In 2018, over a 6 day program, artists, curators, biologists, gardeners and herbalists from Europe, America, Brazil and Australia gathered in Berlin to collaborate with the Perennial Institute. Exploring creativity through the lens of plants, the Institute approaches plants as our overlooked teachers with whom new forms of knowledge can emerge. The project explored this emerging and at times, ambiguous knowledge through embodied, feminine and intuitive approaches, cultivating alternative ground for the creative practitioners to unlearn, re-root, imagine and thrive.
Above: An act of reconciliation performed for the harm done to plants and the planet in the hope that we can have a better relationship with each other in the future. “I’m sorry, please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” was said as we offered the plants a drink of water, hopeful they would tell other plants. The performance encourages others to re-enact the offering with a cup of water and a sincere apology.
Below: An offering back to nature and plant life, an opportunity to commune with plants at Tempelhof Field via a wearable, living, plant jumpsuit.
Below: Tuning into our bodies, our senses and the plants around us through Shoring-yoku (forest bathing) in Tiergarten park. Moving from the space within to the infrathin we then with the collective, Scent Club Berlin we explored olfactory sensations through the transformative process of scent distillation with seasonally abundant Basil and Lavender. Later, we collaboratively wrote stories to describe the scents which resulted in the creation of ‘Corn Farmer’, a fragrance with an evocative backstory.
Below: A prototype for a pack of cards that encourage creative engagement with plants through empathy, observation, movement, senses and arrangement exercises. This pack contains 48 cards a magnifying glass and a viewing device. Cards ask participants questions like, “what does it feel like to be a plant”.
An urban foraging walk allowed participants to see with new eyes and gain a fresh awareness of Berlin’s local plants. The process liberated all participants from the intellectual, perceptual, and visual processing traps that can lead to what is know as ‘plant blindness’, literally failing to see or recognise plants in ones immediate environment.
With this new awareness we carried the wild ingredients from Hasenheide park including mustard seed, wild spinach and elderflower berries. Collaboratively we prepared and cooked our foraged plants while sharing personal histories, stories and relationships to food.
The next day our ‘new eyes’ were introduced to the principles of Ikebana. We began by focusing our attention toward the ruderal green in Hasenheide park and foraged for vines, sticks, flowers or anything else that caught our attention. We were encouraged to ‘speak’ to the plants and see if they wish to come with us to be arranged throughout Floating University Berlin as free style urban ikebana.
Above: Participants at the picnic were given brown paper bags with instructions on How To Eat Lunch such as ‘Strategize: Will you eat alone? Do you want to have a conversation?’ and ‘Trade: Is there something in in another’s lunch bag you want? Is there something you would be willing to trade?’. Each bag contained a German Ploughman’s lunch and a tiny hand crafted clay vase containing edible flowers and herbs.