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Botanical Art & Queer Decolonial Feminist Studies 


'The Five Tondos' 2020. Featuring citations from writers including ashon.t crawley, J. Kameron Carter, Sarah Jane Cervenak,  Hèlène Cixous, Edouard Glissant, alexis pauline gumbs, Saidiya Hartman, LaMonda Horton-Stallings,Dana Luciano, Erin Manning, Fred Moten, Amber Jamilla Musser, jennifer c. nash, Anne Rudloff Stanton, P.A. Skantze and Hortense Spillers. The citations in the tondos are organised around five words central to my research: Aesthetics, Flesh, Sacred, Opacity and Open. 

Research Synopsis: 

This practice-as-research explores the ways in which flowers act as ideal companions in asking complex questions about how to live with the capitalist heteropatriarchal colonial legacy of the British Empire. Through an accumulation of textual and artistic research and a polyphony of citational voices, it attends to the capacity of

flowers and floral imagery to carry and convey the complexities of living and

researching alongside grief, interconnection and survival. Informed by a queer

decolonial feminist ethics, the project is rooted in research within Undercommons

and commoning practices (Emma Dabiri, Stefano Harney & Fred Moten), black

feminist love-politics (alexis pauline gumbs, Audre Lorde, jennifer c. nash) and queer

theory (ashon t. Crawley, LaMonda Horton-Stallings, Amber Jamilla Musser).

Furthermore, this project proposes secular-sacred attention as an antidote to

conventional Western academic methods based in Enlightenment thinking. It posits

critical and artistic practises of illumination, gentleness and care (Helene Cixous,

Anne Dufourmantelle, jennifer c. nash) as a means of survival in the face of loss and

attends to the inherent fragility of researching and making within the vicissitudes of

temporality and late capitalism (ashon t. crawley, Emma Dabiri).

The visual work included in this thesis takes the form of illuminated manuscripts, in botanical paintings are entangled with citations from queer decolonial feminist texts. Created as

part of my ‘devotional citation’ praxis and using both illustration and embroidery

techniques, these artworks live on the page alongside the writing, and act

alternatively as illustrations, interruptions and excesses. Aesthetically and formally,

‘devotional citation’ is a celebration of the sacred modes of attention inherent in

religious practices such as the Christian ‘Lectio Divina’ and the Jewish Rabbinic

textual commentaries. Whilst honouring these religious roots, ‘devotional citation’

enacts a secular-sacred structure of feeling (Ann Pellegrini, Raymond Williams)

which instead of praising a God, seeks to illuminate the ‘instant-now’ (Clarice

Lisepector) and praise the myriad glories of small and specific moments of research.

Botanical art has a direct haptic bearing on the progression of the project, as this argument for the revelatory nature of researching alongside flowers finds its accumulatory force through a

complex interwoven series of illustrated and embroidered objects and critical

writing. In this way, this project is a work of continuous unravelling and remaking

(Stefano Harney & Fred Moten, Laura Harris), in which temporal insurgencies (Fred

Moten) created through revelatory moments of study and sedimented temporalities

accumulated through citational and artistic practices (alexis pauline gumbs, Amber Jamilla

Musser) are briefly illuminated. Recognising that opacity is not the enemy of

connection (Edouard Glissant), these acts of illumination do not seek to define or

categorise, but rather to honour and dwell with textual, material and floral

companions. Furthermore, in honouring these companions as equal participants in

the co-creation of the work, the project’s ethics of care extends into a space of

interspecies belonging (Sarah Jane Cervenak, Anna Tsing, Yota Batsaki). Whilst the first chapter attends to the history of flowering plants and botanical art in the 18th and 19th centuries and their role in the expansion of the British Empire, the second chapter is focused on thinking alongside flowers within queer Decolonial Feminist Practice-as-Research, Fine Art and Plant Humanities. Finally, the third chapter is concerned with entangled citational practices and how citation intersects with flowers, temporality and the domestic, historically, currently and within my own practice.


Side A of Mobile Tondo 1 (Open) featuring citations from Fred Moten, Black and Blur (2017) and P.A. Skantze, Moving Home at Hayward Gallery, London  (2012) and my own notes in the margins. October 2020. 


Side B of Mobile Tondo 1 (Open) featuring citations from Ashon T. Crawley, Black Pentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility (2016), Edouard Glissant, The Poetics of Relation (1990), Amber Jamilla Musser, Sensual Excess: Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance (2018) and Jennifer C. Nash, Practising Love: Black Feminism, Love-Politics and Post-Intersectionality (2011). October 2020. 

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