Your works YEW and YEW: outside are co-created with different plant species. Wherefrom comes to your interest in working and co-creating with plants?
Jared Gradinger: That is such a nice place to begin. First of all, I would like to define my understanding of co-creation within this context. Co-creation is working with Nature as an equal partner on all levels of decision making to create a balanced environment. It is setting primarily human-centric logic aside and trying to work with Nature logic. In this context, balance is the optimal state in which all life systems can flourish. Balance is of course always in flux and recalibrating. This way of thinking seems to point in the direction of humans being separated from Nature. We are of course a part of Nature, but we also live outside of its inherent balance. In fact, we tend to create a lot of imbalance. Balance isn’t a human specialty, but it is one of Nature‘s.
I think as a kid, I was always a friend of plants and Nature even if it wasn’t very conscious. I grew up in a city with incredible trees. I was the child in the outfield during a baseball game who would sit down (while the game was on) and play with the flowers and Grasshoppers because I found them much more compelling to watch and catch than a ball. In my 20s and 30s, I started to buy strange plants and formed a nicely sized family in my flat. Around 2012, I started to become aware of and learn about other layers of reality, other dimensions, and other types of consciousnesses. I started to dig deeper, read a lot, had conversations, and participated in various healing modalities and experiences. I began to understand and even experience Nature in a more expanded way than what I grew up with. It was clear that I needed to find ways to consciously participate with Nature and learn from it. I’ve learned since that Nature is right here ready and willing to work with us whenever we decide we want to. All we need is a kind of intention, which can be almost anything, and then to softly observe and listen.
One of the many intentions of my first garden was to meet, learn from and work with the elemental beings. What better way is there to learn from and work with Nature than to create a garden? Gardens are an optimal place for human/Nature co-creation and can become a real classroom and laboratory for interspecies and more than human communications and learnings. Gardens are radical acts of peace. Gardens are initiated by humans and supported by Nature. Gardens don’t necessarily need to be green spaces, potentially anything can be a garden.
In general, I’m driven to work with Nature as a partner in many aspects of my life: in my home, my body, my artistic practices; expanding my notion of garden and co-creation, and trying to step away as much as I can from my habitual human logic. And in the meantime, have fun learning and creating with creation. I intend to expand the scope of my reality, participate with the beings and phenomena that surround and support us, and try to find ways to share that with other humans in hopes to co-create with them and the more than human world.
Angela Schubot: I am still amazed that it is actually truly possible to do that, working with plant beings as artistic collaborators. I was always interested in leaving the heroic body behind and entering a world of „being moved by other forces “. It is nice to be moved by plants since they have such a different configurations in Time and Space. And total other connectivity with each other and with the world. For me, they seem very wise entities. And they share so much beautiful knowledge with such an abundance.
Could you tell us more about the working process? Concretely, how did you work together with the plants?
Jared Gradinger: That is a very simple and very complex question at the same time.
The simple answer is that we tried to create space to listen to them and then tried to honor what appeared to us while still listening.
We had taken a break from making pieces for a while to have other experiences and learn new things. Angela and I always said we only wanted to make work together when we needed to. When we were interested in learning something or needed to experience something. Angela began to work with and learn from traditional plant medicine, and I began learning from Nature in the garden classroom.
So, we met again in 2017, to make our first group performance YEW, with the plants as our partners. First, we set an intention. We wanted to build a garden with them, a garden on the stage; not a room full of plants but rather a garden that lives in our bodies. We wanted to offer our bodies and the space to the plants and be moved by them. We set the intention to listen, learn, and materialize what our plant partners have to share and what we learned as a result of working with them. We invited them into the theater space, between our bodies, in the music and lights, into our logic and decision making, our rhythms and timings.
We practiced getting quiet and started listening to them and the wisdom they had to share with us. We observed them in form, their shapes, colors, smells, and directions, and also by observing where they grow and with whom. We would practice becoming them. We would invite them into
our bodies, into the room, and move with them. We invited them into our thoughts, our mouths, our lungs. We invited Stefan Rusconi to join us and help to bring their music and sounds into the work as honestly as possible. We listened to their electrical outputs, their rhythms, and their music. And then found the common ground and desires between us and worked to formulate that into a garden and a performance.
For YEW: outside we carried those experiences, inspirations, and encounters back outside and almost stepped back to decentralize ourselves even more. We wanted to offer an expanded perception of the places and beings that we were working with and of course, invite the audience along to encounter and perceive those beings and phenomena in real-time.
Angela Schubot: It was mostly listening and softening the fibers of the body to be moved by their subtle energy.
As a duo, you have worked since 2009 and have created several pieces together. How would you describe your artistic relationship?
Jared Gradinger: In my view, Angela is incredibly radical in thought and movement and completely dedicated to experimentation. She is inspiring. She challenges me and my habits. I never saw someone formulate thoughts and ideas in a body the way she can. Our approaches and ways of thinking are sometimes very different, sometimes not. But when carefully communicated, we create a third, a kind of balance that individually we couldn’t create. Like creating a new consciousness that we’ve had the privilege to grow since 2009.
