My 24-minute film This Entangled Land (2021) is an Award Winner at the Mannheim Arts and Film Festival 2022, Germany and has been accepted for the International Art Film Festival 2022 in Birmingham, UK (online screenings 1-17 December 2022).
To mark the launch of SPUN – Society for the Protection of Underground Networks, I’m releasing the mycorrhizal fungi-related sections of my new film This Entangled Land, which features an interview I did with co-founder of SPUN and mycorrhizal fungi expert, Prof. Toby Kiers, about fungal networks in soil. I’ll be doing a live podcast session with Prof. Kiers on 30th September 2022 as part of the De Hortus Fungi Trail programme at Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam. The whole of This Entangled Land will be screened on Saturday, 1 October at RADIUS Center for Art and Ecology, Delft, where Prof. Toby will also give a talk on SPUN. I’ve been drawing on Kiers Lab research for many years, particularly in relation to my project Producers-Parasites-Hosts 2012-2018 (see elsewhere on this site).
Marking 30 Years in the Netherlands
Retrospective and Studio Sale
Friday 18 September 5 pm – 9 pm
Saturday 19 September 11 am – 6 pm
Sunday 20 September
Address: Losdok, Pakhuis Wilhelmina,
Veemkade 570A, 1019 BL Amsterdam
It’s been 30 years since I arrived in the Netherlands to attend the Jan van Eyck Academy. Please join me to mark the occasion with a retrospective and studio sale of my work at Losdok, the exhibition space in Pakhuis Wilhelmina (where I’ve had my studio since 1993).
Now feels like a good moment to revisit some of my favourite pieces, which first saw the light in exhibitions around the Netherlands, England, Northern Ireland, USA, Canada and Spain over the last 25 to 30 years.
All the work in this exhibition will be for sale and will include one-of-a-kind pieces (cut-outs, drawings, paintings, collages) and limited editions (digital and analogue photographs, silkscreen prints) on a range of scales, framed and unframed.
The works track speculative negotiations and translations of networks, money, land, identities, sea, forests, fungus, roots and waterways. Viewed horizontally, vertically, close-up and remotely.
If you would like more information, please contact me through my contact page on this website or DM me on Instagram (Annabel Howland_studio).
COVID-19 : Due to the COVID-19 situation, there will not be an opening, but I hope people will drop by throughout the weekend. A limited number of people are allowed in the space at any one time, so please bear with us if you have to wait a moment. Refreshments, masks and sanitizer will be on hand.
Opening times: Thurs. – Sat. 13:00 – 17:00 hrs and by appointment
Exhibition runs until Saturday 16th February 2019
Annabel Howland’s artworks weave speculative webs around ecology, finance and art. Looking through the lenses of different fields of research, she unpicks, isolates and reweaves threads from these systems. The resulting installations constantly shift between scales and perspectives in attempts to fathom and imagine the systems’ complex twists.
The title, Durn that Road, quotes the character Anse Bundren in William Faulkner’s 1930 novel As I Lay Dying. Anse is introduced to us through his rant against a road he finds threatening, mainly because it brings people (i.e. the taxman) to his door, but also because of its implicit demand for movement. “When He aims for something to be always a moving, He makes it longways, like a road or a horse or a wagon, but when He aims for something to stay put, He makes it up and down ways, like a tree or a man.”
For her exhibition at Bradwolff Projects, Annabel has developed a multimedia installation, which takes as its point of departure a road through the rainforest in the state of Sarawak on Borneo (East Malaysia). This logging road started on the coast and was gradually extended through to villages near the border with Indonesia where Sa’ban is spoken. Dr Beatrice Clayre began studying Sa’ban in the 1960s. In 2013 she published a trilingual Malay-Sa’ban-English picture dictionary, by which time the changes to village life brought about by the road had become tangible. In 2016, Annabel travelled the length of the road with Dr Clayre’s son, anthropologist Alasdair Clayre and two Sa’ban friends, filming and interviewing people about the road, their languages and their ways of life.
They started with simple questions about how the arrival of a road affects the people living along it, and how a minority language fares under the changes a road brings. But a line through the rainforest that links communities, which used to be separated by many days travel on foot or by boat, also links other lines that criss-cross the globe, following the long flow of financial capital, raw materials, and religion.
The installation is structured around strong verticals and horizontals, intermittently penetrated by single point perspective.
A certain literacy is needed to understand some matters. Money matters. Money matters and also the surprisingly (and sometimes disturbingly) related ecologies of scientific and artistic research. It’s their abstraction, you see (and don’t see). Their symbolic agility. The power of words which operate in these spheres to shape the imagination and with that, perspectives on reality. As philosopher Franco “Bifo” Berardi reminds us, money and language “are nothing and yet they move everything. They are nothing but symbols, conventions, flatus vocis , but they have the power to persuade human beings to act, to work, and to transform physical things”.1
It is within this web of interrelated agencies, actors and things (organic and man-made) where Annabel Howland’s Producers – Parasites – Hosts entangles itself. Since the time of the global financial crisis in 2008, working closely with a number of specialists such as evolutionary biologist Toby Kiers and econometrist Albert Menkveld at VU Amsterdam, and London-based economist Tony Curzon Price, amongst many others, Howland has traced and traded narratives leading from “stories of lasers, kidneys and chemical compounds [to] microbial cooperation and human debt.” 2
Over various iterations Producers – Parasites – Hosts has morphed from performative lectures accompanying edited sonic records of interviews with key players in this story at the Athens Biennial (2013); to handmade schematic gouache paintings, textual quotes and petri-dish renderings at the Pompgemaal in Den Helder (2015); a publication entitled fungi , a light box with mycorrhizal fungi in a plant root and sound piece Centipede Game – On Cheating at Kunsthal 45 (2015); and more recently, a triangulated mapping of community garden collaboration in Het Rode Loper Festival (2017).
