Narrated botany

Plants narrate. They tell us stories about ourselves. They create our fiction and illustrate our imagination. They tell stories in words we inflicted on them, but which we forgot how to read. In the 1868 November issue of Science Gossip (a monthly British popular-science magazine), an unknown author (signed H. C. Richter) wrote an article entitled “Vulgar names” in which he states that vulgar names of plants present ‘a complete language of meaningless nonsense, almost impossible to retain and certainly worse than useless when remembered – a vast vocabulary of names, many of which signify that which is false, and most of which mean nothing at all’.

I find vernacular plant names fascinating. They present our languages at their richest, most vibrating and imaginative. Common names of plants need not be formed according to any rule and can change as language, or the user of language, dictates. There is no convention governing the way common names can be written or applied. In fact, in their truest form, common names arise from common use by people in contact with the plants – most often by people who are not aware of the scientific naming of plants. These true ‘common names’ are therefore in a range of different languages, different scripts and not codified in any way. The same species of plant can have very different names in different places, and could have different names in the same place according to different groups of people. Sometimes names used by some people are adopted by others, sometimes the pronunciation gets corrupted in the process and the meaning of the words shifts. This makes the language of plants’ common names the freest language there is. The whole story of vernacular nomenclature is about misspelling, misunderstanding, mistranslating, construing, confounding, confabulating, transforming, transmuting, transposing, twisting, twiddling and turning. The language we use for plants pushes language to its limit, to its outside, to its silence. It seems to have a “foreign language within”, because it is in a constant process of overcoming itself, becoming-other or becoming-foreign to itself, perhaps becoming its own future and its own past.

Naughty-man’s playing1 careless2 with wind3, thunder-and-lightning4, shooting stars5, snow-balls6 and fire balls7, smoke of the earth8. Jupiter’s beard9 bristles10.
Its11 prior12 madness13 quickens14.
It-brings-the-frost15, snow in summer16.
Poor man’s weather glass17.


1. Urtica dioica
2. Amaranthus retroflexus
3. Convolvulus arvensis
4. Ajuga reptans
5. Dodecatheon meadia
6. Cephalanthus occidentalis
7. Lychnis chalcedonica
8. Fumaria officinalis
9. Centranthus ruber
10. Setaria
11. Apios americana
12. Nicotiana tabacum
13. Heracleum maximum
14. Agropyron repens
15. Aster L
16. Cerastium tomentosum
17. Anagalis arvensis

The subtropical climate of New Orleans fosters an unending cycle of massive vegetation, dwarfing man and architecture by the vigour of its growth. Vegetal life thrives there without intention, builds without planning, takes over, adapts and feeds on fields, swamps, houses, roads and paths. The stupendous flora both colonizes and is colonized, controls and is controlled. Surrounding landscape can be seen as a microcosm of the global environment, manifesting both the challenges and possibilities inherent in the ways humans interact with urban and natural ecosystems. My interest in plants was fuelled by the saturated green environment of New Orleans region and is motivated till today by my curiosity to explore new disciplines along with the plasticity of language. During my 4 weeks residency Deltaworkers provided me access to information about plants and local vegetation. One of the most enticing places I visited with them was A Studio in the Woods, a nonprofit artist retreat and learning center near New Orleans, formed with the mission to protect and preserve the Mississippi River bottomland hardwood forest and to provide a tranquil haven where artists can reconnect with universal creative energy and work in the middle of woods. I hope to get back there for a stay and to observe and collect plants. I’m dreaming of compiling poetry-herbariums from different locations. The Louisiana one would start like this: “Devil and angel stick tight. Pricking monsters bind black nightshade with morning glory and purple daydream with ruby moon.” And would end like this: “Drunk Indian shot farmer’s friend. White sage’s long beard bristle with wind.”

I am interested in the subject of plant life, and, by extension, in the relationship humans have with plants as reflected in language. The general classification of plants as dangerous or useful, invasive or native, forming a “green Hell” or, instead, mirroring the “earthly Paradise” testifies to the political nature of our engagement with flora. Humans have forged strategic alliances with plants which are echoed in their naming, reflected by the words associated with them and by the expressive linguistic combinations used to identify various types of plants.

Yellow rockets1 poke2 yellow cosmos3,
Yellow sundrops4 spike5.
Silver comet6 rapes7 the blue of heavens8,
White false indigo9 sweeps10 thousand stars11.
All die12.


