FORAY AND INTUITIONS / Michela Filzi ©2023 / video by Evgenia Chetvertkova
URBAN PLANTARIUM is michela filzi’s research at the intersection between ecology and dance, combining foraging; the practice of collecting wild plants for culinary purposes, with somatic dance; focused on the attunement to the environment. The solo-movement research was funded by DIS-TANZ-SOLO both in 2022 and in 2023 where a participatory phase, called FORAY AND INTUITIONS, invited small groups of attendants into a series of somatic foraging walks. In these walks, michela filzi offered guided experiences and meditative propositions in different parks in Berlin. This research is an exploration of the nomadic practice of foraging, which enables one to encounter any landscape and attune to it, in the ever-changing green areas, parks and gardens of the urban landscape. The project concludes itself in the two events of URBAN PLANTARIUM - performances and conviviality, taking place in the yard of Uferstudios on the 20th and 21st of June 2023. All attendants of FORAY AND INTUITIONS and an extended audience are invited to gather around Solstice and the celebration of plant life.
The following page functions as a mind-map for the practical research I have been leading in June - November 2022 and March - June 2023. It is structured as a blog so that the most recent content appears on the top of this page, and as you scroll down, you go back in time. The content is being updated on a regular basis and it is in constant transformation, so there might be parts missing or incomplete.
Follow the project on Instagram
URBAN PLANTARIUM / Michela Filzi ©2023 / all photos by Evgenia Chetvertkova / designs by Florencia Konekamp Kusch
PLANTS MOVEMENTS AND SOUND
The choreographic research and the shaping of musical compositions, takes place between Berlin's parks and the dance studio. michela filzi and sound artist Sebastian Faust, harvest field recordings and use them to compose sound scores through the use of a motion tracking camera. The inspiration taken from a specific plant is translated into a movement improvisation, which is translated into a sound score.
The movement improvisation is guided by the association of the plant with a specific part of the body (energetic centres or chakras), a quality of movement and an energetic pattern.
Mugwort - Third eye - to see
Improvisation with Mugwort / Michela Filzi ©2023
Dandelion - Solar plexus - to act
Improvisation with Dandelions / Michela Filzi
Sketch by Michela Filzi ©2023 - association of 7 wild plants to the 7 chakras
Our physical shapes are the results of energetic patterns giving rise to those forms over time. Roots, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, energetic gestures: ascending, descending, contracting, expanding. From a tiny roundish thing we stretch out sinking our root pole into the ground and reaching the leaf pole up towards the light. Expanding upon germination, contracting into flower buds, expanding into flowers, contracting into pollen, expanding into fruit, contracting into seed.
Improvisation with Goldenrods/ Schönholzeheide Pankow / Michela Filzi ©2022
FORAY AND INTUITIONS
Foraging kit / Michela Filzi ©2021
FORAY AND INTUITIONS is a series of somatic foraging walks for small groups of 3 to 10 participants in different parks in Berlin, that started in April and concluded in June 2023, in these guided walks I offer meditative propositions and share my experience with wild foraging in the urban landscape. By somatic foraging, I refer to the practice of roaming in urban green spaces and foraging wild plants for eating and healing purposes. But as well, I understand the foraging in a metaphorical sense, where we are here in this place to seek and harvest a sense of belonging to nature and plant life, and a form of healing from our disconnected societal relationship to nature. And at the same time we are here to give something in return, may it be a physical thing, or just conscious attention and gratitude to all that we witness.
DOCUMENTATION OF THE SOMATIC FORAGING WALKS IN APRIL 2023
Volkspark Prenzlauerberg 10.04.2023
Walk in Volkspark Prenzlauerberg, Berlin 10.04.2023 / Michela Filzi ©2023
Walk in Plänterwald, Berlin 17.04.2023 / Michela Filzi ©2023
Walking is a central movement to this practice, as it is emerging from foraging. Foraging requires walking to and through parks, gardens, forests, fields and wherever plant-life thrives, which often is in the cracks between the asphalt and cobble-stones. This practice aims at nurturing spontaneous encounters with wild plants, therefore requiring a type of walking which is not destination oriented, but flâneur-like instead. When walking it asks one to "look around, rather than ahead", to direct the gaze sideways and from ground-level to above-the-head, to scan the surroundings with an open and welcoming attitude. It is not about searching for something, it is about being prepared to find and encounter.
Foraging is the practice of collecting wild plants for culinary and medicinal purposes. It can be done everywhere and my focus is the urban environment where i live, in Wedding (Berlin).
As I learned from the author Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book "Braiding Sweetgrass", to harvest plants, flowers or fruits is not something we can take for granted as it being our birth-right. Western society especially, has developed an approach to non-human-life which is disregarding the intrinsic value and agency of it. Within myself, it is my intention to deconstruct this socialisation towards non-human-life, and establish a loving and grateful relationship. Especially plant-life, offers itself unconditionally, to sustain and nourish human and other-than-human life, so how can we perceive this as a gift and remember to be mindful of it?
In her book she extensively talks about her research in indigenous approaches to harvesting, laying out the practice of the "Honorable Harvest"; which compiles few simple rules to respect when going into nature to gather from plants, trees or mushrooms.
- Take only what you need, and use everything you take.
- Never take the first plant that you see.
- Never take more than half.
These simple principles accompanied by a general sense of appreciation and practices of gratitudes, grant that my interaction with plant-life stays healthy and respectful.
