Much of Lindsey french’s work seeks kinship and connection with the potencies, subtleties, and intricacies of plant life, even at its most reviled. In to what each is becoming in the presence of the other, she uses a remarkable array of electronic sensors and couples therapy scripts as means to relate to poison ivy, whose intention seems to be untouchability. In Written by Trees, french reads novels out loud to oak trees—young and old, in the forest and in the gallery—recording their minute vibrations in response and translating them into text.. Through this process, the plant becomes an author of its own. With Phytovision, plants are understood as kindred consumers of media, entertaining the (im)possibility that we can see what they might see. — AY
to what each is becoming in the presence of the other
2015, performance with poison ivy plant, heart rate sensor, piezoelectric sensor, surface transducer, couples therapy intake forms
Performed in conjunction with Field Study, an exhibition at David Weinberg Photography.
In the search for a phytocentric perspective, to what each is becoming in the presence of the other engaged with a poison ivy plant (Toxicodendron radicans) through gestures of attunement, amplifying moments of contact and exploring the resonances activated by these encounters. Working with this common and toxic plant that resists touch, expressions were mediated and elaborated through both verbal and nonverbal signaling. Mediation tools included couples therapy prompts, a heart rate sensor, a piezoelectric sensor, and a surface transducer. Visitors were invited to participate as listeners, witnesses, and corroborators in these mediated exchanges, which took place in periodic sessions throughout the evening. An “Attunement Guide,” modeled after couples therapy intake forms, was designed as a take-home artist publication for visitors to assess their own relationships with the plants in their lives. — Lf
Written by Trees
2012-14, Performance with oak tree (Quercus velutina) using piezoelectric sensors and custom software; resulting paperback novel; gallery exhibition and performance with young oak tree (Quercus rubra) using piezoelectric sensors, custom software, paperback novel, seating
During several weeks at an artist residency in Michigan, I was drawn to a tall oak that grew in the middle of the clearing. I passed most of each day with my back against the tree, drawing and considering both the surroundings and the oak tree itself. At this time, I was reminded of the main characters of Virginia Woolf’s biographical work, Orlando. The characters I reference here are not only the shape-shifting Orlando but the slow-growing oak tree, who, unlike Orlando, grows bigger and sturdier over the course of the novel. The Oak Tree is also the name of Orlando’s lifelong manuscript—sometimes poetry, sometimes prose, it embodies Orlando’s desirous creativity. In this body of work as editor, I reenact this scene, but reverse the gesture of this gift, offering instead the impossible gift of listening.
For the first instance in the project, I developed a framework for literary interaction between myself and Quercus velutina. I began by reading aloud the entirety of Orlando to the tree. During the nine hours of reading, the tree’s vibrational response was measured, establishing a key of translation between vibration and word. In the early morning following the reading, I again sat with the tree, this time just listening while I again recorded the tree’s vibrations. Using a custom script, I compared the new values with the translation key, and the resulting text formed the novel, seductiveness the which issued by the whole person. Four months later, this novel was read aloud to another younger oak tree during an exhibition, inspiring the next generation of literary trees and later adaptations for shorter poetic forms. — Lf
Phytovision — slow sublime
2016, video vignettes
Phytovision is a series of videos tailored for plant perception. Most plants can perceive light and shadow, and light in the color spectrum of red and blue. These videos are filtered for this portion of the visible light spectrum perceivable by most plants. Recorded at a high frame rate, the videos present small, tightly framed movements of plants in slow motion. Recorded in the Catskills, the camera points away from more historically imaged landscapes and toward small weeds and forest flowers. These video vignettes approach a “plant’s-eye-view” of these sublime landscapes. — Lf
About Lindsey french
Lindsey french is an artist, educator, and writer whose plant-oriented work takes many forms, including texts written in collaboration with trees, scent transmissions, and videos made for plant perception. french’s research-based practice engages with multi-sensory and multispecies signaling to consider positions of listening, receptivity, and marginality as valid and active political and communicative positions. french’s work has been shared in venues such as the Museum of Contemporary Art and the International Museum of Surgical Science (Chicago), Pratt Manhattan Gallery (New York), and in conjunction with Uncommon Senses III: Back to the Future of the Senses at Concordia University (Montreal). Recent publications include chapters for Olfactory Art and The Political in an Age of Resistance (Routledge), and Why Look at Plants (Brill), and poetry for the journal Forty-Five.