1. Barbarea vulgaris
2. Phytolacca americana
3. Cosmos sulphureus
4. Oenothera serrulata
5. Lavandula
6. Cortaderia selloana
7. Brassica napus
8. Allium caeruleum
9. Baptisia alba
10. Centaurea nigra
11. Aster tripolium
12. Oenanthe crocata

Yet, what botanical nomenclature tells us is that we look at plants with a certain human bias. We anthropomorphize them. We give them attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions. Plant names illustrate human characteristics or associations connected to human assumptions. The associative element in vernacular plant naming drew upon comparisons with parts of the human body and with bodily functions, upon their uses, taste, behaviour, effects on us, etc. Fanciful ideas of a plant’s association with animals, ailments and festivities, and observations of plant structures, perfumes, colours, habitats and seasonality have all contributed to their naming. However, all common names mostly refer to plant’s character in relation to humans, rather than to anything about the plant itself. The names we gave plants (mostly stuttering cultural meanings, patriarchal interpretations and assumptions in relation to our senses) are fascinating because of the malleability of our languages, but also because they are discerning facets of how narrowly we understand and communicate nature and reality.

Devil’s tongues1 speak2: look up and kiss me3.
Devil’s head4 and angel’s trumpet5 consound6.
Youth and old age7 bind8 with holly9 sin dew10.
world’s wonders11 live forever12.


1. Sansevieria
2. Lavandula
3. Viola tricolor
4. Linaria vulgaris
5. Brugmansia
6. Symphytum officinale
7. Zinnia elegans
8. Convolvulus arvensis
9. Ilex aquifolium
10. Drosera
11. Mirabilis jalapa
12. Sempervivum

It is captivating to look at plants as texts. All of a sudden vegetation becomes a big dispersed chronicle containing information and an affective assemblage, a biosocial becoming, a biophysical landscape with which human actors are entangled. New Orleans was the perfect place to start to built a “plant thesaurus”, a bank of phrases, expressions and words of many variations with information about the corresponding plants.

Mother of thousands1, mistress of the night2, pulling3 dead man’s hands4.
Corps candles5 and organs6 stink7.
Dead man’s bones8 speed well9.
Rush10, rush skeleton11! Rush like Timothy12!


1. Achillea millefolium
2. Polianthes tuberosa
3. Eriophorum spp
4. Dryopteris filix-mas
5. Verbascum
6. Origanum vulgare
7. Datura stramonium
8. Linaria vulgaris
9. Veronica chamaedrys
10. Equisetum hyemale
11. Chondrilla juncea
12. Crypsis schoenoides

Now back in Europe, I still collect vernacular plant names and I am trying to link them within a narrative. I also try to “read” them as they grow. Reading any green spot through vernacular terminology politicises and romanticises nature more than one would expect and we, humans, are always present in the story. When decoded into words, vegetation becomes a mirror, refracting our mental projections on the natural world. The words we use for it seems to unify the world of botany with the world of human nature, culture and language by creating a “strange inversion of reasoning”.

Field reading: Devil’s playing1 melancholy2, wind bent3 sword and spears4 all heal5, love leaves6 priest’s crown7.


Field reading: Lady’s slippers1 couch2 ranty-tanty3 passions4, fox’s foot5 and floating foxtail6.

Love lies bleeding1 speak2 sorrow3.
Password4: love in idleness5.
Fairies’ clocks6 rattle7 crazy8 time9,
True love10 trickles11 bleeding hearts12,
Melancholy13 cheats14 innocence15.


1. Amaranthus caudatus
2. Lavandula
3. Rumex acetosa
4. Primula veris
5. Viola tricolor
6. Adoxa moschatellina
7. Pedicularis palustris
8. Rununculus acris
9. Thymus vulgaris
10. Trillium cernuum
11. Cardamine diphylla
12. Fuchsia magellanica
13. Achillea millefolium
14. Bromus
15. Collinsia

I try to unscramble (more or less) coherent “materialized texts” the syntax of which, in turn, is finding expression in the random growing of wild plants or in herbaria arrangements. Taking the plants’ highly allusive common names as a point of departure, I’m trying to unfold a (visual) anthology of stories, using the (names of) plants as “organs” of language. I like how filtering the human language through plants and the appearances they have generates some sort of weird poetry, both visual and linguistic; it is a language we can also see, rather than only a language as phonemes; plants can be visible logos, connecting words to the essence of being.

Black man’s posies1 ripple2 white man’s footprint3.
White archangel4 chuckles5.
None such6 crazy7 smart ass8 couch9 life everlasting10 patience11.
Remembrance12 cures all13 malice14. Mind your own business15.


