Flower Marie Lunn (MFA Fibres 2011 Concordia), essay "Patterns of growth and perception: the site, the city and the wild"

This is more background material — more earth — for the resurgence of vegetal interests in the TML thanks to the prolific energies of Oana, Nina, Elysha et al.   Flower once wrote a moving letter about what was at stake in our early discussions about minor, poetic speculative architecture.   I can’t find that inspiring letter among my archives, but I send you her AIS essay.

Flower Marie Lunn
MFA Fibres 2011 Concordia
See artist statement below and attached
AI & Society essay "Patterns of growth and perception: the site, the city and the wild"

Flower Marie Lunn at Parisian Laundry, in Collision 7
Artist statement: niche opportunity

My practice is a continued examination of the subtle intertwining of wild and urban ecologies,
and our relations to the local landscapes we live within. To this end, I focus on awkward or disused
architectural architectural spaces as sites of invasion by processes of decay, growth and colonisation.
In a postminimalist tradition, my practice brings attention to the existent shape and texture of the
space around the work through subtle gestures that present or suggest processes of instability that
may already be at work. Taking inspiration from minerals, molds, insects, mosses and plants, I
present interpretations of overlooked ecologies. In a variety of scales, and occasionally within the
landscape itself, my work is a continual inquiry into the nature of our interaction with the non-human
world; our relation to local ecologies as they are or may be, and our response to subversion of our
assumptions about human-imposed boundaries.

To see the world as it is, with its complex layers of interaction between the architectures and
infrastructures of our cities, the ruptures of the derelict and the wild and weedy bits of nature
inbetween, we must focus on the spaces around us. Though it is often a dismissive act, perception is
actually an interaction with our surroundings, a “reaching out to the world.”1 Noticing the presence of
the non-human other, whether plant, animal, fungus or mold, is a chance to see the relations we have
with it, and how it responds to our built spaces. This relational way of seeing “places us fully within the
field of our many relations, sensitive once more to the volume, the width, and depth of being within an
animated landscape.”2 Though displaced, disturbed and fragmented, the wild continues in and
through the margins of urban space, and is no less animate.

This notion of invasion or infestation by landscape elements has been one that has guided my
work; as much as it is possible I view installation sites with a non-human perspective, thinking about
microbes, insects, animals, and plants' approach to a particular site. These organisms
opportunistically inhabit various conditions favorable to them; their presences tracing the elements
they require, ignoring our delineation of space. The UK artists Helen Nodding and Lizzie Cannon
have been of particluar influence here, as well as the manga artist Yuki Urushibara, and the wealth of
documentation from urban explorers the world over, in addition to my own observations throughout the
city. These invasions are moments when the boundaries of our architectures function instead as
thresholds, and indicate that conceptions of fixed boundaries – inside and outside – are ever
impermanent. In fact, scientific redefinitions of ‘limiting surfaces’ indicate that closed boundaries never
really existed in the first place. Like porous membranes, surfaces are the areas of osmotic exchange
when differing environments meet. For then the “limitation of space has become commutation… the
activity of incessant exchanges.”3

1Yi-Fu Tuan, quoted in Sewall, Laura, Sight and Sensibility: The Ecopsychology of Perception, NewYork:Putnam Press ,
1999, page 16
2 Sewall, Laura, Ibid, page 124
3Virilio, Paul, “The Overexposed City”, Neil Leach,ed., Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory, London:

The bunker corridor of Parisian Laundry is an ideal site for this discussion. Its ceiling is slowly
crumbling, and gaps and holes in the concrete reveal its reinforcing grid, rusting and crumbling as
well. It is a localized area of decay, of dereliction within the boundary space of a commercial art
gallery. It is also an area of architectural anomaly: here the viewer is confronted with the architecture
and materials of the building. With its low ceiling one feels it necessary to bend to get through it, and
for a moment we directly sense the mass and presence of the buildings we habitually move through.
This basement-like passageway is one a viewer either avoids and passes through quickly, or is drawn
to, enjoying the cave-like aspects of it. Either way, it is not a neutral space, but one charged with
intensity. Its decay goes for the most part unnoticed, but for the adventurous who enjoy awkward
spaces and architectural rupture. As I am such a viewer, this is exactly what niche opportunity

