It's been a while since I've written. It’s not to say that I haven't been thinking about this basically all the time, but I found the way I process things is mono logging. So now I'm going to try to take those thoughts that I've been swirling around and put them down here.
Like all humans I have my own biases and I try to acknowledge them so here is me acknowledging that I have always been anti-authoritarian and a rebel rouser. I’m really sensitive to the idea of fairness as well. That being said, as an artist, I'm trying to stay whimsical / playful / joyful. It's very easy for me to go and take anything politically, and take myself too seriously. That being said, lichen provides me with this incredible way to be able to see myself / humans through them, so it's not in-your-face political. Kind of similar to Anna Tsing’s Mushroom at the end of the world. How very human centric. But I'm really trying not to be human centric. It's more like a celebration of a lichen.
What is a lichen? It's a collaboration, happening or symbiotic relationship depending on who you are. What I mean by that is you could see lichen as a symbiotic relationship in that each component (being a fungi, alga and a cyanobacteria) all cannot live in the places that lichen live but together as a lichen they can live in places that are literally off-limits to most organisms. Does that make sense? For example, when the dinosaurs all died, lichen took over the planet.
To me, this highlights perception and what perception is. Perception is an action. To me that's powerful and says a lot and is coming from (I'm learning from) an organism that scientists are still trying to understand. This can all be seen as romanticizing a lichen - but there is so much more!
Lichen our bio indicators in that they don't root into the ground even though a fungus has that mycelium network. A fungus is a part of a lichen, but a lichen doesn't root into the ground. A lichen absorbs everything that is around them, therefore, if they are in a toxic environment, they cannot exist. (I realize I said this previously, but it’s so cool).
When looking at city lichens and how they grow and what kind of lichens they are, it's obvious that they are stressed out; similar to the humans in cities. I think this is interesting. I think it is interesting that when lichenologists at New York botanic garden tried to transplant lichen from upper state New York (the same state), To New York botanic garden, the lichen ended up dying in a few months. I think it's remarkable in the midst of a pandemic that we are not looking closer at these organisms showing us that our air is literally becoming poisonous. More and more polluted. And the rate of population growth in cities is climbing at an incredible speed. What does this mean for humans and lichens or any of the other species that are bystanders?
This is when I tend to get a little political because of my own bias, my own background and my own perception with my own experiences. I grew up with asthma and severe allergies - no one else in my family had it. My grandma who taught kindergarten for 40 years is able to point to the different houses of her students who died from various cancers. They all happened to live near each other, near agricultural facilities - places that polluted the drinking water. My boyfriend's brother passed away last year from an undiagnosable brain tumor he fought for 20 years. This trend is increasing, I could list lots more people close to my age who have passed from undiagnosable cancer that I know personally. Or any cancer. I think it's Vandana Shiva that points out in one of her interviews I listened to, that only somewhere under 10% of cancers are naturally formed - the rest are man made.
See, I get political and I can't stop.
Anyway, lichens are indicators of these things. Meanwhile, lichen are being treated like shit.
The other amazing thing about lichen that I love is that you cannot cultivate them. There is not one place on this earth that can grow lichen and not one person has that power or control. Lichen grows in places that are untouched. Crusts on dirt, bark on trees, on gravestones, anywhere! But it can't be touched. That being said, the lichen that you find in craft stores that's dried and spray painted for a diorama is actually ancient lichen. There is no regulation on harvesting lichen. The forest fires that are happening on the West Coast or devastating and killing all of the lichen as well. Lichen grow at such a slow rate that usually when you see one (depending on the kind of lichen) it's very old. And when it burns - the lichens don’t grow back with the same diversity. That's been proven by lichenologist Kerry Knudsen as well as many others in the field. So what does that mean? I think it's a mistake to not pay attention to this.
There's also so much going on with class relations, (we're in the middle of the biggest wealth transfer in history) and relationships with corporations, politicians, big tech, media, etc that overlap in corrupt ways, mainly through lobbying or potential for profit. I'm looking at the lichen, this organism formed by different relationships; Some see as symbiotic and some see as parasitic.
I can't help but see something there too.
So this is still political.
Sometimes I think I take lichen personally.
Well I do.
I see us in them and them in us (people). Same for any other organism. They / we all have an intrinsic value that money isn't compatible with.
Anyway, the reason for wanting to stay away from politics (angry politics) is that I was a 24/7 protestor living out of my backpack for a year starting with Occupy Wall Street. I was 18, it changed my life being in such a collective and empowering environment. As an 18 year old, I was (still am) heavy on the observing side of things. I soaked everything up like a sponge. I recognized that when something was done to create a spectacle, in a more festival celebratory way, people were drawn into it.
People not from a protest or activist background didn't feel discouraged from belonging to the happening that was going on. Any age.
If I was a part of a protest based on passion (on the angry side), even though the intention was good, it would usually end in violence, specifically with the police. Something like that always discouraged people outside the group from feeling like they could belong. We basically turned people off with apathy. And even within the protest circle of people, the protest would be mostly younger, able bodied people with angst or some anger.
It's important to me as an artist to create things that create opportunities for collective experiences that allow for diversity. I don't want to make art for one type of person, organization or movement. It's just art for arts sake, but rooted in this really real urgency I feel for non human life forms.
That's what I mean by wanting to stay away from politics. I think there is a happy medium, but I'm trying to explore what that could look like.
I want to create compassionately.