1. Lamium purpureum
2. Plantago lanceolata
3. Plantago major
4. Lamium album
5. Aquilegia canadensis
6. Medicago lupulina
7. Rununculus acris
8. Persicaria hydropiper
9. Arrhenatherum elatius
10. Sedum telephium
11. Impatiens
12. Lathyrus odoratus
13. Melissa
14. Malva sylvestris
15. Soleirolia soleirolii

I am often seduced to think there’s an etymological connection between the words “plant” and “planet”. There is none, but the connection between the two is much deeper than a linguistic one. The plants ARE our planet. They are perhaps the most fundamental form of life, providing sustenance, and thus enabling the existence of all animals, including us humans. But although they are everywhere – dead or alive, wood or food, grown or wild, meds or cloths, paper or ink – we only notice them in passing, mostly as a green background. Even if we do look at plants we don’t know much about them. There are relatively few plants known to the majority of people, in most cases they are anonymous and mute. I am trying to recover from this pandemic “plant blindness” and to understand how can learning about them teach us about ourselves. The idea of narrated botany is concerned with the nature and meaning of difference. Tales, legends, poetry, history, politics, are embedded in the names of plants, in the fields, forests, meadows, gardens… If observed in time, the fluidity of language is dissolved even more by the plants themselves. They are constantly “interpreting” and remixing any linguistic connections we can think of through their own language and behaviour (the way they dry, die, grow, colonize the space around or overtake each other’s territories), they underline or discard certain parts/words – some lines grow bolder, some flower in silence, some die out. Inhabiting the language and overlapping various modes of communication eventually develops into a “biosemiotic turn”, into a third, unpredictable message, a “text” out of control, a phyto-poem with surprising spirit.

Love entangled1 blind eyes2 see bright3.
Leap up and kiss me4.
Kiss me quick5, kiss me quick, mother’s coming6.
Kiss me over the garden gate7,
Blow me down8,
Touch me not9,
Forget me not10.


1. Sedum acre
2. Papaver dubium
3. Salvia sclarea
4. Viola tricolor
5. Euphorbia cyparissias
6. Centranthus ruber
7. Polygonum orientale
8. Dianthus barbatus
9. Mimosa pudica
10. Brunnera macrophylla

Walls & Wills

During my time at Deltaworkers I created one of a series of film ‘sketches,’ tentatively called ‘Walls & Wills’. The film explores a movement American Painting called ‘Genre Painting.’ The film is my way of making sense of the current class struggles present in America.

In New Orleans, one is confronted with an increase in class disparity, an issue which dominates contemporary America, amidst other issues like poverty, racism, police violence, a crumbling infrastructure and so on. Aside from this, the city has an abundance of cultural offerings and beautiful natural surroundings. However, a street that divides two rows of houses may be much wider than it appears in regards to living conditions and opportunity.

Genre painting in the Golden Age, developed as an independent art form in Protestant Northern Europe, alongside the Dutch Realists of the 17th century, such as the Haarlem School, The Leiden School and the Delft School led by Jan Vermeer. In America, the movement flourished during the 19th Century, a time of intense social, cultural, economic and technological change. The paintings reinforced popular notions of American Identity and fundamental national values. Economic uncertainty and class conflict eruptions were not omitted from the scenes but were rather dealt with in an often humorous or proverbial manner. For instance many of the paintings depict card playing and gambling scenes or the raffling for a goose (see William Sidney Mount Raffling for the Goose) to express the fluctuations of economic boom and bust. The marginalized place of women and people of color in the public sphere were played out in paintings like ‘Laundry’ by John Thomas Peele, or Thomas Waterman Wood’s’ Reading the Gazette.’ Many of the paintings also depicted the new role of the man in society, for example ‘Young Husband: First Marketing’ in 1854 by Lilly Martin Spencer.

American Genre painting took place in the transformative years following the Civil War.  Like the old master Dutch painters, they created clearly delineated scenes, humorous domestic and rural scenarios, and were often didactic and moralizing. After the brutality of the Civil War, there was an effort to increase empathy within the hearts of Americans again. What attracted me to these paintings were the depictions of the fraught relationships between blacks and whites, men and women, and immigrants and native workers – issues that remain relevant to this day.

In ‘Walls and Wills’ you may recognize the famous ‘ Fur Traders Descending the Missouri’ (originally titled “French Trader & Half breed Son,” but changed for its sale to the American Art- Union) created in 1845 by George Caleb Bingham. These paintings often depicted tranquil scenes and were designed to appeal to the urban spectator as a contrast to the tensions that were undoubtedly stirring in the South during this time of transition.

The artists of the time acted as poets, historians and sometimes comedians. Their paintings now function as historical records, albeit fabricated – photography is of course today’s equivalent. Strength and stability can help us to sustain our culture if we have knowledge and look to the past as a way of understanding the future.  In ‘Walls & Wills’ I take the viewer into people’s homes, through doors and windows to discover a past that struggles with class, race and gender. The camera sometimes emerges onto the streets to experience a more contemporary scenario. The film weaves together the past and present in order to re-experience these painterly interpretations or records of New Orleans.

I would like to thank Deltaworkers, the Mondriaan Fonds and Camp Abundance for ensuring my introduction into New Orleans culture was a stimulating and informative experience.  I have developed a heartfelt love for this city and have met many new friends and collaborators. It was an honor to have the talented drummer Doug Garrison perform live for the final screening of my film in June.

