraus. Dear visitors,

I am honored to welcome you in our Rooted Hauntology co-working lab. As a curator, I envisioned this lab as an invitation to contemplate on planetary co-existence, not by denying the complexity of our being, but by fully submerging ourselves in it. We commit to thinking-with the trouble, by acknowledging that human knowledge alone, is not enough.

In the past months, my co-workers and I have been adapting to each other’s presence, observing each other’s behavior and influencing each other’s days. We have been deepening the modes of interaction between the bi-pedal and the non-pedal, the rooted and the up-rooted, through the use of watering, writing, sensing, repotting, sound frequencies, speaking, light frequencies, photography, photosynthesis and the occasional fly-catching. What we wanted to share with you tonight is not a performance or plan for further development of the lab, but a first iteration of this time together. An attempt of sharing what thinking and working together can produce. An attempt to make the invisible, visible. A curatorial statement for the vision of this lab, and an invitation to think and speculate together.

For tonight, I would like to invite you to reflect with us on the notion of ‘Home’ and ‘Not-Home’- and the possibility of Earth a shared home planet. Home is not just a notion of place and ancestry. It is more then anything else an affective notion – a notion of the heart. With home we describe the familiar, the safe, the warm, the protected. Home or ‘heim’ in German is that place that we always return to because we want to return to it. It calls us, and we are again and again pulled back in by the promise of the loving embrace of recognition. Then, how can we define the not-home, or the ‘unheimlich’ in German. It is not just the places that are unsafe or unfamiliar. On the contrary, according to Sigmund Freud the unheimlich or the uncanny points at a very special kind of fear that is produced by the encounter with something that is not new, or strange or unknown, but rather something familiar and old from which our mind has gotten alienated by the process of repression. We all know these experience where something we know well, is not how it should be, but we also can not identify exactly what it is that is out of joint.

The unheimlich are those places and experiences that potentially forever destabilize the possibility of any coming-home. Places and experiences that affect our sense of belonging in such a profound way that they risk to erase the notion and possibility of home all together.

I grew up in a very smalI town, with a lot of meadows and a big forest opposite of our house. I would often go and play there after school, just before sunset. I love this moment of the day, soft sunlight but at the same time the first cold evening air. Something growling, vibrating in the coming darkness. The forest felt safe and familiar. But then there would come this moment, where the pigeons would sing their evening song. It is a weird and ghostly ruckkookoo ruckookoo. It would make me feel strange, out of place. And for me it became a very strong sign that it was time for me to leave and go home. When thinking about nature – and the place of the human in this world I am often overcome with a melancholia. We seem to be so detached, isolated from what surrounds us. It makes me think that we are so far away from home. But at the same time, were we ever at home? The only way we know how to interact in the world is through the multitude of social conventions and technologies that we have created for ourselves. To lose these mediations, could mean to no longer be human. The home that we want to return to has never existed.

I’ve been writing this text, based on you, based on our time together. There are two main topics that i’ve been buzzing around – attracted by their sad sweetness. Firstly the concept of Home and displacement. Your home and your displacement. My home and my displacement. Our collective loss of home. Or maybe confusion about what to call home. And secondly your stillness. How difficult it is to collaborate with stillness. How it affects my noise, my presence, my interpretation. My desperate attempts to bridge your silence and immobility. My guilt about my noise and movement. My frustration with my noise and movement. I have friend who tells me I’m constantly moving. I have a voice in my head that tells me I’m constantly talking. I talk a lot. And still I seem to say so little. So little of importance to me. You say so little and this makes every observation wildly important. A leaf that falls, folds, water that goes down quickly or slowly. How can I evaluate your state, your normality (is that a word that I should even be using?) – your baseline then. I get stuck in thinking about happiness. Maybe I want you to be happy, what would happiness mean for you? And how could you tell me what that is like? Happiness, contentment, satisfaction, stillness. We are an international bunch. My co-workers were carefully selected for their affinity with roots and displacement. All of them (except for the bi-pedal) are potted. All of us, except for one (the millefeuille), are exotic or imported. Amongst us are specialists in cleaning the air, drinking water, drinking very little water, catching flies by seducing them to far into their tubes, catching flies by seducing them and never again letting them go. Some of us specialize in sweating in front of an audience, and some of us specialize in being delicious in a pasta sauce. Others are specialists in blooming and specialists in being almost extinct. All of us are specialists in having fluctuating electrical currents on our surfaces. Others are specialists in harvesting that biofeedback to operate a lighting system. And then there are those that specialize in latching onto other species and sucking out their nutrients for their own survival.

I’m sorry, I hope I introduced you well? I’m not entirely sure how to introduce or address you actually.

There is no pronoun that can really describe you. If I call you “I”, then I’m appropriating you to myself or to some pantheistic Gaia concept that has no regard to your specificity. If I call you “you”, I differentiate you from the kind of being that I am. If I call you “he” or “she”, then I’m gendering you according to heteronormative concepts. If I call you “it”, and “they”, I reduce you to abstract populations stripped of appearances. Making ethical and political speech either impossible or it begins to sound like deeply fascist biopolitics. Humans even talk about humans that way. Calling you “we” would be absolutely problematic. What am I doing speaking as if we all belong together without regard to cultural difference? What am I doing extending this belonging to nonhumans, like a hippie who never heard that doing so is appropriating the Other? If grammar lines up against speaking ecological beings at such a basic level, what hope is there? I’m not sure… for now I’ll call us “we” and be inconsistent.