We worked for a long time to develop new forms of co-existence with each other by letting go, as best we could of our ‚I‘, through an unconditional dedication to the other.
We were always searching to let go of the habitual body and experiment with different ways of being together. Now, by working with Nature, we are inviting and including plant partners. Together, with Nature, we are search- ing for and joining another logic, which exists only when we honestly listen and decentralize ourselves. We practice dedicating unconditionally to each other and the plant beings with their infinite wisdom and multidimensionality.
Angela Schubot: We always shared a vision for trying the impossible and finding what this does in the body.
You are also working with regenerative gardens. You created projects in relation, and you are giving workshops (like for example next week in the frame of Moving in November). Curious to hear more about this, your interest and motives, and also the difference between these gardening projects and your stage work?
Jared Gradinger: I guess it is obvious but working outside allows for a very clear and direct channel to meeting Nature and the plants. Real-time phenomenon. It’s where you can witness, observe, meet, and participate all at the same time.
A few years ago we were invited to develop a project for the Martin Gropius Bau and Haus der Berliner Festspiele‘s Down to Earth festival in Berlin. We were inspired to create a garden that takes care of itself and to invite the museum to stop tending the backyard. We intended to allow the garden to find its own way/balance by letting it be. We offered, over the course of a week, a durational performance dancing a garden into existence; consciously planting endemic seeds and bulbs into the ground while in a performative state. The seeds and bulbs regenerate themselves and require little care. A less kempt space also invites other life to occupy the place. The institution agreed to let the new garden be without intervention for at least a few years. It is amazing to visit this little patch of land, growing and finding its new dynamic balance. The grasses are growing high creating habitat for insects and birds and the bulbs are multiplying. A small balsam forest has begun.
In this context, working with the body and the land felt so right and good on so many levels, we decided we wanted to share this performance as a practice to create a workshop that is feeding the land and the human physically and energetically, and at the same time create a space for connection and listening to plants, soil, cycles, sun, weather, etc. The piece was called The opposite of a shadowland, which is a kind of definition of re-wilding.
I must admit that I am doubting my place in the theater. My intention is not as clear as it used to be. The work with Nature has started to point me in (an)other direction(s), and even they are not so clear at the moment. I also feel my responsibility as an artist is changing. Maybe even the purpose is changing. The world is (seemingly) a very different place than it was 10 or even 2 years ago. Responsibility can of course take on many different forms, and there are many people in our field working hard to take on that responsibility to start making fundamental changes. There are people working with and within institutions to create internal change regarding our ecological crisis and regenerative thinking. They are thinking about theater sets and their ecological impact and future. They are thinking about tour structures and habits, about alternative sources of electricity in theater spaces, and about funding structures that are more long-term and not just project-based. There are of course other (smaller) movements and questions being proposed to promote change. Building a public garden in an artistic institution inspired a lot of change. Working with plants and Nature as artistic partners created a lot of change in me and elsewhere. Even creating work for the outside (knowing it’s been done thousands of times before) created change in our way of thinking, doing, and perceiving. I believe it also created small changes in the actual land itself.
The word „sustainable“ has become a challenging word for me. Truly it means to manage and points us in the wrong direction. It has become a capitalistic slogan, and in many ways is one of the reasons we are in our current ecological crisis. I first learned the word „regenerative” when I started looking into different farming/agricultural practices. From my understanding, the basic idea behind regenerative agriculture is not at all a new model, it is indigenous knowledge, and it is also a part of practices such as permaculture, etc. At its most basic it is the mandate to take care of and protect our soil as much as possible. With our current agricultural practices, scientists say we have roughly 50 harvests left before our soil is completely depleted. Healthy soil grows healthy plants and food, which in turn grows healthy environments, ecosystems, healthy bodies, and healthy minds. It is working with the cycles and processes found in Nature. It doesn’t require pesticides and chemicals, tilling, monoculture, etc. In general, regenerative systems create feedback loops that take care of the whole: starting with the foundation, which for everyone everywhere is soil. And as Sateesh Kumar says, “We are soil, temporarily human”. I am not a farmer, so I am wondering how we can integrate those systems and feedback loops into our work, into our living, into everything actually.
To me, the idea and inspiration of „regenerative“ is similar to the co-creative work with/in the garden. I had always wondered if this expanded notion of gardening and co-creation with Nature could be a way to develop artistic works and pieces, and Angela and I explored some of that together. Now I am beginning to ask (as are many others) how can we work with regenerative strategies in general, to better support the ground on which we live; the land, the people, and more than the human beings with whom we are sharing time. How can we better support the various gardens that we co-create, whether they are a green garden, a performance, a long-term project, a body, a partnership, a business, a tour schedule, a waste system, a theater, a festival…
Angela Schubot: The workshop is an attempt to bridge dancing and gardening. A hybrid!