Being (with) plants

On Tuesday evening, we had a great opportunity to organize a workshop Being (with) plants as part of the Sustainability festival Västra Götaland. It was a great pleasure that for this Gothenburg version, I was supported by Dawn Sanders, an associate professor in didactics and experienced botanical educator and researcher based at Gothenburg University.

The images below are from the last part of the workshop, transforming of the participants' own experience through art.

I wanted to organize a workshop like this because as the climate crisis is inevitably looming above our heads, we desperately seek ways to engage, yet also protect ourselves. From my point of view, one of the main reasons for this crisis is the inherently flawed relationship to nature we have - as just a “resource”, something to be used, something different from us, outside of us. In our Western society, nature is viewed as existing “around us”, as a green blur or background, that makes our offices or homes kind of nicer.

But how do we change this? Following the quote of Mohandas Gandhi that I think about quite often: “If you want to change the world, start with you...” To be able to make a change in the world, we first need to change ourselves. In the similar way, our workshop will not change the world, save the whales, stop cities from sinking or polar bears from starvation. The idea is to create a small (safe?) space, where one can take a break, where one can breathe just for a bit and experience in this silence - who am I in all this? How do I connect - to nature, to others, to myself?

Design and art inspired methods provide an interesting set of tools to explore ways how we as humans can come closer to other beings in nature as well as other humans and ourselves. Therefore, on Tuesday afternoon we gathered in Roten, an inside classroom at the Botanical Garden which is an amazing educational space, which the Botanical Garden was so nice to provide us with. The workshop was accompanied by wonderful music by Salvador.

We started with drawing how we relate to nature. Soon, we were sharing with each other drawings or images created from teared up paper showing connections, personal stories or small revelations connected to their own relationship. They showed the rich ways people connect to nature. For some it was an idea of a specific situation or situation that helped them to connect that really made them feel connected. For others, it was a matter of a strong draw in itself was a way to kind of understand the underlying thoughts they had.

Next step was to actually engage with nature. We asked our participants to explore the area around us - to choose a plant or a place that calls to them and engage with this spot in depth as much as they could for such a time. Meanwhile some looked into the depths of the tree crowns, some watched the sun going down or smelled the leaves. When everyone came back from the sunny outside, we dimmed the lights and got ready for a group meditation. I built the meditation around the story of being in a forest, where it started to rain. The rain did not bring only relaxation but also a change - through the drops we became a seed and then a plant-being.

Then, it was time to create. We collected our things and went to the barn - an old building in the middle of the Botanical garden. Here we prompted our participants to engage with the art supplies, such as brushes, paint, papers or leaves; and asked them to create something that reflects some of the experiences we have been through together or separately. Finally, we presented our creations to each other and reflected a little bit about the process. You can see some of the results and processes in the pictures below!

This workshop is part of an ongoing effort to explore the different ways of being (with) more-than-human beings, which I have been developing together with Anton Pboikolainen Rosén.