The Pigment Change
Divided into four chapters, The Pigment Change includes image-objects and photographic experiences that look beyond sustainable resources and practices to explore questions on our relationship to nature and on production and reproduction in the context of the ongoing climate crisis. This body of work analyses perspectives on causing existence and subsequent dynamics of exploitation, accumulation, and legacy, which are central to the current environmental collapse and the art industry too.
The Act of Producing, Family Album and Faire Une Photographie use photographic processes occurring in plants such as photoperiodicity, photobleaching and photosynthesis. Plant leaves, watercress seeds, and poinsettias are exposed to varying amounts of specific light rays to produce art that grows, fossilizes and disappears. The aesthetic of fragility of these artworks embeds a comprehension of photography as an ephemeral performative process serving reflection and self-expression over documentation. Offspring focuses on plants’ selective reproduction strategies to open a wider reflection on reproduction and plants’ agendas.
Chapter I: The Act of Producing
Producing artwork and knowledge (research) is central to any artist's career and life, but how does it participate in an extractive capitalistic economy? Is there a need to produce at all?
This first chapter of The Pigment Change is a self-reflective exploration of the impact of artistic production and the role of artists in the current climate emergency. The photographic leaf prints included here depict gestures and actions of working with leaves to share a self-reflective examination of my practice and our interdependence with plants.
Using my grandma's garden as a research and production centre, I identified thirty different plants and flowers in the garden that could be used to create photographic artwork. This chapter encapsulates years of research on photographic processes occurring in plants and on sustainable printing techniques, but also my grandmother’s intangible legacy, the knowledge and interest in plants she cultivated in me.
The Act of Producing prints are made by the bleaching action of sunlight on the chlorophyll pigments of a plant leaf. Each leaf's unique chemistry renders a print with different tonalities and contrast, making the hands pictured on the leaf sometimes more visible and other times more imperceptible, as such is the often-invisible feminine labour that goes into growing families and gardens.
Images of The Act of Producing series. BMW Residency Award Solo Show at Cloître Saint-Trophime, Les Rencontres d'Arles 2021 and at Paris Photo 2021.
Chapter II: Family Album
Whilst the ephemerality of products, contexts and relations has become one of the few constants of contemporary living, disappearing photographs are uncommon in the photographic industry.
In our increasingly precarious world, where climate conditions are more frequently extreme and where we have to reformulate our entire understanding of living to avoid extinction, the obstinate thinking of photography as an archival means to fix an image or moment seems primarily a mental fixation. Is it important if a photograph lasts a century when no one might be around by then? Can we afford the conditions for that photograph not to deteriorate?
While digital/analogue photographs are appropriate for commercialisation purposes they contribute to a shortening of our existence altogether as they depend on unsustainable dynamics of extraction (ie. minerals for digital captors or analogue prints), storage and disposal. On the other end, living and disappearing photographs free from toxic chemicals, plastics, minerals and existing only for a short period, involve materials and methods that can be practised and re-practised over time.
Taking this paradox of the unlimitedly ephemeral vs the limitedly archival as a starting point, Family Album photosynthesis-based living cress prints, bring a reflection on the notions of filiation, documentation, continuity, property, legacy and heritage.
This continuous flux of works-in-progress and works-in-decay proposes a sustainable scenario where the lasting materiality of photography is the one that decomposes in a short cycle, where art is primarily meant to be experienced rather than possessed, and where immaterial assets such as collective reflection and shared knowledge are valued over individual gain.
Chapter III: Offspring
Offspring records the birth of a leaf via time-lapse photography to reflect on plants’ selective reproduction strategies. Being sessile, plants have a variety of strategies to succeed in surviving. They can control their growth, pause it, and even enact degrowth when there is no favourable context. Plants are able to reduce their size and stop the production of new leaves to avoid overgrowth and unsustainable multiplication. Some of them, like Welwitschia Mirabilis, a native of desserts and arid contexts, can take these strategies to the extreme of only pushing two leaves in an entire life.
This chapter brings attention to the conscious choices plants make and their strategic thinking. It also aims to challenge conservative discourses on nature, usually based on a narrow understanding of “what’s natural”. Ie “the natural thing is to want to have children”.
Offspring promotes a comprehension of nature as a diverse and intelligent world to which we belong, and where a variety of plans and situations take place, including choosing not to reproduce. It brings attention to a path towards degrowth based on avoiding proliferation as a natural behaviour, and questions stereotypes and depictions of women refusing motherhood as mad, self-absorbed or childish. Offspring also evidences that foregoing maternity or parenthood can be a question of will, instead of an issue exclusively related to hormones or factors beyond one's control.
This third chapter uses photography as a tool to highlight plants’ agendas and interiority, and to reassess our relationship to nature exploring non-anthropocentric perspectives and possibilities for degrowth, while challenging archetypical scripts on women, motherhood and parenthood.
Images of the BMW Residency Award Solo Show at Cloître Saint-Trophime, Les Rencontres d'Arles 2021.
Chapter IV: Faire une photographie
Faire Une Photographie, (making a photograph) is a two-act photographic performance recorded via photography and video where Poinsettias are subjected to specific light regimes to change the pigmentation of their foliage. The performances re-enact humans’ use of photoperiodicity, a mechanism of plants to adapt to seasonal lights variations such as the shortening of daylight hours in autumn and the increasing amount of UV light rays in spring, to comment on the impact of our existence on other species in terms of farming, commodification, ownership and pollution.
Act I: Autumn
With the help of a black box and a specific schedule, a Poinsettia plant gradually receives less exposure to daylight mimicking the natural shortening of the days for 8 weeks. Here, the plant blooms and changes its pigmentation from green(typical summer leaves) to red (autumn leaves).
Poinsettia plants don’t need assistance to do their usual autumn blooming. However, light pollution in cities is sufficiently high for these plants to skip any colour alteration by optimising the energy they get from artificial illumination. Whilst these plants can survive on the available light, artificial or natural, we are more attracted to the red-coloured leavesPoinsettias push when they bloom. This leads farmers to manually reduce the plant's exposure to light to be able to sell them bloomed by Christmas.
Act II: Spring
In spring an artificial source of continuous lighting is used for 3 months to create spring-like conditions in the photographic studio. Immersed in this artificial spring 50 Poinsettia plants gradually throw their white bloomed leaves and produce new chlorophyll-abundant green ones to be ready to absorb sunlight.