Furthermore there are also practical advices on where to harvest and where not, for examples avoiding areas next to big trafficked roads, or picking above knees level or where there are not many dogs being walked.
EATING AND METABOLISING
Eating and drinking preparations of local plants is important to me in different ways.
- As a way to nourish my body of spontaneous plant-life, its autonomy and strength. Wild plants are not cultivated in human horticulture, they evolved alongside human and non-human life for millennia.
- As a way to metabolically connect to my direct environment, by ingesting plants-preparations that grows in the parks and green areas directly surrounding my house.
- As a way to connect spiritually to the world, learning to acknowledge the natural force that animate the places I inhabit. To learn how to receive their abundance with gratitude and respect.
- As a way to develop survival skills for future scenarios of scarcity.
When beginning the research process I intuitively started by focusing on the color green, being the color of most vegetation I encounter in my walks. (According to the colors/chakras graph - see section below) Green is the color associated with the heart chakra, which is the energetic point that connects the body to nature, where a sense of compassion and connection to the earth resides.
The heart chakra relates to the heart and the lungs, whose rhythmical involuntary movements keeps our bodies alive, differently than the heartbeat, breath is both involuntary and voluntary, we can consciously direct it.
Breathing is the most direct way we (humans) relate to plant-life, as plants and trees transform carbon dioxide and other gasses into oxygen, which sustains our existence. Every human inhalation a non-human exhalation, bounding us by our breath.
Conscious breathing to activate the heart chakra became part of the practice, as a warming up and attuning exercises. In some occasions these exercises awakened strong emotions that were stored in the heart, such as grief, sorrow and pain. But it was important to accept these emotional states and let go to crying or sobbing, to then feel forgiveness and unconditional love rise up from the same energetic center.
Summer 2022 was an especially hot and dry one. All over Europe the temperatures reached unprecedented records, It was worrisome and unsettling to hear about the wildfires in the south of Spain, Portugal, Greece and France. But also in front of our very eyes the trees and the plants all over Berlin were suffering the droughts. In several occasion as I walked through the parks in the early morning hours, when the sun and the temperature were on the rise, I was filled with a sense of environmental grief. But I was determined not to let worry misuse my imagination. This project has brought immense healing to my personal life and so I sought ways to channel healing energy back into our wounded world.
Singing came as a surprise but also a very natural impulse, a spontaneous way of attuning and vibrating with my direct environment through the most intimate, internal body, the voice.
I would sing a song to the plants when studying their shapes and behaviours and when harvesting them. Humming is a way of soothing oneself or others, I thought it must apply to all critters. It became a practice of gratitudes I would always conclude my sessions with. In particular I got attuned to the song "Green Grass" written by Tom Waits and which I learned from Cosmo Shelkdrake. I did change some of the lyrics and started improvising with the melody and rhythm.
PLANTS AND POETRY
Tall and green
spirals under spiky hairs
flowers under the burning sun.
Have we met before?
Surely so, when we rubbed
in an itchy embrace
to hurt, to heal.
Red stalks, breathing out
as I breathe in,
nourish my flesh
cleanse my blood.
from my stomach
to my taste buds.
storming inside me.
COLORS AND CHAKRAS
Sketch by Michela Filzi ©2022, notions from "The Language of Plants, A Guide to the Doctrine of Signature by Julia Graves p. 73-98
INSPIRATION AND RESOURCES
Following Jared Gradinger's advice, and Shelley Etkin's workshop “Garden as Studio”; I have discovered the doctrine of signatures, which is of great inspiration to my research. “The Doctrine of Signature, as ancient as humankind, is the art of knowing from the outer appearance of a plant or environment what its medicinal properties are. It is the art of decoding the secret of nature.”
How can the morphologies, the colours, the behavioural and energetic patterns of plants be translated in a movement vocabulary?
How can the dance emerging from this translation and become a form of healing for the dancer and the spectators to the dance?
How can dancing together with plant life become a ritual for healing our human approach to nature?
By healing I personally refer to the overcoming of a sense of alienation from non-human life. Healing as the acceptance of human interconnectedness and interdependence to the ecosystem. The recognition of a physical and spiritual relationship to the world, founded on gratitude and respect.
“The doctrine of signature operates through at least two different subjective faculties, INTUITION and IMAGINATION” Wood 1997
"INTUITION is the ability to see patterns"
"IMAGINATION is the ability to see images"
Principles for plant attunement as described in the book by Julia Graves „The Language of Plant, A Guide to the Doctrine of Signature“.
In this book, the author outlines four rules to enter a meditative, dream-like state to experience and learn the poetic language of plants. In my practical sessions in parks and gardens, I use these rules as a method to tune into my environment, along with breathing exercises (inspired by my Kalari training) and other form of plant and tree meditation.
We can attune to plant life only by allowing its poetic language to pass through the constant chatter of the mind, so to start: still and calm the mind. Closing the eyes, seating or lying down, focus on what we hear, the sound of the leaves, the wind, the animals. Acknowledge every sound that reaches your hearing, and acknowledge its impermanence, and as thoughts or judgements arise in the mind, treat them the same way, acknowledge them and let them go.
We can perceive correctly only what does not get distorted by our layer of neurosis.
Let reasoning and interpretation come only after the direct communication with plants, restraining from talking and writing down immediately the slightest inkling of a signature.
We forget when we go from a mental state to another, it is therefore helpful to learn to come across the threshold slowly and mindfully, in order not to interrupt the link of memory.
Photo by Michela Filzi ©2022
Peony, video by Michela Filzi ©2021