Rattus Norwegicus

The following is a transcript from a performance that Siri Borge worked on during her residency in 2017.

Before I start this story- there are a few details that you need to know. This is a Christmas story, and it takes place in Stavanger, a city on the south-west coast of Norway. We have the Christmas dinner and open our gifts on the 24th of December, not on the 25th.

This is a story about me and my friend Steffen, and it takes place Christmas eve, 2002. At the time I was 17 years old, and celebrated the evening with my Mother and her “friend”.

But few guests did not mean that I could get out of the dress code tradition, so all three of us were wearing our classiest outfit to make the dinner party feel like a real celebration. Despite the fact that we are all non-believers.

After the appropriate amount of time hanging out with my mother and her friend, I was allowed to go visit my friend Steffen, and they even gave what was left over of the Aquavite- a traditional Norwegian, 40% hard liquor, that taste like liquid wood. Not that a 17 year old cares that much about what free liquor taste like.

Steffen was 16 years old, all alone, in a big house, celebrating Christmas eve- for the first time in his life. He grew up as a Jehovah witness, and Jehovah doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Steffen came out as gay to his parents in the summer that year, and told them he would not be baptized. And as long as you opt out before being baptized, you won’t get shunned. But you will not be invited to go to the family cabin in the mountains during Christmas either.

I walked right into their house, finding Steffen rolling a fat joint on the kitchen table. He had also dressed up for the occasion, wearing black pants with a plaid skirt, black nail polish and eyeliner. It must have been lonely but at the same time liberating for him. It certainly was for me. The days leading up to Christmas, he had stayed away from the house, staying with one of his lovers. I proudly presented him with the Aquavit, and complimented him on his rolling skills, which had improved greatly the last months. We smoked up, talking about boys and stupid parents, and about how Christmas would be when we moved out. We felt very mature.

Walking upstairs to use the restroom, i passed his bedroom. The door was halfway open, and the odour leaking out into the hallway was quite intense.

“Steffen, you pig!” I said when I came downstairs. “If you’re going to have pet rats, you could at least clean the cage! It stinks!” I told him.

Steffen looked at me surprised “I cleaned it a couple of days ago, it can’t be that bad!” He said.

I stuck my finger in my throat and rolled my eyes too make a point, and he went upstairs to check the cage.

I heard a high pitch scream coming from upstairs, followed by him dramatically running down the stairs.

“WTF is wrong?!”

“THE RATS….” he cried, “The rats! They killed one of their own!”

Steffen had two white female rats, and recently introduced a third rat to the party. They are social animals, and the owner thought it would be best to give this rat to Steffen, so it wouldn’t be too lonely after it’s sister died.

He went on describing the bloodbath in the cage, and how the the new rat had looked him straight in the eyes while holding the lifeless- and now headless cadaver of his pet rat between her paws. They were both bloody around their mouths, so they had been in on it both, he concluded.

“I used to have 3 rats, now I only have 2 and a half!”

What follows next is events that might have been very different if under adult supervision, if we were not stoned, and if we had internet in our lives. Here goes:

Me: This really scary thing happens when proteins from meat gets into the diet of a pet rat. It will actually become more aggressive, and crave blood. They can’t help it, it’s a chemical reaction.

Steffen: And they ate another rat, so they are basically cannibals now.

Me: So, basically- you will be alone in a house with cannibalistic killer rats.

Steffen: What to do?

Me: Well, we have to kill them.

Steffen is a patient and empathetic boy, and he truly did love his pet rats. Before me he did not really have any friends outside of Jehovah witness where most limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses, making his rats the friends who comforted him after numerous pray circles, with Steffen as the centrepiece where family and other witnesses tried to pray away the gay. However, being 16 years old, and home alone in this big house with cannibalistic rats was too much for the kid. He concurred.

Steffen: How? The vet is closed now, but I won’t spend a single night with them!

We discussed over drinks the best way to do this. Neither of us had any experience from farms, and even though Google did exist in 2002, we did not really know how to use it.

I suggested hammer to the head. It seemed so brutal at the time, and since I did not want to touch the rats, and Steffen never hurt a fly in his life, this was too violent for his taste.

We looked for poison, there were none. Ibuprofen overdose? Nah, they won’t eat it. Drowning? No. Rats are great swimmers.

Then we figured that since people die all the time from carbon monoxide poisoning, without even knowing that it’s happening- this would be the most humane way to kill the rats.

As luck would have it, Steffen’s mother left her car in the driveway, and the keys was just lying there, between our shitty hashish and liquid pine tree liquor on the kitchen table.

