Every morning at 8:00 am I cycle down the street with my daughter Ruby on our way to her school. These mornings often start quietly.
One morning in winter we came across a palm tree, left behind by a bridge we cycle across daily. The palm lay on its side, in the shadow of the brick wall that separates the sidewalk from the water. It was unpotted, without leaves, with a clod of dried-out soil clinging to the roots.
A few days passed, and the palm greeted us every morning. While at first an unusual, but easily overlooked addition to my daily routine, my view on the palm eventually began to change. It struck me, that I looked forward to passing it. Ruby and I talked about it, but struggled to put the feeling into words.
Our conversations each morning became a collective quest to understand what it was that made the palm tree so special. Was it the way it contrasted with its surroundings? That it felt arbitrary? Or that the palm seemed to have been placed there as if on purpose?
At one point, Ruby suggested I take the palm to my studio. Doubts arose in my mind. Wasn’t the location part of its power? If I were to take the tree out of this specific situation, how would it change?
For several weeks the conversation turned to this recurring question. Eventually, after a long day at school, just before we crossed the bridge and passed the palm tree for the second time that day, Ruby said: “Dad, you just have to do it. Just take it with you, and you can always bring it back.”
But when we reached the bridge, where the palm had fulfilled its role so beautifully all those weeks, we saw that it was gone. In a way I was relieved that the image of the tree could survive as a memory, untouched, and that I wasn’t forced to disturb the equilibrium between the bridge and palm.
Months later, I walked into the studio of Bram De Jonghe, an artist in Billytown, who often takes things from the street. There, on the floor in the middle of his studio, was the palm. He had tried to bring it back to life but the tree was just as dry and leafless as it had been outside. Yet something else had changed. The wonderful sensation the palm had created — in its specific situation on the bridge — had evaporated.
SKRODERIDER AS PART OF PALM TREE
The Kitchen at Billytown invites the artist-run-space Lie Lay Lain, a curatorial and publishing platform based in New York City, to curate a group exhibition. The show, titled Skroderider, includes artists Joseph Buckley, Sara Enrico, Erin Johnson and Viola Yesiltac and will be on view September 3rd till December 18th 2021. The show’s works address material choices, particularly the porous authorial boundaries of material intention.
Lie Lay Lain is run by Matilde Guidelli Guidi and Joseph Montgomery and Skroderider is their third exhibition.
The title of the show references the sessile plants who become mobile among the plethora of protagonists in Vernor Vinge’s space opera A Fire Upon the Deep, 1992. A trickster intelligence gives the flora long term memory, the consequences of which rebound capriciously through the story’s universe. Once this species become both mobile and conscious of history, will, evolution, and chance, the distinctions between plant and animal, individual and collective action, begin to blur. By the story’s end, we distrust the sophont that enabled such a transformation.
Skroderider’s four exhibiting artists similarly, through material choices, employ such a catalytic storytelling, upending expectations for a surface or character. Joseph Buckley promotes the Orc from an evil role to that of surplus labor employed as modular furniture components, perniciously extra. To Sara Enrico, fabric, be it silk, canvas or neoprene, is multidimensional, becoming time-based when the gravity of bronze and oil paint weigh its surfaces. Viola Yesiltac’s pleather absorbs the boundaries of a seemingly prehistoric spread of ink the wandering of which is eulogized in adjacent photography navigating Istanbul, once a continental gateway, now a fluid border. Erin Johnson substantiates the non-binary, tempering the speed of the hothouse with the incantation of the chorus, praying empiricism catches up with the multiple ways fruit is born.
Helena Van Doeverenplantsoen 3, 2512 ZB The Hague, Netherlands