the plant is present
I’m currently in Moscow for the First International Science Art Conference and Exhibition. Sanseveria Trifasciata re-created its performance of The Plant is Present here, with the help if Liliya Lifanova. and I gave a short presentation on the work and its relationship to that of Marina Abramovich. More photos, as well all pictures of everyone who sat with the plant, coming soon.
Just as Marina Abramovic had her superfan, so Sanseviera Trafasciata had one, as well. The gentleman visited 3 times over two days, often sitting at length and talking to the plant. We could venture a guess as to which notes in the comment book were his, but there was a distinct handwriting that praised the plant’s “conversational” quality. For other fascinating notes and stories, read on, as the task of transcribing the mammoth amount of written feedback continues. There’s even more– and a VIDEO of the superfan– after the jump.
“La Suegra, We meet again! Mom gave me a piece of you when Eugenie & I moved in together. Said I would need it. Boy did I! You out grew my herbs & even adapted around the weeds. Your sharp & a bitch of a fighter! That’s what mom meant when she said I’d need you. I’m glad you wear the black gown. With all the negativity in your life & yet you thrive. Like my suegra. Like me. I look forward to having you in my garden again. This time you’ll have a permanent place in the sun, but you just have to wait a few more years! Thanks for everything, la suegra. — Geanna M.H.”
The second day of “The Plant is Present” was a bit slower, and the plant spent some time alone. But more than 50 people still found time to sit and have a moment with The Plant. Again, here’s a link to a flickr album of everyone who sat on the second day. There were several people, 6 or 7 at my count, that chose to talk to the plant. At least two people over the course of two days had sat with both The Plant and Marina Abramovic, of “The Artist is Present” fame. One sitter described the prolific documentation as part of the intensity of sitting with Marina. The other, I’m fairly certain, is responsible for this comment in the plant’s book: “Marina was exactly as interesting.” No one cried sitting in front of the plant, but plenty looked intrigued, bored, amused and joyful. So does a plant have the same presence as an artist? Read on for sitter’s first-hand accounts of the experience. Continues after the jump, for a long time.
“I have never sat with a dressed plant before. It was very nice. I had a good time.”
“The lights were distracting, the plant beautiful”
“She is SEXY and REAL”
“The plant was present. The weather intensifies the energy received from the plant.”
We knew rain was a risk, and that it wouldn’t be a problem for our starring artist. But just in case, we brought an umbrella and a blanket for potential guests. We had all electrical connections taped, and the vulnerable areas wrapped in plastic bags. Still, there reached a point in the evening when we were forced to turn on the ambient outdoor light and break down our lighting setup. The public continued to sit with the plant. After it cleared up we put one lone light back up. As a result, the portraits of guests vary as the weather varies. Some are shot in performer lighting; some are shot in blaring fluorescent outdoor lighting; some are dramatically lit from one lone light; and at least one portrait was taken in complete darkness.
Look for a later post containing a full transcription of the lovely comment book. In the meantime, here’s a flickr stream of everyone who sat with the plant on the first evening: November 19th, 2011. Some selected portraits and a video below, after the jump.
Sansevieria Trifasciata, an epic houseplant, performed its work “The Plant is Present” at the School of the Art Institute’s New Blood Performance Festival, November 19th and 20th, 2011. The plant sat silently while a total of 138 visitors took turns sitting in a chair opposite it, staying in its presence for as long as they liked. All guests were photographed, and asked to record their experience in a comment book. Responses ranged from “I felt a connection to the plant and was able to live in the moment” to “It was awkward” to “So good! I loved every second of it!” to “Marina was exactly as interesting.” Check back later for more documentation, a full transcription of the comment book and photos of all 138 visitors to the plant.
Sansevieria trifasciata is an epic houseplant. Often referred to as “the plant that won’t die,” it is famous for thriving on neglect. Commonly called Mother in Law’s Tongue for its sharp leaves, or Snake Plant for its winding tendrils, S. trifasciata is one of the top 50 plants that clean the air, converts carbon dioxide to oxygen at night, and has historically been used to create bowstring hemp. In short, its creative career is one of tenacity and self-sacrifice. I will be giving a lecture on the phenomenal artistic accomplishments of this plant at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Nov. 14th, 4:30pm, 2M space, MacLean Bldg) before the plant performs a solo work called “The Plant is Present” at this year’s New Blood Performance festival.