POETICS OF HERBOLOGY
GWENN-AEL LYNN AND TIAGO RIBEIRO PATRICIO
GWENN-AEL LYNN & TIAGO RIBEIRO PATRICIO
A remote rural area in a post-Soviet country; I responded to this context by employing a medium familiar to the local culture: herbal teas from plants endemic to the region. The problem was interactivity: how to actively engage the public beyond mere contemplation?
Our solution was a performance that veered from visual media into the blind realms of olfaction and taste, requiring proximity, and fostering intimate partaking. Borrowing from the knowledge compiled in the exercise book Foraging In Central Kurzeme, published by SERDE, and from Signe Pucena (the director of the art center), as well as my own experience, I foraged herbs that could be brewed into teas. To serve these herbal teas in a “meaningful” way to the locality, I invented a ritual specifically for the region of Kurzeme in Latvia. The ritual was organized along a methodology that I have been developing over the past three years, where I derive movements and mood from scents.
I communicate in silence with the audience via the body since I do not speak the local language. However, later on, the Portuguese poet Tiago Ribeiro Patricio, improvising medicinal poetry in his native language (most likely not understood by the local Latvians) occasionally broke the silence to give some rhythm to the performance. Language thus became a sonic device, instead of just a means of communication.
The performance circulated through the entire house of SERDE, a 300-year-old wooden building, via two rooms on the top floor, and then went to the ground floor and ended in the courtyard. I enticed the guests to follow me silently from one space to another by serving the teas, with my gaze, and intuitive body-to-body connection, performing barefoot. I associated a particular infusion to each space, and had carved out of birch (a local resource) each corresponding service, and had hand thrown ceramic cups for this performance. The herbs served were: Alchemilla Milefolia, Betula (upstairs), Lamium Album and Artemisia (ground floor), and we ended outside with Fragraria Vesca. In terms of structure I alternated between sweeter notes (Alchemilla milefolia, and Lamium Album) and more bitter and more aggressive greener notes (Betula, Artemisia, and Fragraria Vesca). Tiago eventually passed around poems translated in Latvian, written on ribbons, and on papers folded in the shape of tea bags, which some of our audience members spontaneously read aloud.