• WhiteFeather Hunter

Lab 5: Culmination

Our lab activities culminated in a temporary display of all of our collaborative works, entitled, (LAB)yrinth, on the full moon Friday 13th, 2019 at the Drahi-X Novation Centre of the École Polytechnique. Our work was presented as an improv ritual site with artifacts, and we incorporated performative and interactive elements to help interpret the work. During this display, with each of the five labs presenting their process-based outputs and some final objects, David Familian engaged in speed-curating a selection of small pieces, for a one-day exhibition the following Saturday at Galerie HUS in Montmarte (Paris) as part of the Speed of Light activities.

Our Lab 5 (LAB)yrinth installation at the Drahi-X Novation Centre, September 13, 2019.
Installation of some of our curated works at the Galerie HUS in Montmarte, Paris on September 14, 2019.

The central and final days of our lab investigations had included various, overlapping activities that facilitated deeper ethnographic data collection (including subjective data such as feeling responses) of several sites that we selected, that had meaning to us, around the campus of the École Polytechnique. We prepared data sheets and chose our sites: the "horsefield" where the ritual I led had been conducted; the "abortion garden" -- a wildish field of Queen Anne's Lace (which can serve as an abortifacient); "the hole", which was a deeply gouged construction site resembling a massive archeological dig; the "apple tree" which was littered at its base with fallen, rotten apples that were collected; the "soviet square" which was a strange stacked sculpture atop a raised platform meant to be inaccessible; "the woods" that resembled a quiet, untouched wooded space with a wagon; and, "the lake" which was manmade and a central campus feature. These were sites that we'd identified along our ritual walk, and we divided them up amongst the group and set out to collect information in the form of audio, photogrammetry, soil collection, panoramic images, samples of plants, GPS coordinates, wind direction, and physical and emotive descriptions.

Preparing a sample for soil chromatography.
Photogrammetry of one of the sites, prepared by Stefan Laxness.

Aniara used the half-rotten apples to create two magnificent distillations - apple essence (fragranced water) and apple-flavoured vodka. Pedro taught us to use the soil samples to create soil chromatographies of each site using silver nitrate, caustic soda and filter paper, showing the chemical and microbial makeup of the collected soils. I created a mix of all the audio samples to use as a soundtrack on Stefan's video demonstration of the photogrammetry he made of the holes we dug to collect the soil samples, and led the second performance ritual during the first temp exhibition. Manuelle created a cartography of our sites and printed all of the panoramic photos we'd taken, and the photo of the ritual. Matt and Ragnehild split off to create a zine of an interview they'd done with a climate scientist at SIRTA on his relationship with clouds, called Scientific Memory.

Group photo of the graduate fellows and lab leaders, hosts and organizers for the Useful Fictions symposium.

The entire experience was hectic, exhausting, moderately disjointed and entirely rewarding. The deep connections I made with my witchy friends will be life-long and I hope we will engage in some collaborative projects in the near future. The new research resources I gained are invaluable, including this incredible independent press publication that Aniara gifted me with:

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