M for Membrane
Glyndor Gallery at Wave Hill 
September 5 - October 18, 2020

The “M” in M-theory that unifies all superstring theory stands for “membrane,” “mystery,” “magic,” and “mother.” With outdoor and indoor multi-media installations, M for Membrane explores the membrane, mystery, and magic of microbial forms, fungi and indigenous mold. The fermenter—the artist—facilitates a community of indigenous leaf mold—created from decomposed leaves—embodying the role of the witch, the scientist, and the alchemist, and from it, looks for possibilities of animacy and deep time.  

In response to the material history and colonial landscape of the Palisades and the Hudson River Valley, M for Membrane forgoes primitive and material accumulation and instead cultivates ephemerality, impermanence, and eventual decay as a viable possibility to restore indigenous land. In the outdoor installation, the fermenter cultivates indigenous leaf mold and propagates billions of microbes by foraging fallen leaves in Wave Hill’s woodlands. The mold feeds on sea salt, sugar, potato, and rice starch to proliferate its numbers. Inspired by JADAM organic farming and embodied ecology, all materials foraged from the land are returned back to the soil as fermented liquid fertilizer, transforming into nutrient-rich humus and supporting the mycorrhizal networks for the plants. 

In the indoor exhibition, a multimedia installation follows a single leaf mold microorganism waking up from dormancy and returning back to the soil, to find a new host, back to its mother. The poetic narrator opens up a new quantum language that destabilizes traditions of Euro-American naturalism and enlightenment. On the wall are portraits of the four remaining pre-estate trees on Wave Hill. Alongside various equipment for fermentation, a DIY incubator cultures leaf mold microorganisms set to optimal humidity and temperature. Instead of being used to cultivate embryonic eggs, petri dishes, or STEM cells, the incubator develops new boundaries of what constitutes productive bodies or generative humanities.

Public Program:
Conversation with Dr. Vanessa Agard-Jones
Exhibition brochure co-produced by Helen Chen & Zoë Schlanger
M for Mitigation, The Offing

Mold Magazine
The New York Times

Untitled (Incubator #1), 2020. Indigenous microorganism, sugar, glass jars, foam cooler, digital thermometer, stainless steel plaque. 26 x 19 x 39 inches.Untitled (Incubator #2), 2020. Soil from Wave Hill woodland forest, rice, plexiglass, wood, stainless steel plaque. 44 x 16 x 49 inches . Untitled (Microscope Slides), 2020. Five microscope glass slides (1. Root bacteria, 2. Lichen, 3. Plasmodesmata, 4. Loose connective tissue, 5. Plant cell), wood. 4 x 4 x 4 inches. Untitled (Gold Nugget), 2020. Indigenous leaf mold, plexiglass, wood. 4 x 4 x 4 inches. Image stills from M for Memoir, 2020. Single-channel video. 14:00 minutes.
Untitled (Incubator #3), 2020. Indigenous microorganism, sugar, glass jars, insulation foam, wood, plexiglass, digital thermometer 26 x 16 x 48 inches.M for Mother, 2020. Reflective tarp, sandbags, stainless steel plaques. Outdoor installation on Abrons Woodland Trail