I resolutely grabbed the keys and and said to Steffen: Get me a towel, and a bucket with the two rats in it. We met by the car, and I remember the bucket with the rats being a beige, vintage plastic bucket with brown flowers on it. I later learned that his mother had a full set of cleaning supplies with the same pattern on it.

Anyways, Steffen turned on the car and let the engine run in park. I placed the towel over the bucket containing the two rats, doing my best not to look at them. I glanced over at Steffen who gave me a determined nod, and proceeded to put the exhaust pipe tight between the towel and the bucket.

At first it went precisely as we expected, there was no sound or movement, and we waited for the rats to fall asleep.

Suddenly they started to run around in circles in the bucket, very very fast, and I looked over at Steffen who was just as terrified as I was:
Me: What should we do?! Can I stop??


I kept holding the bucket still, feeling like the biggest asshole in the world. Then, they started to jump. They were big rats, and they jumped so high that you could see their heads in the towel, like small ghosts. Steffen was screaming, and I was laughing nervously and loud.

After a while the jumping stopped, and the only sound you could hear was from the car engine. “Meheheheeeep”, the bucket said.

Steffen: This is NOT funny, Siri, don’t make that sound!!

I turned to him with a serious stare, and then we heard it again: “Meheheheeeep”. The final death rattle from his beloved rats.

Just to be sure I held the bucket for a little longer, put the bucket down, and shut off the engine.

Steffen removed the towel and looked into the bucket: “I’m pretty sure they are dead, the pupils have dilated”

Me: Do they even have pupils to begin with?

Steffen: Well, Siri, they shat themselves, I think that’s evidence enough!

I agreed.

With his head hanging low and the bucket in his hand, he headed towards the bio trash bin. Norwegians recycle everything, but this might be taking it too far…

Me: Steffen, are you crazy? Are you throwing dead rat bodies in the bio waste?!

Steffen: Uhm. Yeah?

I was not sure if this was a bad or a good idea, and I did not know where the bio waste actually went or how it was processed, but it would be a gruesome sight for his parents returning from their non-Christmas.

Me: Have you never seen “I know what you did last summer?!

“Do you want murdered cannibal rats to haunt you?!” Whispering: “I know what you did last Christmas…”

Off course he agreed.

This taking place in Stavanger in Norway, the ground was frozen solid in december, so a proper burial was out of the question.

After a quick brainstorming, we decided on a Viking burial. Burning the evidence. While I rolled a joint to take away, Steffen gathered his 2 and a half rats and the bloody saw dust from the cage in the bucket, turpentine and some old newspapers. In Norway the age limit for getting a licence is 18, so none of us were legally qualified to drive, and contemplating the fact that it would be completely irresponsible of us to drive while under the influence- we decided to steal his mother’s red Toyota and drove to the nearest lake with the bodies in the trunk. After all, it was freezing outside.

The streets were empty, everyone was inside, still opening gifts and eating seven kinds of cakes. We drove the car as close to the lake as we possibly could, our logic was to get water from the lake to put out the fire if it got out of hand.

Steffen did the honors and sat it all on fire. I remember it being a really beautiful night. The sky was pitch black and clear, so we could see the stars. I don’t think we said much while the fire was burning, just smoking and spitting. And Steffen was soundlessly crying, both of us still wearing our finest outfits, freezing in the cold night.

Then I realized that the bucket we brought with us to get water from the lake, still containing the dead rats were melting in the fire. Because Steffen really did set it all on fire…

What are we going to do? How will we put out the fire? I ask Steffen.

Steffen: Well… I kind of have to.. uh. Pee?

I will never in my life forget the sight of my dear Steffen, with eyeliner streaming down his face, lit up by the fire, lifting his plaid skirt, pissing on the remains of his cannibalistic Rattus Norwegicus. And to this day, his mother is still looking for that beige, vintage bucket with brown roses.

A city within a city

Let us say a body is a city.

The veins would be streets.
The blood and neurons become the people walking those streets.

Nurture and genetics define the basic make up of the surroundings.
Is the city set in a mountainous region or is it sinking away in swamp land?
Does it have a mosquito problem?
Or is it situated in an agreeable sea climate?
All this shapes the architecture of a place.

Memories and experiences make up the history of this town.
They embellish the streets like scars adorn a skin.

And the heartbeat, well, that is time, mercilessly propelling everything forward.

This body, this city of mine, is moving. Although the outlines are defined and recognizable, and I have answered to the same name since my earliest beginnings, my city is constantly adding and evolving detailing that changes the whole.

I used to believe there was a clear identity at work within me.
Let us call it the mayor.
I was the mayor.
I got a final say in most of what went on in my town.
I was the law maker.
I called the shots.

It was me that got to say: ‘This is my town. This is what I stand for.

