In My Voice at House of Kin, Lisbon


In My Voice

Artist in Residence, House of Kin

Art project opening a conversation with Eucalyptus tree 

Exhibition and experience In My Voice, a collection of artworks and reception by the Eucalyptus tree. The ongoing series of visual works ‘In My Voice’, some of which were originally created and presented for the project Say My Name and I Will Tell You My Story, developed with the curation of Ines Valle, the Cera Project, in 2020. 

The artworks connect to the spirit and essence of the Eucalyptus tree, expressed through botanical prints on fabric and ink prints on paper with Eucalyptus bark and leaves.  These artworks have been created in an intuitive way with the natural materials the trees offer - Eucalyptus leaves and bark and printing directly on fabric. 

The inspiration for these artworks is the tree’s own way of being - its relationship with water, fire and the ecosystem. I observe how the bark peels off the trunks, how it falls down under gravity, how it hangs reaching towards the earth. I notice the cycles of the falling leaves and peeling bark are in tune with the cycles of tannins between the tree and the soil. Through these artworks, I feel, the tree expresses itself creating a symbolic narrative with the themes of healing through moving fire and water, its power to transform, the relationship between the dreaming world, the myth and its meaning in ecological consciousness. 

Through this the Eucalyptus trees, or gum trees as they are called in Australia, gain voice and express their messages, they open a possibility for us to ask them questions, collaborate with them and tell an alternative story that is emerging. 

The project opens a holistic perspective on the eucalyptus trees, which exist in abundance in Portugal, because of widespread use of these trees in monoculture plantations for paper production, and a series of controversial socio-cultural relationships that have been created over the years. Looking at a possibility of embracing their presence and their purpose in Portugal in a wider cultural sense, while integrating newly emerging wisdom from research, science and traditional aboriginal knowledge in Australia, where the trees are native.

Background and current development

When I moved to Portugal in 2017, the year of some of the most destructive forest fires connected with the presence of monocultures in the country, I witnessed the vast burned areas of dense Eucalyptus stands while traversing the landscape. 

These striking images created new lines of visions in my psyche. I started working with communities living in close proximity to the fire zones, which made me explore through artistic means the roots of these issues and start the art project Eternal Forest. Eternal Forest is a multidisciplinary art initiative to create forest sanctuaries across the world - biodiverse areas to be protected in perpetuity, created through art and ecology and, supported by local communities. 

As I worked with multiple communities in Portugal I could clearly see that the subject of the Eucalyptus is unavoidable: every conversation touched upon the ‘invasiveness’ of this tree, the destructive effects on the ecosystems, the pathological cycle of planting Eucalyptus over and over again until the land becomes ‘unproductive’. While the tree receives negative attitudes from people, even in the regenerative circles, the underlying mythology created around the tree by the paper industry together with the contributors from the academic world ensures the gaze is directed at the tree, and not at the unsustainable practices created by the humans. 

Through my communication with the tree, initiated by the Eucalyptus appearing in my dream, and through my observations during my walks through nearby plantations, I decided to step forward and dedicate a specific line of my work to engage people to think differently and to perhaps even to feel differently towards these trees. By opening a conversation, in which the Eucalyptus tree has a voice, I hope we can move towards finding new solutions as opposed to continuing with the old patterns, victimizing ourselves and blaming trees. The Eucalyptus tree is perceived as a sovereign living being, having a voice and an agency, as opposed to being a slave or an object, in the land far away from its natural habitat. 

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