Latent Commons (2019, ongoing)

Live performance installation

Exhibition history 2019 Siobhan Davies Dance, London, UK (solo)

Latent Commons is part of a series of works which use live performance, film, text and collage to explore what we as humans can learn about new-world-building from observing the multispecies entanglements we are a part of. Specifically, how the other critters, organisms and intelligences we share this planet with come together in hidden, surprising and dynamic ways to form networks and create ways of surviving in increasingly damaged landscapes (for example how trees of the same species send messages to one another via networks of mycorrhizal fungi, enabling them to warn of potential danger or share nutrients; or how the matsutake mushroom thrives in forests disturbed by human activity). This research is influenced by the writings of Anna Tsing (specifically The Mushroom at the End of the World and Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet), Mel Y Chen (Animacies) and Donna Haraway (Staying With The Trouble).

“When Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1945, it is said, the first living thing to emerge from the blasted landscape was a matsutake mushroom.”

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing ‘The Mushroom at the End of the World’

Latent Commons invites you to observe part of an ongoing process of entanglement between bodies attempting to survive within a damaged landscape. Four bodies (sometimes fewer, sometimes more) occupy a site marked by a grid indicative of an archaeological dig that has taken–or is yet to take–place. Through the development of tasks and gestures seen established at the start of the process, we witness the group navigating, excavating and cultivating individual and shared spaces. In doing so they find ways to co-exist, cooperate and contaminate one another in both successful and failed attempts at new-world building.

The audience is asked to patiently observe patterns of encounter and transformation in which different ways of being and doing find interesting things to do together. They are encouraged to watch out for connections, in part by noticing when they collapse or when they enable something entirely new to emerge. Acts of contamination often act as a tracer through which we can see relations. The work is an installation approached like a garden, in that is it a space of constant activity, growth and cycles which can be experienced fleetingly or over a long period of time, allowing for repeated visits or extended stays.

studio research

“Living in a time of planetary catastrophe thus begins with a practice at once humble and difficult: noticing the world around us.”

Anna Tsing et al. ‘Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet’

Karen Callaghan is measuring something. She raises one straight arm, thumb up; she sights something; she looks into the distance past the wall, where she cannot see. She looks and the size of something is understood and inscribes itself in relation to the size of a human body that is Karen Callaghan. Nearby Samir approaches Leah; they turn away from each other.

The movements are excavations, measurements, instances and fruits of noticing, abrasions of thought. In this studio or another studio there were other or similar gestures. Photographs of these show a mouth around a knee, two open palms, bright colours, an embrace, a part of someone pushing a something away. A something is close to but not quite another part of someone. Light. Then nearness, thought, touch, rejection, interpellation. Turn away and towards one another.

extract from Certain Warning Cases exhibition text by Isobel Wohl

Original research for Latent Commons is a collaboration with performers Karen Callaghan, Leah Marojevic and Samir Kennedy.

Performed at Siobhan Davies Dance by Karen Callaghan, Leah Marojevic, Hollie Miller and Seke Chimutengwende.

Lighting design in collaboration with Studio Naama and costume in collaboration with HAiK.

Photographs by Harry Mitchell.

Initial research for Latent Commons was supported by Arts Council Developing Your Creative Practice grant and exhibition at Siobhan Davies Dance was supported by The Elephant Trust.