Somatic Natural History Archive (2009-2013)

The Somatic Natural History Archive (SNHA) was a four-year movement research study exploring the life history of plants and animals through physically tracing and embodying their movement patterns. I started with what was visible, and used poetic reflection to work my way back through real and imagined histories, asking questions along the way. How did this creature get here? How has the environment shaped it (nutrients, elements, gravity, etc.)?

This project started as an inquiry into the feasibility of understanding the phenomenology of another being by aligning with its physical circumstance and movement signature. The videos I took in the field capture my first conversations. What you see is an inter-species equivalent of a first handshake. An awkward conversation about the weather. A kinetic grasping for common ground. You might say that the conversation is one-sided, and when I first began the work I would have agreed with you. However, my experience showed that my physical presence was acknowledged by the other organism, or at the very least we were aware we were in relationship. We are all, each of us, always in relationship. 

The archive exists as a physical memory I hold in my body. The traces of kinetic, somatic, experiential kinship. I reference the archive regularly in my daily life, in my music, in my writing, and my drawing. 

I pursued the project actively from 2009-2013, and now continue the research informally. This practice has become the basis of my understanding of self, and something I see when I look at others – each one of us existing as a tide pool of life, born from and destined to rejoin the great churning of the biotic ocean.

What does one do with an awareness like this? Why have we forgotten our ties to the ecosystem at the visceral level of defining our own self-hood? What will we do with our lives when we remember this understanding? What are the conceptual/social/political bottlenecks that keep us from understanding this? How do these notions of universal connection graft onto existing concepts of love, trophic energy transfer, etc.? Where do we need to invent new words?  

These questions have thrust me back into the world with a commitment to explore, dialogue, and build. 

Further Reading: Towards a post-human ethics: Moving with others in Karl Cronin's Somatic Natural History Archive (by Michael Morris)