artist | radical community arts organizer | independent curator | researcher | educator

in the works
previous projects
in/habit roving art series

press & archives

in the works:::

Carceral Ecologies

Landscapes for decolonizing our relations

In The Undercommons, Fugitive Planning & Black Study, a book about dispossession, debt/capitalism, dislocation, violence and blackness, Stefano Harney and Fred Moten call fugitive planning the work of taking apart and dismantling the structures that currently “limit our ability to find each other”. Carceral Ecologies is a proposition to reflect upon some of these chains-structures through two notions: extractivity and carcerality. When introducing The Undercommons, Jack Halberstam synthesizes: the undercommons - black people, indigenous peoples, queers and poor people -  cannot be satisfied with the recognition and acknowledgement generated by the very system that denies a) that anything was ever broken and b) that we deserve to be the broken part".

Carceral Ecologies proposes to define ecologies as environments favorable to living and thriving as humans and non-humans. It is a process-oriented art project with a long-term objective of a transmedia installation meant to interrogate what we need to heal from and how healing can be enacted. With care and ecology at its core, this performative and mixed media art project aims to partake in decolonizing our relations. In order to do so it seems crucial to articulate (as in thinking together) extractivity & carcerality as modalities of belonging and relating that one must unlearn. Extractivity refers to colonial, extractive relations to the land/plants, humans and non-humans beings) and carcerality, to various ordinary structures of existence such as those offered within advanced capitalism – common instances of wage work, the patriarchy, normative relationships, naturalized hierarchy, etc. - and slightly less ordinary and less metaphorical ones such as incarceration, forced displacement/migrations/the very existence of borders).

Thanks to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, I will be embarking on a two months research-creation art residency on Jicarilla Apache & Pueblos territory with the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) in May and June of 2022, and then will pursue my research and creation project back in Canada. My methods will include finding other humans to dialogue with, listening, learning, co-creating/experimenting, storytelling/translating, documenting and create video work, foraging and enfleurage and slow building sculptures with organic and non-organic matter. My interest in perfume making, ephemeral practices and olfactive healing are concomitant to the decolonization process demanding that one migrates from an extractive to a relationship-building rapport with human and non-human species.

Holding space for the transmission of lived experience and healing processes through (foraging) walks (conversations-while-walking, or sitting, if that is what our bodies need to do), to exchange on what it is that we need to heal from, our complex experiences of colonialism and carcerality (physical, geographical, temporal, cultural displacement and confinement) that individuals, but also peoples sharing common languages/imaginaries/experiences of oppression, may tell. The assumption here is that we need to name what we have to heal from specifically, in our own languages, including naming the current carceral and extractive structures in which we continue to live, as much as we need to talk-while-moving about what these healing processes look like so that we can partake in each others healing, and liberate ourselves and each other.

Conversation and storytelling is thus intended as material for art-making and in turn, art-making processes are meant to hold space for reimagining grammars and praxis of failing systems. Vernaculars are at the heart of these stories. As Donna Haraway says in Staying with the Trouble, it matters what worlds we use to make stories. In their non-translated-yet work "Parler en Amérique (Speaking -Franco- in America. Orality. Colonialism. Territory", Dalie Giroux reminds us that relationships, crafts, songs, slangs, ramshackled and confidential words, away from the sites of high culture, and certainly away from nostalgia and nationalism, are all part of these languages of the bastardized, minoritized, racialized and colonized where we may find insurgent cultural translation and perhaps, in the process, initiate an intimate decolonizing machine.

The way I have been thinking about decolonization has to do with building relationships outside capital and the State. My DIY curating and my latest curatorial/radical community arts organizing project called Plants and Animals gave me precious time and space to think and play with these notions; in fact they were the breeding ground for Carceral Ecologies that with your support I hope to continue to hash out and materialize into a curated and immersive ecological landscape involving scents “for decolonizing our relations”, as well as a multi-channel video piece, texts as performative forms of cultural expressions, sculptural embodiments of our relations and desires within and beyond colonial carceral economies.

I have been researching an invasive species called common tansy (tanacetum vulgare), it has historically been used for embalming by early settlers in the Americas (from the 1660s to the 19th century). While it is poisonous, its transporting scent and former purpose suddenly appeared fitting to accompany us in healing/grieving intergenerational trauma. Following the reflection brought about in the work of Kandis Williams, researching invasive species is also an occasion to question what is deemed propagable and desirable within our colonial economies.

We acknowledge and are grateful for the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, Arts Abroad, Residency program.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)