Art exhibition, opening reception. "Rootless" is an art installation of natural materials, mixed media, video projection and interactive displays.
The lichen wig provides a false hope for the existence of a truly eco-friendly consumer vanity product. Though these wigs have been ethically crafted, and they maintain direct links between the creative process, and the materials’ original source, it would be unethical to mass-produce them. Many lichens species are threatened, not possible to harvest sustainably, difficult to preserve, and impossible to keep alive once brought into urban environments.
Wigs are rootless, they are a veneer, acting as a symbol for a new identity, a manipulation of our natural appearance. Lichens are rootless. They colonize new branches by being blown in the wind, anchoring themselves to the bark of trees. As settlers, we are defined by a sense of rootlessness, living by the conventions of an imported culture that dissociates us from the natural balance of the land and the ecosystem that we have colonized. Because of this rootlessness, we lack an intuitive awareness of how we fit into this ecosystem as a healthy functioning part of it, and instead, we exist on its surface, extracting materials as we need them, without consideration for the implications and long term effects of our behaviour.
Within mainstream colonial society, there is a large consumer economy built upon the shame of one’s natural body hair or hairstyle. By creating pressure to conform one’s appearance to standards of beauty that sexualize the body, rather than treating it as a functional aspect of our humanity, we are conditioned to be preoccupied with maintaining our corporal aesthetics, consuming products to support our ego, often resulting in further harming nature.
This project was developed from my determination to establish an artistic methodology that would cause minimal harm to the environment. I collected these lichens from fallen trees, or after they blew to the ground during storms (where they would not otherwise survive since they are extremely sensitive to changes in air quality and humidity). Even with the goal of creating a project consistent with my ideals of non-destructive peaceful coexistence, the act of displaying these lichen wigs in an exhibition required me to incorporate materials and methodologies that compromised the integrity of my initial intention.
Beyond concerns around consumerism vs environmentalism, this project is about identity, specifically my own identity as a white settler, experiencing the paradox of a strong personal connection to nature, while trying to thrive within a materialistic culture based on environmental dissociation, and rootlessness.