Remedies for New Deserts
Archival inkjet prints of four Soil Chromatographs [soil sample, lye solution, silver nitrate, filter paper] made from sites at the Granite Mountains Desert Research Center, dropper bottles, labels, magnets, remedy [water, brandy]
Modern Flower Remedies were created in 1930 by Dr. Edward Bach, a British physician and homeopath. The theory behind remedies is that the energetic imprint of the flower (or gem or landscape) can support emotional wellbeing, which is directly connected to physical health. The energy is imprinted in spring water, and afterward protected from direct sunlight and preserved in brandy. The “mother” remedy can be used to create more “seed” remedies, using only a few drops. This is based on the homeopathic “‘law of minimum dose’—the notion that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness.” (from the Bach remedy website). Bioremediation is defined as “the treatment of pollutants or waste (as in an oil spill, contaminated groundwater, or an industrial process) by the use of microorganisms (such as bacteria) that break down the undesirable substances” (from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary). The word remedy is within it, pointing to the potential for kinship and crossover between these two forms of healing. The science of microbiology may seem to be at odds with the energetic practices utilized in remedies, but there may be a synergy between these divergent yet etymologically related treatments.
Water is another key link between these two healing modalities. Remedies require water as a medium into which the energy of the healing flower or other substance is patterned. Bioremediation utilizes bacteria, which are living beings and require water. Decomposition, metabolism and reproduction cannot happen in the absence of water. One of the meanings of the word remedy is to redress a wrong – in this sense, water can be considered a remedy in itself, if one considers climate change, increasing temperatures and desertification as a wrong which must be redressed.
Springs which emerge from the Mojave Desert landscape can be thought of as being imprinted with a remedial energy through which the diverse desert life-forms receive the rare and life sustaining element of water. Deserts have adapted since time beyond memory to live and even thrive in a dearth of water, and that resourcefulness and adaptability is challenged now more than ever by record breaking temperatures. The question I wish to ask in my research is how the energy of desert springs can be shared with other lands through remedies to encourage and support the adaptation needed to survive and thrive through the influence of drought. Remedies were developed for use by humans, but I propose that land and diverse living beings may benefit from doses of this energetic medicine as well.
The three sites from which I made remedies were all in the Granite Mountains Desert Research Center, part of the University of California Reserve System. Snake Spring was a trickle down the huge granite boulders, pooling in only a few places, a scant few cups of liquid at most. I noticed it by way of the sun reflecting off the wet surface. On the way there, I found two snake skins beneath a yucca, and brought them with me as an offering to the Spring. Once there, I made another remedy at the base of a large willow, an expression of the chthonic flow of water below the ground. The water-loving tree was a chaotic cluster of living and dead trunks and branches, like a log jam.
There were large, dark polypore mushrooms growing out of the dead logs. The last essence was made in the cracks of the granite boulder, opened after millenia of water seeping into the porous stone and freezing, cracking them open. There were an array of colorful lichens – which are a symbiotic creature made of both algae and fungi who adapted to each other in order to survive. These three sites spoke to me of the role of water in the desert, and the way life adapts in the dry places of the world. From each place I gathered a teaspoon of soil, from which I made a series of four chromatographs, one of each sample and one of the samples combined.
Soil chromatography is a photographic technique used to analyze the mineral composition of soil samples. Dissolved in a lye solution, the sample is taken up through a wick into a filter paper soaked in silver nitrate. The concentric rings of various shades and textures of brown can be read as information about the soil’s content. I am working with the Soil Chromatographs as another medium into which the energetic patterns of the site can be imprinted and perceived outside of the original context. Displayed with the remedies, these images and this solution of water and brandy come together to convey some of the embodied knowledge of the place, as well as the science and folk-science used to translate the language of place into one that can be interpreted by others.
Emergency blankets, digital microscope photographs inkjet printed on silk, scraps leftover from making clothes and/or dyed with indigo, madder root, avocado pit, cochineal, rust, vinegar and used tea leaves, greenhouse structure refinished with spray paint, grow lights, air pump, glass jars and test tubes, small greenhouse containing red wiggler worms, Amanita Muscaria, Corpse Flower, Kelp Powder, Alfalfa meal, Molasses, Fish emulsion, stainless steel pump sprayer, box fan, compost, porcelain bones, handmade paving stones dyed with ultramarine pigment and finished with polished amethyst, decorated compost bucket, scavenged clear plexiglass, essential oil diffuser with “dirt” perfume oil, found lime green skull lamp, assorted buttons and stickers by Gentle Thrills, Arcane Bullshit, Nicole Lavelle, Besh ℅ IWW, the DSA Ecosocialist working group, Mary Tremonte, Twyla and ?
Cotton twill dyed with rust, vinegar, salt and used tea leaves, scraps leftover from making clothes, shell buttons, steel, saltwater, spray paint, plants, soil
Site Scents I – Hot Hillside
Geosmin (molecule released by soil microbes after rain), cypress essential oil, rosemary essential oil, jojoba oil, glass bottle, wood, archival inkjet print on silk, emergency blanket, dimensions variable
Site Scents II – Free Garden
Geosmin (molecule released by soil microbes after rain), rose essential oil, lavender essential oil, jasmine essential oil, melissa essential oil, lemon essential oil, jojoba oil, glass bottle, wood, archival inkjet print on silk, emergency blanket, dimensions variable
Site Scents is a series of fragrances archiving microclimates within the bounds of a rough square mile, centering soil as the subtle, living substrate from which more pronounced and divergent flora emerge. Geosmin is the base note of the perfume oils, which foresee futures in which our memories of rapidly changing places may be supported by these microbial and botanical essences preserved in a carrier oil. Ongoing and acute drought is changing these ecosystems, and without rain to feed both the plants and the soil, these scents may in time become an ephemeral object of nostalgic longing, serving as an anchor to memory and place.
eye mask, pillow and weighted blanket filled with compost, hand-dyed salvaged silk
Funeral Vessels for Future Life (series)
biodegradable acetate, 22K gold leaf, rabbit skin glue, charcoal from ritual fire, unfired clay figurines, artworks on paper, red worms, fruit, mushrooms, flowers and herbs
The Decomposers is both a series of digital photographs and a video in which humans and a canine enact a ritual of devouring and transforming organic matter into soil, channeling the microbial and fungal beings of the soil food web and bringing them into a mythopoetic feast.
Cold Comfort (Year 0)
ash from a series of consecutive ritual hearth-fires lit nightly in Santa Cruz for the duration of the deadliest wildfire in California history, the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA, water from the first rain after a many month long drought, charcoal made from burning personal documents of a past life, acrylic medium, cotton, wool