In New Orleans, I am a city within a city.
I cycle over the bust concrete roads of Nola and simultaneously trace the paths within me.
What made me come out here was sickness and sadness.
Cancer is some kind of natural disaster.
As is heartbreak.
This city knows pain.
 It knows sadness.

Here is what happened:
My mother got sick.
And as I held her hand
through bright red IV drips,
the infected wound cleaning,
the projectile vomiting,
the fearful nights,
the tense check ups,
I kept fear at bay
by a schedule divided
into clear cut appointment.

Staring at screens and numbers
and eventually
seeing her grow back hair
getting an appetite again
and being declared

Then I took a breath.
The first one in months
without thinking about death
and then
my significant other

I sat at my desk, hours on end.
I did not know what I stood for anymore.
All laws seemed useless.
My itinerary could no longer guard me.
The laws had become redundant.
What I had believed in
was wiped out.

Working hard does not secure a safe future.
Being kind does not mean you will be treated alike.
Loving someone with all you have, does not make them stay.

These are truths.

I became unfit to rule.
I gave the reign to the people in my body.
All they said was: ‘flee‘.
And I did.
Just like he had done.
I left myself.
And now I am here.

Basking in that spicy, sticky Southern heat.
Disappointment drips out of my pores.
I let it sit, dry up and sweat again.
There is no use wiping it off.
There is always more.
There is no permanence.

Acknowledging that history is fluid.
Paradigms and values change.
Learning to accept that ever shifting of my city.
To sit through the unease.
The limitations of my will.

Maybe that is my real trouble.
Not that my lover left me
but everything leaves eventually.

Nothing is set in stone.
Not even stone itself.

I try to figure out what this place is that I move through.

I hear high pitched baby possums chatter underneath the house.
I sit on the toiletbowl and bend over to the floorboards.
They fall silent when I chatter back.

First week, I try to walk to the supermarket in shorts.
I get whistled at.
Men holler.
Two guys jump out of a car, trying to coax me into the backseat.

We’ll take you anywhere, baby.

It is too much.
I feel threatened and painfully aware of my sex.
I turn around, walk back without groceries.
Something inside me hardens.

I want to be free.
I crave some kind of peace.
And I need to be safe.

Desire and reality clash.
This city of mine feels confining.
I need new laws to abide by
to accommodate this new surrounding.
To set boundaries for visitors.
To meet my needs.

New Orleans is a great city for restless souls.
I end up at a jock strap lube wrestling night.
Gorgeous bodies wrestle in a kiddy pool.
Digging fingers deep down in each others assholes.
Winners making out with losers afterwards.
The dolled up crowd cheers them on.
It is all good sport.

I sing my heart out at St Roch Tavern karaoke night.
They have all the rock ballads I love.
Hole, Garbage, Eurythmics.
GT’s are only four dollar.
I binge.

I listen to bounce music.
The aggressive undertones resonate with my mood.
The repetitive lyrics are like reruns
of memories and memories and memories.
What once was good, haunts me now.

I am so tired of being stuck on mental roundabouts. 
I am so tired of feeling sorry for myself.

I need to change my narrative.

Release your anger
Release your mind
Release your job
Release the time
Release your trade
Release the stress
Release the love
Forget the rest

I watch the Walmart videos.
Girls in skimpy outfits bend over in aisles.
They shake the meat off their bones
in between canned corn and pickles.
The camera never shows their faces.
But their cheeks fill the screen.
They transcend their female form.
They morph into titillating objects.

Moving from seductive to acrobatic monstrosities.

They play out the objectification that they are subjected to.
Overturn it by exaggeration.

Lust becomes fear.
Want turns into awe.

I take bounce classes at Dancing Grounds.
My teacher is a wild eyed, broad grinning force of nature.
Moe Joe, she calls herself.
You gotta make them tits fight,’ she yells at us.
She shows us how it is done.

Her body is not just dancing, it’s undulating.
Like some kind of digestive organ
that gritty substance
called life.

To see her sweat, is to watch something done right.
Her beauty is captivating.
Wide and unapologetic.

I fall in love with her.
To be in love, is to be in love with yourself.
You perceive yourself through the eyes of the desirable other.
And you like what you see.

I learn the essence of attraction within me.
What makes men jump out of their car.
Follow me into stores.
Whistle, whisper, stare.
I thought it was just the banality of sex.

A societal programming that accepts micro aggressions.
A masculine image that is groomed by behavioural patterns.
A shape I just happened to fit that is en vogue.

But it is not.
Not just sex.
Not just ass.

It is the power.

Shaking’s not sexual.
Moe Joe says.
The body is an instrument.
It’s a drum.
People hear the call and they respond.
It’s about interaction.

The stacking of a spine.
The muscles that guard a fire.
It is the light that draws them.

I become more body
less mind.

