Miriam Simun, “Agalinis Dreams,” 2014-2017. Shanghai Himalayas Museum installation view, 2017

 

A multi-sensory art experience, “Agalinis Dreams” incorporates performance, video, and other mediums in order to raise questions about the interwoven history of humans with the other species with whom we share this planet. The work is an ode to the continued tenuous existence of the Agalinis acuta, the only federally protected endangered plant species that grows in New York State.

A ritual to an elusive species that only blooms one day a year, Simun’s work integrates all of the senses and ceremonially utilizes the tiny pink flower’s scent. As a result of the minuscule scale of the flower, its aroma has never before been perceivable by humans. In order to capture the fleeting scent, Simun collaborated with botanists and chemists to trap the olfactive molecules of the Agalinis acuta as it grows, and to recreate its smell for human perception. In her ritual performance “All That Is Used, Broken, Lost...” audiences are invited to experience the Agalinis acuta by donning the adōrō, a wearable device inspired by the physiognomy of insects, while imbibing a ceremonious cocktail.

“Agalinis Dreams” also addresses questions of our own construction of nature. Testing in 2008 revealed that the species is in fact not genetically distinct and thus does not exist at all. Yet Agalinis acuta, of controversial ecological value, continues to experience legal protections as a result of the lawful directives surrounding species protection, with scientists keeping up the ruse.

While being tiny in size, the history of the Agalinis acuta brings up important questions about the intersection of human activity and ecology. Greater questions of species loss and extinction often fall short of acknowledging the role we as humans play in our constant pursuit of perceived progress and also in the pursuit of protecting such species. In the words of Simun, the piece “demonstrates that human technological and cultural practices are as much a part of ecology as the weather. We have always impacted other species developments, just as they have impacted ours.”


Miriam Simun is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is situated at the intersection of ecology, technology, and the body. Her research-based practice investigates the implications of ecological and technological change. Simun’s work has been presented by the New Museum in New York, Museum of Arts and Design Biennial in New York, Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle in Berlin, The Contemporary in Baltimore, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York, Museum of Fine Arts in Split, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, XI Center for Contemporary Art in Donguan, and the Beall Center for Art + Technology in Irvine. She is a recipient of awards from Creative Capital, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Simun holds a B.Sc. from the London School of Economics, an MPS from New York University, and is currently a research assistant at the MIT Media Lab.

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