Authors: "The Plant Contingent:" Ana Fernandez Miranda Texidor, Ph.D., Nandita Baxi Sheth, Cohort ’19, Samantha Jones, Cohort ’19, Maria Patricia Tinajero, Ph.D.
The Plant Contingent is a creative collective formed in 2020. Members include Ana Fernandez and Maria Patricia Tinajero, who recently received their doctorates in January 2023, and Sam Jones and Nandita Baxi Sheth, who are currently working on their doctoral dissertations. The group came together through shared artistic and theoretical practices that led us to explore ways of collaboration through art-making, writing, and teaching.
We begin with the question: “How do we, like plants, work on Thinking-Becoming?” The Plant Contingent explores alternative ways of being through an emerging method that combines creative and artistic research guided by other realms of knowledge-creation, such as plant ontology. The dispersed geographies of the Contingent members across the United States and Ecuador become virtual sites for collectively developing works of art, proposals, and texts that cultivate and thrive on collaboration and an association with plants, soil, bees, and mycelium. Emerging organically, this collaboration concatenates synchronous and asynchronous processes by thinking together–apart, in a disposition of perseverance and generosity.
The Plant Contingent engages others through participatory practices, inventing new ways to be with plants beyond purely functional or aesthetic approaches. For example, the Seance-sorium is an embodied research and creative practice in which the collective seeks to reach its tendrils, branches, and roots far and deep beyond human-being. Modifying automatic processes inspired by nineteenth- century spiritualists and French Surrealists, the Seance-sorium has opened many interstitial spaces between individual artists’ practices and philosophical fabulations. Still, instead of looking inward toward the subconscious or another human spiritual realm, the Seance-sorium seeks to be entangled with other ontologies, including plants. This practice also includes the knowledge and wisdom of the Andean and Amazonian yachags and vegetalistas from South America, which energizes participants’ spontaneous responses to the becoming-with-plants. Participants are gently guided in meditation with a plant or plant product of their choice and then asked to respond creatively to the experience with art-making tools of their choice. The responses, including drawings, sketches, and poetry, are then shared.
On February 25, 2023, Starseed Studios hosted our first in-person Seance-Sorium in Beverly, MA. It was an energetic and transformational experience. One participant reflected, “This workshop felt like the beginning of a conversation. […] Encouragement with the natural cycles can help people navigate the lessons that we all go through. Soil is the soul” (Danielle Dawson). Dawson captures the experience of the Seance-Sorium, which is carried on to other ongoing projects, such as the series of exquisite corpse artworks that are created rhizomatically across geographies and temporalities.
The Plant Contingent has held several online events of the Seance-sorium with the Beverly Philosophy Salon at the University of Maine as part of its Creative Ecologies Series and an IDSVA Student Symposium. The Plant Contingent artworks and writings populate a living archive, which can be found on Instagram and our website. Our in-progress projects include plant divination cards, residencies, and teaching. We have an upcoming exhibition-performance at Espacio Arte Actual in Quito, Ecuador, on November 2023, where we will be showing our collaborative work, will be doing plant-card divinations, and a Seance-sorium. We look forward to sharing more developments as they emerge.