Are we perhaps in a better position to encounter the plants themselves… when we do not know what to do with them, are reluctant to interfere with their complex workings, and simply contemplate them as they grow in the field? (Marder, 2013: 4)
The workshop invites a sensory, imaginary and grubby exploration of the interrelation of vegetal and human life through moving and drawing. The entwinement of somatic practices and relational thinking offer ways of inhabiting oneself in the exploration and discovery of another. The workshop will proceed through relational and aesthetic methodologies. Anatomical drawings will accompany the somatic sensorial and moving exploration, inviting feeling into the engagement with the living world. Inspired by Irigaray and Marder (Irigaray and Marder 2016) who came together to consider vegetal being through their own philosophical and experiential perspectives, we come together to explore what emerges between; moving/drawing, inside/outside, human/vegetal in a workshop that is situated between the northern and southern hemispheres.
You will be guided on a journey that begins within one’s body via the lymph system. Its network of lymph vessels, nodes and fluid activity creates a constellation that is engaged in maintaining our immunity and fluid balance. We will bring this hidden ancient system, so heavily relied on in the time of the pandemic, out of sight into consciousness. Human and vegetal life has coevolved, we wonder if lymph is more related to plant fluid? This somatic attunement will be the ‘ground’ of our embodied awareness and sensory aliveness to enable us to inhabit the imaginary of another hidden system – the root systems of vegetal beings and their life underground.
From this place of attunement we will then begin the drawing process with a practice time together before inviting participants to companion a vegetal being. Each participant will spend time with a specific tree or plant to which they are drawn. The companioning will begin by just being-with and becoming attentive to what is emerging. This will occur before putting pencil to paper. Drawing will then be undertaken to surface the imagination of things beyond view, following the hand on paper as a response to Marder’s call to ‘encounter plants for themselves’ (Marder, 2013: 4).
Briefing to Participants:
The workshop will include a combination of moving and drawing and we will move between working inside and outside. Participants need to wear loose soft clothing, for comfort and movement and have a rug to work on. Wear something you are not too precious about getting grubby.
In the workshop we will move through different phases – being together as a group and apart, speaking and silence, seamlessly moving between Alice and myself. Our intention is for there to be a continuity which builds over the different phases over the time. At the end of the workshop, we will gather for you to share your experiences. We ask that you organise the following materials prior to the workshop:
- 2 or 3 loose sheets of plain paper. It can be inexpensive paper such as paper used for newsprint or, if you have something at hand, feel free to use that. It is recommended that these sheets are large, such as A2 in size.
- drawing materials such as charcoal or wax crayon blocks. We suggest using only monochromatic colours such as black, grey or white.
- a small hand towel for your hands.
- water or your beverage of choice
Please have these on hand for when we commence so you can go with the flow once we begin.
We ask that on the day, or days prior, you spend some time (5- 50 minutes) sitting-with a tree.
- Select a tree you are drawn to, but one that is close to home (within 2-3 minutes of your home).
- Once you are finished, take a photo of the canopy of the tree in the following way:
- Sit under the tree and face the camera upwards, towards the tree canopy and the sky
- Save the photo in the following format:
- (place/ date/ time) for example: 37.8 N latitude – Melbourne/Australia/28 March 2022 @ 17:00 AEST)
- This will become you’re a background image online during the workshop.
About the artists
Fiona Harrisson is a practicing landscape architect and design consultant, a contemplative teacher and passionate gardener who loves to dance. She is exploring a combination of these things in her role as an academic at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Creative collaboration is integral to her teaching, research and design including the design of gardens and public spaces (with Simon Ellis Landscape Architects and Kerstin Thompson Architects) several projects were awarded by Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture. Practices of drawing and time have been explored with Marian Macken; ‘Marking Time’ (2019) Representing Landscapes: Analogue Routledge, ‘Performing Drawing in Time’ (2018) LA+ TIME Interdisciplinary Journal of Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania. She co-edited Live Projects: Designing with People, (2012) RMIT University Press (with Melanie Dodd and Esther Charlesworth). She guest edited an issue of Landscape Review ‘Garden as Urban Laboratories’ (Vol 16, No 2, 2016) and authored ‘Growing Gardens Growing Dialogue’ Melbourne Books, which explores gardens as spaces of learning.
Fiona completed Metropolis Master program at Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya in Barcelona. She is currently immersed in a creative practice PhD at RMIT University exploring ways of being, knowing and making landscape, moving between the garden and the forest. This research extends somatic studies (Body Mind Centering undertaken with Alice Cummins since 2012 and current training with Somatic Education Australia) in relation to landscape. In 2019, her work was part of an exhibition ‘Conversations with Weather’ (group show with Deila Salter and Susan Kruse) at art.earth, Dartington Space Gallery, Devon and in 2019 was part of Workaround: Women in Design Action ‘The Jane Approach: Onomatopoeia-Play-Day, The Design Hub, Melbourne.
Alice Cummins, MA, is an Australian dance artist, somatic practitioner and educator with a 40-year history of contemporary performance making. Her enquiry into the lived body has led to a body of work that is a distillation of the experienced feeling body engaging with the materiality of contemporary life. This has involved collaboration across artforms – with musicians, writers, visual artists, philosophers and filmmakers. Recent work includes: A Walking Dance/A Moving Lecture, Melbourne (2021); The Mountains Are a Dream That Call to Me, directed by Cedric Cheung-lau, Sundance (2020); Alice With Black Object, film project with Siobhan Murphy (2017-19); Coventry University UK, Dance and Somatic Practices Conference, being and becoming animal: how might we become more human? (2017); PAF Residency with Montreal based philosopher Ana Ramos (2017); SenseLab residency, Concordia University, Montreal, being and becoming animal (2016); In Memory of the Last Sunset, collaboration with LA/Mumbai artist Neha Choksi, 20th Biennale of Sydney (2016).
Alice’s practice involves creating environments where sources of intelligence, organization and creativity emerge from and engage with the somatic. Her work is informed by improvisation practices, feminist philosophy and Body-Mind Centering® and her writing has been published in the United States and Australia. Alice has been a teacher and mentor to a generation of Australian dance and theatre artists. www.alicecummins.com