In a visual metaphor, the partially uncovered reinforcing structures that form our secure spaces
transmute into softer, organic ones. Their gestures of stability and fixedness become looser, erratic,
as they chaotically explore and reach out into the room. No longer are they dependably obeying our
human purposes; these structures now follow their own agenda, at the very least holding the door
open for organic oversized roots to invade the interior space. These conceivably may continue into
tangled messes and masses of chaos. Having gotten far enough, however, their gestures change into
lines that drop down from the ends, like fine litmus strips, to absorb the atmospheres of the activities
within the gallery. This is in much of the same vein as the soft ambiances the Situationists sought out
in their psychogeographical re-mapping of Paris: “the play of presence and absence, of light and
sound, of human activity, even of time and the association of ideas.”4

A key aesthetic guide for the form of niche opportunity were the poplar roots that are bound into
most of the pieces. A fast-growing species, poplar trees have very vigorous and invasive root
systems that stretch up to 40 m from the trees; if they are growing close to houses it may result in
cracked walls and damaged foundations. It is then not so far-fetched, given the crumbling ceiling of
the bunker corridor, to imagine the roots actually coming through the foundation of the building of their
own accord. However, it is the gestures of roots that are being quoted here; their vocabulary, as their
presence is overshadowed by other materials, becoming something else altogether.
The actual roots are bundled and wrapped with wire, yarn, embroidery thread and fleece.
Echoing electrical wires, data bundles and insulation, they evoke the hidden elements that travel
through a building distributing energy and data. At their initial emergence, they are wrapped in thread
and twine that mimic the overhead grid, as well as textiles that soften interior spaces. As they move
out from their origin, they loosen and become softer until they swell into amorphous ends, before
dropping downwards into another form entirely. In this way they surrender their structural forms,
becoming mere lines bound by gravity, and then begin to dissolve even that.
Routledge, 1997

4 Sadler, Simon, The Situationist City, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998

The aesthetics of wrapping express care or preservation, as in bandaging or mummification. As
I worked, the histories of the roots became apparent; their twists and bends a record of their routes
through underground densities, and veins of nourishment. All this was being preserved and encased
in a more permanent way than their fragile skeletons would allow. Another aspect of wrapping is that
of binding. In our earliest technologies, binding was how we made our tools, our dwellings, our human
world. The binding of two things together continued to be the essence of magic; of the actual to the
desired. There is a coaxing, an intimacy to binding, much like vows, that preserves the being-ness of
both elements while forcing them to work together for as long as the binding lasts. Next to
conventional construction methods of hitting and cutting, binding is an integrative act of responding to
the world, acknowledging its impermanence, while still making something with it. For this reason,
this is very much a textiles piece.

In its intimate relation to the site, however -its specificity- makes it much more about the space,
in a specific moment in time. Late March and April is the spring melting season, when dampness
seeps in, a time when hidden things had been accumulating or infesting our buildings over the winter
are revealed. It is very appropriate, therefore to present this piece during this season of strange
discoveries, of uneasiness mixed with the optimism of the coming spring, and anticipation of a
heightened engagement with the ecologies around us.

Though the details of its construction are very apparent, and it is a somewhat exaggerated
presence in the space, niche opportunity still may conceivably have grown of its own accord,
exploiting the ruptures of an architectural anomaly. Indeed at the opening, one viewer was heard to
remark that she didn't realize there was a piece there; that instead she thought the gallery had a root
problem. That ambiguity for me is the measure of success of my work, for it then invites a closer look
at the art, architectures and non-human beings around us, and potentially at ourselves as “a
constellation of interdependent processes,”5 in continual exchange with our living, growing world.
5Pepperell, Robert, The Posthuman Condition: Consciousness Beyond the Brain, Portland: Intellect Books, 2003

Professor and Director • School of Arts, Media and Engineering • Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts / Director • Synthesis Center / ASU
Founding Director, Topological Media Lab / topologicalmedialab.net/  /  skype: shaxinwei / +1-650-815-9962