Practice 91. (Inter-Being)
With the imminence of a mass sixth extinction, systemic racial inequity and this current second pandemic wave, how do we unlearn the idea of Nature and the Other(s) as distant and different from us?
This project is a 6-chapter proposition for one-on-one plant-to human interactions exploring an embodied understanding of interdependence*. Proposing this work as a multiplicity morphing with the passing of time each chapter invites humans to relate to black beans (Phaseolus Vulgaris) through weekly prompts that can be accessed digitally through this platform to be performed at domestic and exhibition spaces.
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Think for a moment from the viewpoint of Phaseolus Vulgaris L. Indigenous people planted early versions of black beans together with squash and what we know today as maize because they learned from observing the forest that these plants benefited from each other*. This system was called by ancestral indigenous communities in North America The Three Sisters and in Mesoamerica La Milpa. The maize provided a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provided the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants use, and the squash spread along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping to prevent the establishment of weeds creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil.
However, this remarkable biotechnological work was not recognized by Europeans when they invaded and colonized the Americas. Their vision could not conceive that humans had changed the world, bringing forth new species and forms that were useful and productive, much less that entire landscapes were the result of plant-plant collaboration and plant to human interaction. Europeans took the already domesticated plants, moved them and adapted them to their local needs, forgetting its relationships and interdependence with other species creating monocultures.
“A Milpa is a field, usually but not always recently cleared, in which farmers plant a dozen crops at once including maize, avocados, multiple varieties of squash and bean, melon, quelites, tomatoes, chilis,
sweet potato, jícama, amaranth, and mucana…. Milpa crops are nutritionally and environmentally complementary. Maize lacks the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, which the body needs to make proteins and niacin;…. Beans have both lysine and tryptophan…. Squashes, for their part, provide an array of vitamins; avocados, fats. The milpa, in the estimation of H. Garrison Wilkes, a maize researcher at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, “is one of the most successful human inventions ever created.”
Charles C. Mann described milpa agriculture as follows, in 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (New York: Knopf, 2005, pp. 197-198):
Alfonso Tzul, a modern Maya farmer and retired agricultural extension officer, describes how forest gardens came to be: “God created plants and animals and the world around us. Trees grew in the forest, seeds spread, birds sang, and animals flourished. All was already there. Man came along and preferred this plant, favored that seed, enjoyed those birds, and supported those animals, creating and using the forest as a garden to sustain those plants and animals. The job of the forest gardener is to manage the forest by adding, removing and nurturing plants, to make sure that certain species grow where they will be most viable.”
taken from blog:
Human's inter-Actions with Phaseolus Vulgaris L Chapter 5.