There is a worm who occupies the body-mind of a snail, causing the snail’s eyestalks to radiate and pulsate. Possessed by this worm parasite, the snail develops a dangerous penchant for climbing to the top of plants. Its wiggling, caterpillar-like eyes are a lure to birds, who eat it and redistribute the parasite.
There’s a wasp who penetrates the ladybug with its stinger, and uses the host’s body to incubate its larvae. The ladybug manages to birth the wasp’s progeny, who weave a cocoon around her legs. Thus she becomes a protector of wasp eggs. When they hatch, there is a good chance they will eat her.
The ladybug and the wasp, the snail and the worm, enact a sort of intimacy. One being is ruptured and driven by the interests of the other. The language of ‘zombies’ is frequently used to describe a situation where a species’ own self-interest is overtaken by another force. One loses one’s mind. In fact, there is no such thing as one’s mind, so far as we think of this as a bound or protected space. In Derrida’s ethics of hospitality, these creatures, like all of us, are in a situation of host and hostage to the other.
Lynn Margulis writes: “Life, especially bacterial life, is resilient. It has fed on disaster and destruction from the beginning1.”
This is one way to be intimate, one way to perceive, as a gardener might, the entangled relations between beings.
Barad writes: “There is no inside. . . . Not only subjects but also objects are permeated through and through with their entangled kin; the other is not just in one’s skin, but in one’s bones, in one’s belly, in one’s heart, in one’s nucleus, in one’s past and future2…”
Hesse-Honegger’s watercolour insects are another reference in Leyla’s work. These ‘disturbed true bugs’ emerge from radioactive environs where boundaries are impossible to establish. A blistered thorax, a knotted feeler, a deformed leg reveal the invisible work of particles.
Co-emergence or co-mutation, contamination or companionship; these processes become difficult to parse. Radioactivity is the ground of being for these morphing bugs, the facilitating environment from which they come to be. A home is a broken container.
A biome is a community of co-habiting beings, an ecotone the transitional space between. In this world, boundaries don’t stay put. Beings arise from dynamic encounters: Inhabitations, intrusions, interferences, intimacies. Leyla’s work is situated in the weave between ecologies, reaffirming relationships, repairing splits, traversing spaces.
From this interplay of fields come unexpected morphologies. Leyla asks us to re-imagine patterns of entanglement and unfamiliar proximities, by rearranging who and what belongs where, and what kind of environment might arise from a shift of boundaries, an alteration of scale, an inversion of fields. Inside this garden archive, biomes inhabit a shoebox. The façade of a house, (a flimsy bulwark for interiority), opens to a garlic field. A squash as a home, a gallery as a garden.
-Katherine Kline, in collaboration with Leyla Majeri
1.Margulis, Lynn (1998). Symbiotic Planet. NY: Basic Books, p.120
2.Barad, Karen (2007). Meeting The Universe Halfway. Durham & London: Duke UP, p.393
Leyla Majeri’s practice focuses on sculptural installation and experimental film animation, bringing them into a close relationship with ecology and its links to the material, the imagined and the political. Her first solo exhibition, Harness the Sun(Arprim, Montreal, 2016), began a reflection on her practice of gardening in which she explores the moving nature of boundaries, while negotiating the slippery distinction between the act of cultivating and the cultivated object.
She pursued her work in Don’t Blame Us If We Get Playfulpresented at Galerie de l’UQAM (2018). Her films and installation work have been shown recently at Parisian Laundry, Sounds Like/Paved Arts, Eastern Bloc, and the Festival du nouveau cinéma. She was the recipient of a project grant from the Canada Council for the Arts (2017) and a residency at the Est-Nord-Est artists centre (Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, 2017). Leyla Majeri recently completed a Master’s degree in Visual and Media Arts at l’UQAM.
Katherine Kline is a psychotherapist in private practice, and a PhD candidate in Communication Studies at Concordia University. Her research looks at the boundaries between bodies and psyches, materiality and immateriality, through an inquiry into spiritual mediumship, dendrophilia, and the work of Wilhelm Reich. She also plays music in crone-core project the Powers, (alongside Mensch and Pelstring), and has collaborated extensively with Majeri, on words, puppets, film and sound.
Leyla Majeri wishes to thank Mylène Dupont et Stéphane Beaulieu for their generosity and for sharing their precious knowledge.
Photo credits : Jean-Michael Seminaro