Bioculture Conservation Farm, Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Upperville, VA
scent experience | performance | public event
This site-based performance followed a month-long residency at the Oak Spring Garden Foundation and involved indigo-dyed fiber, three aromatic waters made from marigold, bitter orange, clover, Japanese stilt grass, purpletop and dew distillations collected from the Foundation’s expansive grounds. This collection of hand-crafted scents was intended as a journey into the site’s land use over time. For instance, the Virginia Piedmont is known for its vast grasslands which include native, introduced, to cultivated varieties of grasses. At a time of changing ecologies, I wanted to create an event that acknowledged alchemical processes against a backdrop of human social systems.
Performers and participants were spritzed with marigold in order to honor the sun, the light and those who had been in this place before us. The second scent was bitter orange, waking up the oxygen electrons in our noses and stimulating their movement. The final scent shared with participants was a co-distillation of three grasses and dew; clover represented the past, Japanese stilt grass represented the present, and purple top alluded to the future.
Out on the red earth of the Bioculture Conservation Farm, performers moved around with long indigo braids; their movement suggested the alchemical process that produced the dyed fibers. In the molecular structure of iron oxide, oxygen is attracted to a ring-like structure that holds iron. This compound exists in rust, chlorophyll, heme, in indigo dye and in red soil.
While considering the role of oxygenation in soil, plants and human body systems, the performance called attention to the effects of lineage and species segmentation. As organisms adapt, they look for ways to connect to their surroundings. We can learn by example about creating healthy relations both in the body and in the ground.
photo credits: Yi Hsuan Sung and Max Smith