Blog / Negotiating Roots

NR 18| Benog Hygroscope: Anirban : Land Held — An idea evoked from a landslide.

Roots of trees hold land and soil erosion. We all have read in our schoolbooks. In the Oak forest I saw a chunk of land including a section of the mountain trail had subsided and slid down into the stream. Not a big landslide, but a rather small one. A chestnut tree and an Oak tree managed to hold the rest of the ground. I felt extremely curious to observe the slide, as it looked like a miniature of a big one, exposing the layers of the underneath in a cross section. The slide spans about 50 feet in length and about 20 feet in height at the maximum. I cautiously climbed down to the stream to have a look at the cross section. It showed exposed roots of the trees alongside the earth and broken stones. On careful observation of the loose earth around the slide I found the complex network of the very soft and delicate roots thin as thread that prevailed around the sides of the slide that prevented it from further slide. A large section of the patch around the center of the slide I noticed doesn’t have trace of any roots. I felt the power of the small. I realized the reason of the slide and pondered on an installation work around it. The idea was to have a work that helps to hold the land and to prevent it from further slide.
I choose soft red colored wool as my material — wool because it is a natural fiber, soft and delicate as the roots and it will not decompose as fast as the other natural fibers like cotton threads etc. And red is a color that would contrast well against the color of earth stones and the green foliage of the forest. This is a place far away from our exhibition space hidden inside the Oak forest. Only possible audience will be some curious shepherd and some people who would come to visit the Binog Mountain Quail Sanctuary, whose territory lies on the other bank of the stream. Red color will draw attention of the occasional visitors of both the banks of the stream.
I started tying the roots with wool to make an elaborate complex mesh of wool and roots. To begin the work I needed to climb about 15 feet over the soft and loose earth of the slide and balanced myself carefully holding the soft and delicate roots that would break if I gave them a pull. I started to tie wool to the roots and moved along. To my delight, I found the tied wool gave strength to the roots and the new network of roots tied with wool was actually been able to take my weight as I moved on the loose earth on the slide. I also felt a strong performative quality of the process, as I was carefully balancing myself and moving along extending the wool network. It was a bit risky as at places it would be more than 20 feet steep fall onto the rocky mountain stream. I managed to extend the network along the whole span of the slide, which would be about 50 feet in length. My friend and performance artist Chirantan was observing what I was doing and started intervening by pelting stone around me. I felt great joy not fear as I felt he could connect with the performative quality of the work independently. It gave me a greater challenge as it reminded me of the risk. I returned to the work one more time and in two days I made a three-layer network with roots and wool. This is pre-monsoon time and I feel over this network leaves and earth washed down in rain will form a layer which will allow algae and moss to grow and slowly form an alive surface that stops it from sliding further. The installation will then no more be visible on the surface but will be a success hiding underneath.