Derrida coined the term ‘Hauntology’, (with an H – like in a haunted house). Hauntology looks into absence. To haunt is to be present through absence. It proposes that everything that exists is only possible on the basis of a whole series of absences, which precede and surround it. To oversimplify; things are haunted by what they aren’t. For example we can say that we can recognize that this plant exists and is present, because we can distinguish it from all of the other plants we have known, and that it is not. It is not the plant on the balcony outside, or the plant in your grandmothers house, and it is not all of the plants in the Amazon. By looking at this plant, we are also evoking the ghosts of all the plants that have existed and will exist. Therefor Hauntology also explicitly points at a question of time. For the haunted and the haunters ‘time is out of joint’. The ghosts enter through the cracks of broken time. They are speaking in the now through their voices from the past. They are constantly and never here. A specter cannot be fully present: it has no being in itself but marks a relation to what is no longer or not yet.

Starting the day with observing and caring with my co-workers has been changing my sense of time. Time is stretched in my observation of them. And I can no longer shake the feeling that time is disjoint and cracked in all kinds of ways. I am never in the same time as I am. I am never in the same time as you are. We are never fully synchronized. With plants, and with trees in particular, the diverseness of time-realities is even more evident. It takes a plant sometimes hours or days to react to an external impulse. A tree grows throughout numerous human generations. This plant, who was operating the light when you first came in, was gifted to me by a friend. It was multiplied from a cutting of a plant that used to be in her great grandmothers living room in Lithuania. It is becoming increasingly fuzzy to see if this plant that is now here with us also is the plant living in my friends now deseized great grandmothers living room. Are through this plant, our current timelines connected to her great grandmothers past? Is my plant both in Amsterdam and in Lithuania simultaneously? Plants and humans are living on different timescales. And we can only interact through the cracks in time, where our separation and spectrality becomes obvious.

Leafing trough Timothy Mortons ‘Dark Ecology’, I was struck by his us use of Fuzzy temporalities. He argues that Temporaility structures such as the Anthropocene are fuzzy and not atomic because things in general are fuzzy and not atomic. A human being is an ecosystem of nonhumans, a fuzzy set like a meadow, or the biosphere, a climate, a DNA strand. (by the way, did you know that we share 60% of DNA with a Banana …) Things are difficult to define. Nothing has real edges. Everything becomes a weirded interplay of knots, becomes spectral and haunted by what is there, part of it, but remains unperceived. Also our relations and interconnectedness with the world is fuzzy. Sometimes I think that micro-plastics might be the ultimate proof of interconnected ecosystems. We all have micro-plastics in our bodies by now. They are found in newborn babies and in the smallest of shrimps.

I have been gone for a week. I was feeling very anxious to see you again. Luckily you were in the good caring hands of a friend. However, I could observe that you were not doing very well. Too little water, too much water, not enough air current, locked in a glass box. It made me realize how very dependent you are of my constant care. There is no survival without my intervention, because you are ripped away from any sense of environment. You are isolated in your pots, unable to act autonomously, to influence your state, to search your surroundings for what you need. It makes our collaboration precarious. Our power relationship tangible and with much consequence. Are you my collaborator, if non of this is your choice? And what if I choose to abandon you? How easy is it to hurt you? You are always on my mind. But can I even take myself and my ethics seriously if I continue to pursue this relationship? Is mere fascination for each other enough?

At least once a year I need to get out of the city and go out in the mountains. I really need some time alone, submerged in this landscape that makes me feel small. But against the beauty of the day, comes the difficulty of the night. It’s not the dangers of mountain weather, or loose rocks that scare me. But rather the sounds that I might be either hearing or imagining. And there are animals. At night I often think what would happen if I would encounter them. I won’t be able to negotiate my way out of it. And at night it seems like the trees are somehow growing bigger. And actually a recent study found that this is the case. Apparently there is a fluid cycle that makes trees move their branches with a difference up to 20 centimeters at night. So I’m not entirely insane. The mountains that are familiar during the day, become their own new strangers in the night. It is as if you step from one world into a completely different one. World is not a solid thing. It is a perforated patchwork that doesn’t quite start and stop with a definite horizon – worlds, just like time, are full of holes. But this might mean that we can share worlds. Our perforated human world is shared with all kinds of other broken worlds. The world of spiders, the world of wolves, the world of bacteria. We can understand wolves, or plants - at least to some extent. This isn’t because we condescendingly expand our world, but because our world is perforated - we don’t quite understand ourselves, either. We can understand wolves and ourselves partially: we can share worlds 20 percent, or 60 percent. Sharing doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

With this lab we have committed to stretching the holes even further. Pass through them en break the worlds. We, the photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic – are reaching our spectral tentacles into each other timelines and worldings. We are haunting each other. Speaking from the past to what is not yet. Determined to make homes in a broken but shared world and returning to a home planet that has never existed.

You are invited to continue to think with us, you can come in and talk to us at any time of the evening or take a card, grow your own world and be in touch.

  • rooted_hauntology_home.txt
  • Last modified: 2021-04-17 12:30
  • by ingrid