In the hands of our eclectic physicians (2022)
The exhibition installation was inspired by the fireweed plant, its migration, foraging, and consumption via the street market vendors. Works on display looked at, came from, and participated in alternative economies and exchange structures that could be seen as an antidote to global capitalist consumption. Amidst sculptural installations, a fireweed plant told its story from a wind-blown seed to the soft tissues of a human’s body that reverberated through the space. It was voiced over by Dovilė Šimonytėby Sholto Dobbie.
Curatorial foreword by Vaida Stepanovaite:
A furry seed lands into a patch of damaged soil, reaches out through a knotty root, makes its way above the ground as a steep stem, adorning itself with bright purple blossoms when the sun hits just right. Midsummer passes; the blossoms turn into furry seeds swirled around in gusts of wind, setting out to find another patch of damaged soil. And then, a thousand times again.
What’s its name? We read –– Fireweed yields the ability to colonise fire-damaged lands. What’s in a name of a plant called colonial, or invasive? What is colonial or invasive about a plant? The world shifts rapidly under one’s feet, forests becoming grasslands, the grass wilting into desert, riverbeds becoming drylands –– what meaning is left of being a non-native, an uninvited guest, undesirable neighbor, as the migratory patterns signal a run of survival rather than a joy ride?
In these catastrophic times, what else a plant to do?
There’s fire not only that of the sun but of a human hand. It operates metal claws gnawing at soil laying bricks and concrete, installing railway tracks and machinery of extraction. Fireweed follows this burning trail of human progress through which not all plants dare going through. Moving like a healer on a mission, the seed lands and sprouts a knotty root which plunges deep into the ecosystem of the damaged soil; scouting, filtering, and sharing what’s left of it with the next of kin. The blood, the sweat, the tears.
The trail echoes paths measured for global food production and logistics rounding the Earth with GPS’d clanking containers and shipping ports, yet still manufacturing scarcity. Such a well-oiled chain of consumption is wary of the ecological agency of invasive species that go their own way – throwing themselves at the burning trails to claim them back through the (knotty) root. Being undesirable goes many ways, it seems.
From inconspicuous meadows and sites of construction, around the corner of food packing facilities, tufts of fireweed arrive to be laid onto the makeshift architecture of local markets and pavement stalls, where neighbors flock for unbarcoded goods and gossip. Voices keep rising, exchange values shift by the minute, objects change hands, car trunks never close. Socks and radishes come together. It’s good for inflammation, the seller says, it’s like green tea but without caffeine, buy one take two, handing you a pluck of fireweed leaves, will help your nerves or a prostate problems, put one into your wallet – with luck, your finances will grow.
With some luck, a makeshift eclectic healer will come your way.