Speculative Gardening

13 Apr 24

The vegetal creates space to play with possible future ecologies and explore speculative hybrid organisms that might populate these spaces.      


Through his ‘abstract gardening’ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe discovered the ‘Urpflanze’, the ‘urplant’ - a primordial organism or prototype that contains all the plants of the past and the future, and all their metamorphoses.

I’m interested in taking these ideas around metamorphosis, morphologies, and multitudes, as well as the simultaneous holding of threads of past and present together. As Haraway says “we are in a knot of species coshaping one another in layers of reciprocating complexity all the way down.” [1]

These threads of time and scale are fun to play with when considering our bodies as amalgamations of all the lives that have come before us, compacted into sediment, compost, bodies of water.

“Our debt to those who are already dead and those not yet born cannot be disentangled from who we are." [2]

There is a need for mutability, shapeshifting and adaptability adapting. The Institute of Queer Ecology talks about this in terms of queerness: 

At the scale of the individual—the organism—Queerness is mutability: it is the power of transformation; of shapeshifting, fluency, and the freedom to move from form to form; of code-switching, mimicry, flamboyance, delight; of subtlety, grace, and the embrace of fluidity. It plays in contrast to rigidity, permanence, and stasis; to one way of being. It is metamorphosis and a constant becoming.

I’ve been drawing in these ideas to start thinking through and visually play with the hybridity, resilience and fluidity needed for climate resilient vegetal bodies - a compost of odd kin organisms that grow from the commingling and decomposition of our mess, to develop resistance and healing for the future.

I have been gathering 3D scans of plants - primarily lichens, mosses and ‘weeds’ that have healing properties such as nettles - which are providing visual material to start creating forms to populate my own speculative garden.

[1] Donna Haraway, When Species Meet.
[2] Karen Barad, Quantum Entanglements and Hauntological Relations of Inheritance: Dis/continuities, SpaceTime Enfoldings, and Justice-to-Come.