Artist Talk: Larval / Mycelial Futures
Anuj Vaidya’s practice – what he calls, a forestation – is deeply invested in questions of process and collaboration, and resides in the sphere of multi-species thinking. His collaborative project Larval Rock Stars (with artist/scholar Praba Pilar) sits at the intersection of the bio-techno-critical and the absurd, aiming to undo the category of the human and seeking movement from ‘necrotic egocentrism to biotic ecocentrism’ by following the path of the ‘question mark’. His work through the Radical Mycology Collective (with Stephaney Maroney and Mercedes Villalba) is invested in thinking with mushrooms and fungi, as material and as method, through gaming, collaborative storytelling and pedagogy. One of the mainstays of his practice is a keen attention to the material impact of his work.
In this artist talk, he presented selections from his various collaborations, and provided deeper context for the motion-picture performance to follow.
Motion-Picture Performance: The Smoldering Forest
Vaidya’s speculative cinema project, Forest Tales, is a queer sci-fi eco-feminist retelling of the Ramayana as a Sitayana. It not only narrates eco-tales at the horizon of the sixth extinction, but also reimagines the cinematic process/apparatus itself, revealing cinema as a corporeal and land-based practice. In this retelling, Sita – shaman, biohacker, daughter of the earth – emerges not as human, but as the forest itself, and it is through the forest’s desires that the epic tradition leaves the past and enters the present. Speaking with Sita allows us to foreground the ecological dimensions of the tale, to think with its mycelial under-commons, its utopias from below, reminding us that ecology is community – both human and non-human.
Originally imagined as a film, Forest Tales had intended to use human-powered solutions for the production. However, since the most environmentally-friendly film is one that never gets made, the project now exists as a performance of the film. In the iteration performed at KHOJ, audience members ‘became-sprocket’ and participated in an embodied ‘motion-picture’, in the process co-creating ‘speculative cinema’. This included a cinematic visualization, where audience members were blindfolded and invited to imagine a scene from the film. The practice demanded that we not only radically reimagine our narratives about the past/present/future, but also reinvent the technologies that we use to tell them.
Anuj Vaidya is an educator, media/performance maker, and curator whose work meanders around themes of queer ecology.