Tornado warnings go out weekly in Nola.
I bike through intricate thunder operas.
I wait out rains coming down heavy as black metal.
I let my own storms rage on Messy Mya, Big Freedia, Katey Redd.
Every song I let go a little more.

I shake on an overheated beat.
I go to pieces.
I tear down.
I feel spacious.

Moe Joe tells me about the time
four white cops stopped her
for playing her music too loud.
How she was tasered
and jailed for two days.

How dare I
white woman
compare my body
to a town with toxic history
with racial inequality and violence.

I read Ta Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me
I learn about being a black body in the world.
How fragile it is.
How dangerous.
How easily destroyed.
How often blamed for its own suffering.

I finish the book and feel my privileges.
Every time I speak about my own pain,
I am ashamed.
It feels like I have too many teeth in my mouth.
Like my pain is unreal compared to others.

But still.
Pain is pain.
I hurt.

That too is a truth.

I think about my own body in space.
How I have imitated female archetypes.
How I spent it like cash.
What I got in return.
If it was worth it.

How I should stop turning my self image into a capitalist dream.

I learn to listen.
I learn to talk.
I learn to accept
my ignorance.

America is a slogan country.
Heading into town, I pass two signs daily that intrigue me.

Resistance must now become like breathing


Consider you might be wrong

Now I want to talk to about the monuments.
You know, the ones they have taken down.
Three generals of the Southern War.
Jefferson, Beauregard and Lee.

What once were monuments of pride and power
represent something wholly shameful in a different decade.

I bike from pedestal to pedestal
talk to protesters that have a problem with the rigidity of:

out with the old
in with the new.

They tell talk about a history
that is not as black and white
as it now seems.

I see a black veteran
sporting a flag for his military history.
I see a white mother tying a bonnet
on her black daughters head.

The generals,
they made history
even after war.

Beauregard adopted a black child.
Jefferson set free the slaves he inherited.
They worked with the new government
as best they could.

But still,

losers usually don’t get statues.

Symbols have power.
Especially in a struggling city.
Even though you cannot rewrite history,
you can put it into a different perspective.

I watch masked men taking down the statues.
Veiling themselves because they got death threats
and would like to live a little more.

We people love everything
staying the same.
There is safety in history.

Even tainted stories carry comfort.
We want something to hold on to
in this continuous letting go.

I think of the pedestals within me.
The pictures I put on there of what I once held dear
that now oppress me.

There is no permanence.
Acknowledging that history is fluid.
Paradigms and values change.
Learning to accept that ever shifting of my city.
To sit through the unease.
The limitations of my will.

Nothing is set in stone.
Not even stone itself.

It is time to change the narrative.
I am a city within a city.
A body in time and space.

The mayor has not returned to her seat.
She is still out
in the streets
among the people.

My will has become a voice in a crowd
that is sometimes calm,
sometimes in uproar.

Time is a muscle.
The heart beats through pain and love.
It is all movement
to the body, to the city.

The city does not mind the change.

We contract.
We undulate.
We struggle.
We let go.

We shake.
We dance.
We change.

This is history.

Metaphors to work by, roles to live by

The practice of the artist is hard to define, hard to consider, especially when dealing with a vast research that encompasses and compares people’s attitudes, the state of ecology and nature in both the Mississippi and Danube delta’s. 

As I travel around Louisiana in mad dashes of activities, searching out scientists, alligator trappers, hermits, ecologists, artists and rocketship builders, a question keeps crouching in the back of my mind: Who am I?

What am I doing here?


Death is the sanction of everything that the storyteller can tell,” Walter Benjamin writes in his essay about Leskov; ‘The Storyteller‘. But am I really just a storyteller? We could just as well say I’m the collector of Benjamin’s other famous essay ‘Unpacking My Library – A Talk about Book Collecting‘. I think about the notes I took, recordings and pictures I made and experiences I stored in the memory. 

In my travels, I took on many guises. Bike rider, joke teller, manic dancer, lover, friend, cook, communicator, question asker, daughter. But when I think about the times when I was most productive, happiest, I was like a fisherman.

My fascination for the Mississippi river started years ago, I think it’s rooted in the stories of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer and in my genes. My grandfather was a truck driver and he always preferred being on the road than at home following daily routines; a bit like a fisherman as well perhaps.

I would record the river, its flowing, its washing away of land, its pollution, and something else that I can’t describe and that might be poetry. I threw out my Hydrophone and GoPro in the waters of the Mississippi, of the Gulf of Mexico, in DA BAYOU, and I listened carefully to see what would get caught in my net. The recordings I collect document a moment in time, a minute, an instant, a specific state that will never be recreated again.

Delta Vortex

Friday July 14 at 5PM, launch of limited edition t-shirt by Ashley Teamer, at Defend New Orleans Downtown, 600 Carondelet Street, Suite 140.

