Underland at VBKÖ, 2022
This was a collective research residency, workshop series, and podcast undertaken by Rosie Benn, Helen Emily Davy, and Elizabeth Ward.
Alongside the images gathered below, the podcast recorded at VBKÖ can be listened to here.
In this time of increasing degradation of the environment and its lives, when common narratives lead to destruction and domination, it is easy to feel debilitated by a sense of doom. The Underland Collective is interested in reflecting on ‘apocalypse’ in the original Greek meaning ἀποκάλυψις. Here apocalypse means ‘revelation’ and ‘an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling’. Part of their time together held space for hopes and fears during the unfolding of now.
While the atelier of the VBKÖ is an attic, the Underland Collective treated it like our root cellar in the sky. A place to gather and collect nutrients for the times ahead. We created a research environment which considers disappearing and reappearing women, regenerative practices, immunity building, apocalyptic thought, poetics and somatics, care, séances, transitioning, ethics, abundance vs scarcity mindset, and the portal possibilities of times of the day and of the year. Through our tending, composting, and gathering of research we created a space to invite others into and with which to record a podcast at dawn. Taking the podcast to be the modern equivalent of the pirate radio station, we aimed to record a show, a story, a science fiction, and a visualisation of alternative possibilities now and for the future.
The Underland Collective is interested in the figure of the Vanishing Woman as an archetype for possibility, a figure that slips in and out of both our vision and comprehension. She alone is able to pass through the portal to see another world upon which we can only speculate. In the first recorded instance of this act in 1886, the assistant Mlle. Patrice stated she wished to be sent to Arcadia, an idyll of harmony with nature. If the glamorous assistant could speak, what lessons could she tell us from the other side? What news from beyond the veil?
Currently, in unison as a society we perform rituals of distance, in order to practice very necessary care for each other. Yet some of our longest partners/co-operators are always here, even if out of sight. They can be thought of bodily or internally, as well as in relation to societal ecosystems.
In regenerative agriculture, the aim, rather than simply to manure plants, is to feed the soil life, to create a thriving and diverse foundation for fruits and other delights to grow and ripen. With the collected experiences and diverse material such as sound, drawing, costume and movement sequence, the Underland Collective generated a microbiome. The portal acted as the meeting point as well as the relationship between the material and the hosts, permanent and visiting, as a collective – the holobiont. With this in mind, our root cellar in the sky reflected on cohabitation and interdependencies which influence our collective immunities and called for a culture of care.