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THE WORD FOR WORLD IS FOREST 

Nancy Azara / Karen Azoulay / Jesse Cohen / Tom Costa / Adjua Gargi Nzinga Greaves / E.E. Ikeler / Eva Joly / Caitlin MacBride / Virginia Lee Montgomery / Greg Parma Smith / Michael Wang

Curated by Linnea Vedder 
March 6 - 28, 2021
Opening Reception: Saturday March 6, 12-6pm

Tom Costa, Untitled (Pareidolia) 2, Oil on canvas, 10 x 12 inches

I sit still and feel my roots growing down into the ground. I’m turning green, but I don’t have eyes, so it’s more of the feeling of green than the color. I soak up the sun with my tiny solar arrays that are appearing all over my back, the backs of my arms, and now sprouting out of the top of my head. I am becoming hollow in some places so that my structure grows taller and I can effortlessly blow back and forth in the wind. I flutter.
...
Three months into quarantine and I’m feeling alone, but not lonely. The plants on this mountain greet me every morning and whisper goodnight before I fall asleep. The fallen tree trunks have become jungle gyms and the beech trees are friendly ghosts. There are two trees here called grandfather and grandmother tree that have been fed with my grandparent’s ashes. I feel a kinship to this land and I have started to learn the Latin and English names for some of the plants. I imagine, as Robin Wall Kimmerer did, Carl Linnaeus, the father of binomial nomenclature and my namesake, and Nanabozho, the Anishinaabe mythical first human, walking in these woods together, forging relationships with the flora around them.
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On the most fundamental level, humans have always connected with plants. Before plants were cultivated by humans they nourished us with food, shelter, and medicine. The plant/human relationship goes deeper than history records, and cultures have been built upon the cultivation of food crops. In turn, we have honored plants with mythologies and stories. We bring Christmas trees into our homes in the winter and adorn them, we plant decorative gardens, and enshrine ancient trees. We have protected great swaths of land and designated them “forever wild” to protect the plants inside. We emulate plant technology in our creation of solar power, structural design, and many other technologies.
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In this moment I am lying sideways in a small grove of birch trees, quite comfortable in the soft brown leaves. I am visited by many birds who don’t seem to notice me lying still on the ground. The sound of rushing water is close by, evidence that spring will come soon and that the snow is melting at the tops of the mountains. I imagine that I can sense the sap rising, as if I have telepathy, thinking here of the etymology of the word, coming from tele meaning “distant”, and pathos meaning “feeling, perception, experience”. I am also carrying the seeds of future life inside of me. I imagine the trees can sense my pregnancy and our combined excitement makes me feel flushed.
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Our relationship with the environment has only recently been understood by western science as an intricately woven interconnectedness, otherwise known as an ecosystem. This reciprocal relationship has been known to indigenous peoples for time untold. Today we are living through a period of upheaval surrounding water use, the burning of fossil fuels, and the possibility of mass extinction of species. Facing a climate crisis we know that much of the damage to the earth is due to deforestation and other practices of overconsumption of plants on a massive scale.
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The delicate Springbeauty flower (Claytonia Caroliniana) carpets the Adirondack forest floor every spring. My son and I giggle as we tiptoe through a patch, trying in vain not to step on any. These and all of the early flowers are the first signs of spring here, and as such capitalize on the maximal amount of sunlight they can receive before the canopy fills in. We eat a picnic next to the flowers and watch them wiggle in the wind.
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The Luna Moth, named by Linnaeus in 1758, renamed from its original “brilliant, feather tail”, is strikingly giant and bright green. Its visage is so incredible that Linnaeus only could see fit to name it after a Roman goddess. In its winged and most glorious stage of life, the Luna moth only lives around seven days. I lie on my back with my feet in the air, close my eyes and imagine I am a larvae. We begin to metamorphize, recombining DNA/pronouns/nouns, scrambling ourselves and emerging in our most regal form. Form turned goo, turned form again, until our imaginal discs become a new reality.
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Many science fiction writers have conjectured about ways to talk to plants. Ursula K. Leguin proposed ideas like “therolinguistics”(the language of animals), “kinesics” (communicative motion), and “tactile language”, all of which are ways to speak animals and plants with a sort of telepathy. Perhaps these abilities already exist, and if we reframe what it is to communicate, and consider what the language of plants might be, we could see that we are already in deep communication with the world of flora. On a basic level, this exhibition is a show about plants. Digging deeper, it is a consideration of human culture, language as an abstract concept based on social constructs, and of communication that happens in the realm of the nonverbal.

- Linnea Vedder

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