Delta Vortex

Each residency period we launch a limited edition t-shirt designed by an artist from New Orleans. In 2017 we’ve worked with Ashley Teamer.

Ashley created Delta Vortex: a metallic silver, yellow and blue design based on our logo. The t-shirt is silkscreened at Purple Monkey Design and has a hand-sewn label in the back. Different men’s and women’s sizes are available in a total edition of 50. Prices are $30/€25.

Ashley Teamer is an artist from New Orleans with whom we have been working in a myriad of ways since we started in 2014. Her current work revolves around female basketball teams. She also does a mean drag performance as Drifter.

We will officially launch Delta Vortex on Friday July 14 at 5PM at Defend New Orleans. DJ Grown Man will play some tunes!

Join us for music, drinks and more of Ashley’s work!

Spring Wrap-up

Tuesday May 30 8PM, performances and screenings by current residents Martha Colburn, Siri Borge, Elfie Tromp and Giovanni Giaretta and screening of DAT LIKWID LAND, the film of 2015 resident Jacob Dwyer, at Arts Estuary, 1024 Elysian Fields Avenue (in the backyard of NPN).


The last Deltaworkers event during our 2017 season!

Martha Colburn is cooking up a musical and visual surprise.

Siri Borge got interested in how humans project their own feelings and habits on animals during her residency. On our wrap-up eve she will show a new installation and a performance dealing with this topic.*

Elfie Tromp loves the hyper-sexual female image in drag culture and modern day feminism. She owns her sexuality and like a good lil’ Beyonce adept she’s not afraid to sell her looks for a statement. However, the amount of catcalling on the streets of New Orleans makes her rethink the impact she has on her surroundings. In a new performance she explores different images of sexuality.

Giovanni Giaretta presents his new publication Elsewhere(s).

Jacob Dwyer is present to introduce his film DAT LIKWID LAND: a contemporary portrait of New Orleans in response to John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces.

This event is free and open to the public.
Shout out to Arts Estuary for supporting Deltaworkers by letting us use their amazing space.

*Siri Borge’s residency is in collaboration with PARSE NOLA.

Politics of Imaging

Wednesday May 24 at 6PM, screening of Episode 3: Enjoy Poverty by Renzo Martens + panel discussion with Bmike, Big Chief Brian Harrison Nelson, Garrett Bradley and Kristina Kay Robinson, at the Joan Mitchell Center, 2275 Bayou Road.

Episode 3: Enjoy Poverty is a controversial 90 minute film registration of Renzo Martens’ activities in the Congo. In an epic journey, the film establishes that images of poverty are the Congo’s most lucrative export, generating more revenue than traditional exports like gold, diamonds, or cocoa. However, just as with these traditional exports, those that provide the raw material: the poor being filmed, hardly benefit from it at all.

We, a Dutch non-profit operating in New Orleans, constantly ask ourselves the question of how to share our resources in a way that makes sense as much for New Orleans as it does for us. We’ve invited a number of people who somehow deal with this question in their practice to discuss the film and its thematics after the screening.

Renzo Martens is a Dutch artist who currently lives and works in Brussels, Amsterdam and Kinshasa. In 2010 he initiated the Institute for Human Activities (IHA) that postulates a gentrification program in the Congolese rainforest.


Brandan “Bmike” Odums is a highly sought after visual artist and filmmaker who uses these chosen mediums to tell stories and make statements that transform the minds of viewers as well as the spaces in which his work appears.

Brian Harrison Nelson is the Big Chief of the Guardians of the Flame. He studied at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. He wrote and directed the short film Keeper of the Flame.

Garrett Bradley was educated in film at UCLA. She focuses on social economic situations, human conflicts and historical reflection and won several prizes, including the Artadia New Orleans Prospect Award and the Sundance Jury Award.

Kristina Kay Robinson is a writer and visual artist born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her written and visual work centers the intellectual geographies and spiritual technologies of Black, Afro-Indigenous, and diasporic peoples.

Archeologies and Other Stories on Roach-O-Vision

Monday May 1 to Wednesday May 31, continuous screening of Archeologies and Other Stories by Giovanni Giaretta on Roach-O-Vision, a livestream by Animal Planet.


It’s always dinner time for this family of American Cockroaches in New Orleans. Known also as the Palmetto Bug or Water Bug, American cockroaches are the largest common species of pest Cockroach. Watch them as they catch-up with movies on Roach-O-Vision. During the month of May they’re watching Giovanni Giaretta’s Archeologies and Other Stories.

To see the live stream go to and scroll down until you see the Cockroach cam.

Cockroach Cam is in partnership with the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium in New Orleans. Every day from 10:30 – 11:00 am ET the roaches are fed. The Insectarium is part of the Audubon Nature Institute. Plan your visit here.

Many thanks to Animal Planet and the Audubon Nature Institute for making this possible!