Recently the Singapore Psychogeographical Society was up in Manila to speak at a satellite event for Wawi Navarroza’s exhibition, “Hunt & Gather, Terraria”. She had kindly invited me down, and I had long wanted to visit Manila, so it was perfect, especially because the project seemed really fascinating and close to my heart.
From the project text: “Project Terraria is the artist Wawi Navarroza’s public call for the urbanfolk of Metro Manila to forage for soil, plants, wild growth, moss, pebbles, and ephemera from unlikely places and meaningful locations in the city. The materials from various sources are then juxtaposed and arranged in terrariums by the artist, and photographed for exhibition “ULTRAMAR, Part II: HUNT & GATHER, TERRARIA” on view at Silverlens Galleries 5 June – 6 July 2013. Ultimately, the communal project builds a psychogeographic map of the corners of Metropolitan Manila, the city and its memories, and its pressing realities written in a created habitat of plantlife and native soil.”
In short, a public call was made for urban dwellers in Manila to collect ephemera and other materials from all sorts of locations around Manila, and then Wawi arranged them into beautiful terrariums, which were documented in photographs and are later to be published in a book that Wawi and the Office of Culture and Design are working on at the moment. They should be announcing their book launch soon and I’m real excited to see the book – it already sounds like the book will be really amazing!
For me, reading the descriptions were just as interesting as viewing the terrariums. Here are a few of them…
Preparing for the talk in the Gallery
“Matters of Psychogeography”
Post-talk picture: Wawi, Marc, Clara, Debbie.
As we departed from Silverlens, the group of us attracted the attentions of a taxi with an incredible name, and it pulled up, lingering in front of us for quite some time, trying to convince us to go together with him on the Metropolis Adventure Royal Cruise. A Metropolis Cruise to Nowhere…
I’ll be really interested to see what happens to the plants after a few months. I suppose I’ve had some experience moving plants around – I remember being the sort of horrifying child that would put everything in her pockets, so much so that common statements that I constantly heard from my parents (and still hear to this day) include “DON’T PUT IN YOUR MOUTH!” and “DON’T PICK UP THE RED WAX!!!!”. I once carried home some raintree seeds from the school playground and planted a small raintree in the utility area, somewhat to the detriment of my mother’s washing. Repeated “scavenging” for plants outside, and bringing home new plants resulted in my realisation that plants could actually contract diseases from one another, that perhaps the reason why people did not pick up plants from random places to bring back to one’s garden was that some soil and some plants were indeed carriers for diseases that could wipe out an existing garden, even if you initially couldn’t see any traces of the bugs or the diseases. Or who knows, perhaps they will thrive in spite of the environment, developing a resistance to these strains of plant diseases.
I just love the idea of it being a movement of soil. I think being able to move and transport things around is part of life, or a sign of life. Soil and earth is the very fabric of the land, something so nurturing, yet also commonly referred to as dirt. Most people in the city don’t like getting themselves muddy or dirty. But I am not afraid to get my hands dirty to get to know the soil and the earth. What if in a distant future all other information about the world was erased, but Wawi’s terrariums were still alive, and a future archaeologist/geologists examines it without knowing the context of its formation. What would they make of it? Would it confuse them, that so much effort and time had been spent to bring these particles together to form individual little pods of ecosystems, the unusual combination of which might not be apparent visually until one examined the nature of the soil and the rocks, and the origins of the plants inside?
Keep us updated on your terrariums, Wawi!
Facebook updates on the project here: https://www.facebook.com/WNterrariaproject
Thank you so much to Wawi, Clara, Marc, Karen, the people at Silverlens, for facilitating the talk, and making the project all come together!