Lucie Draai: Ongoing Negotiations

20 minute presentation for AEROPONIC ACTS  - growing roots in air, DAI's 3 day marathon of lecture-perfomance acts, May 2019.

Exploring different modes of being and sociality in-between humans and a single-celled organism. Human consciousness and spatial intelligence move side by side in an ongoing negotiation of life.  

Rachel O’Reilly, Ghalya Saadawi, Laura Harris and Hypatia Vourloumis responded to the question:

Can we co-exist in the present?

Report by Ayesha Hameed:

Two screens face one another: on one a child is being bathed – the image is surrounded by the same moving image scaled up; on the other is a single-celled organism. A camera pans across the organism and some text embedded in the surface: ‘difference,’ ‘diffraction.’ The organism changes in texture. The image flickers and Draai walks into the middle of the room. She reads a text on possible existence, growth and nourishment. She weaves through the audience and speaks about the violence of naming. Her text is at turns spoken as the child and maybe the single-celled organism. She asks others to hold the script while she reads from it, dropping the page that she has read out beside the person holding her script and then moving on. 

Rachel O’Reilly noted the absence of sound accompanying the images, especially of the baby. But as children are very tactile and haptic, she identified with the baby that she saw as silenced. The pace of the speech did not give her access to the baby. She wondered, as the voice-over was not in the voice of the mother, whose perspective was narrated. She suggested the artist read Melanie Klein’s queer theories of surrogacies. The second image seemed key to piece, she said, but staged. ‘Maybe it needs to be more immersed into the scientific context it refers to,’ she suggested. 

Laura Harris was struck by the sociality described in the abstract but thought that the images came across as very separate. ‘It was hard to connect physically to way it was installed,’ she said. ‘The images were only connected through the voice. So the challenge is to try to bring them together and find points of connection.’

Ghalya Saadawi felt that some of the statements of the poetic text did not quite work, and that the prehistoric framing of the single-celled organism could veer into a eugenicist narrative. ‘What is being narrated is a hierarchical power structure, moving between motherhood and violence. This is a rich literature to draw on,’ she said. ‘The central question seems to be: “Why is sociality scary?”’ Saadawi wondered whether the image work was more central, and if so, advised more development.

Hypatia Vourloumis would have liked to see the images tied together more. It could perhaps draw on the artist’s work on slime mould, and the practice of caring for it and carrying it around, she said. ‘The video of the child was punctuated by vulnerability,’ she noted, finding the stillness of the single-celled organism striking. She commented on the artist’s work being enmeshed with references to Denise Ferreira da Silva’s ‘Difference Without Separability’ and Karen Barad’s work on quantum physics, which she thought needed to be worked into the project more.