Throughout this evolution, Howland interrogates the practice of hosting within institutions and nature together with the intimacies of survival between fungi and the market – which are, in the end, not dissimilar. As fungi evaluate their host organisms by their capability to provide sugar, the notion of corporation comes to mind as one entity becomes efficiently colonized by another – making the relationship between host and the hosted increasingly malleable.
The shifting scales of the project’s manifestations speak to Howland’s insistence on making legible the precarious conditions in which many live, breathe and work. Her inscriptions of handwritten, microscopic, as well as seemingly invisible macrostructures, materialize her research process while also reflecting on the monetary value of aesthetic display in a changing art market. The money is also here.
While we are in the space, let’s see and listen. The entrance hall you’re in features a number of window panels displaying fragments of the visual research outlined above, as well as four one-eared headphones. Two by the entrance hall windows and two by the windows opposite the student information desks. The soundscape is vast and varied, traversing the project’s previous edits via subjects like “pigeons, to flags, to cables, to microwave dishes on towers, information dark spots and flash crashes, dark pools, transparency and lit markets.” 3 There’s a lot to hear. And you will have four months to dip in and out of the ongoing conversation. To read and think the material differently.
Back to legibility. The specialization of language required in many fields (otherwise called “jargon”) can often seem opaque and even exclusive. Isn’t opacity sometimes more useful than transparency though? According to Andy Haldane, the former Head of Stability and now Chief Economist at the Bank of England, the number of global financial languages is so vast it quite possibly exceeds the number of spoken human languages. Haldane also notes that, “a common language is known to increase dramatically bilateral trade between countries, by more than 40%.”4
There is, however and as always, another reading. One that’s more risky, more ambiguous, more messily political in its ambitions. Poet and philosopher, Édouard Glissant’s praise for opacity provides a useful counterpoint in and through the efficient, dark-pool workings of global markets. Glissant places non-transparency next to not-knowing and the fear that this generates within an Enlightenment-indoctrinated world. He asks whether – in a contemporary time, full of complication and contradiction – the West will move towards a more entangled approach to the world in a participatory way, or one that’s still based on “old impositions”. 5 “Even if,” he says, “we should have no illusions about the realities, their facts already begin to change simply by asking this question.” 6 By seeking a relation to things unknown, to difference, to the opaque, we invite the possibility of multiplicity which is a poetic force, one that opens up rather than closes down relationships. And which, as “Bifo” reminds us is a force in “excess of language…a hidden resource which enables us to shift from one paradigm to another.” 7
Bringing us to the context of this particular commission at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam and the not-so-poetic relation of education to debt. In Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s work on The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & BlackStudy they observe that as opposed to credit, which is asocial, “debt is mutual. Credit runs only one way.” 8 And while the pressure of debts to society are commonplace amongst fugitives, students, artists, the colonial “politics of debt without payment, without credit, without limit” remain largely intact, 9 and often without regret: “Everything I did was within the rules…the blame lies elsewhere…the system went wrong” as one interviewee in Howland’s archive describes the post-crash attitude of those who contributed to it.10 There is an evolutionary dilemma at work it seems between the allowances of “the system” and the site of learning. To this dilemma, anthropologist Anna Tsing asks, “How do lovers of fungi practice arts ofinclusion that call to others? In these times of extinction, when even slight acquaintance can make the difference between preservation and callous disregard…we might want to know possibilities of vernacular science, that is, knowledge production in which ordinary people can participate.”11
It is in this participative entanglement that we find ourselves Producers, Parasites and Hosts of poetic indeterminacy: an indebtedness which can and should be negotiated with the power of a vernacular literacy which is at once capable of reading, knowing and relating across different paradigms.
1 Franco “Bifo” Berardi, “Emancipation of the Sign: Poetry and Finance During the Twentieth Century”, in E-Flux Journal#39, November 2012, https://www.e-flux.com/journal/39/60284/emancipation-of-the-sign-poetry-and-finance-during-the-twentieth-century/. Last accessed 11/06/2018.
2 See Annabel Howland’s website: https://annabelhowland.nl/project/producers-parasites-hosts-athens-mix/. Last accessed 11/06/2018.
3 Annabel Howland, email 11/06/2018.
4 Andrew Haldane et al, “Towards a Common Financial Language”, www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/speeches, 2012, p.1.
5 Édouard Glissant, “For Opacity”, in Poetics of Relation , trans. Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997, pp. 189-194.
7 Berardi, ibid.
8 Stefano Harney and Fred Moten The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study , New York:
Minor Compositions, 2013, p. 61
9 Ibid, p. 64.
10 Annabel Howland, Producers – Parasites – Hosts Athens Mix , 2013.
11 Anna Tsing, “Arts of Inclusion, or, How to Love a Mushroom”, Australian Humanities Review , Issue 50, May 2011, pp. 1-10.