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Insights of an Eco Artist

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In conversation: Annie Trevorah

Joana Alarcão

Annie Trevorah's art, spanning sculpture, textiles, print, and more, explores human-plant interconnectivity. Through eco-feminism, she challenges anthropocentrism, urging a shift to the vegetative perspective. In vivid installations, Trevorah questions human dominance, presenting a lively ecology of meaning. Join us for an interview as she shares profound insights into her transformative exploration.

4 December 2023

Annie Trevorah’s multi-disciplinary practice takes a panoptic and cinematic approach; is highly narrative and often installation based embracing sculpture, textiles, print, photography, video and sound.

Trevorah’s particular area of interest is human–plant interconnectivity. Looking at our immersion within a dynamic world, she places eco-feminism, drawing on the concept of gender to analyse the relationships between humans and nature, linked evolutionary/reproductive processes, mutation, shape-shifting and intra-dependence at the heart of her work.

In repositioning our thinking from the human perspective – the anthropocentric mode – to that of the vegetative, Trevorah interrogates the human/nature boundary and questions assumptions about human superiority over the environment, asking us to reconsider the human subject as just one of many participants within a lively ecology of meaning and value - each with its own agentive desires and possibilities, ceaselessly engaged in processes of their own becoming. As Trevorah reflects upon our future existence, she poses the question of a biological invasion of an adaptive alien species equipped to survive in the world we have created.

An emphasis on the notion of metamorphosis, leads Trevorah to play with a palette of bright colours and an array of materials including clay, resin, glass, vegetation, fabric, foam, metal and stone often using a surprising juxtaposition of materials to highlight discord and sometimes harmony.

Can you elaborate on your artistic journey and how it led you to become an eco-artist focusing on human-plant interconnectivity?

In the summer of 2022, I was involved in two projects that changed the course of my journey. The first was a project with the Saatchi Gallery where I made a body of work in response to an exhibition with the Royal Horticultural Society. I found myself having an unexpected reaction to how the work was presented. The white-wall display and scientific drawings of plants, whilst beautiful and unequivocally skilful, seemed so misrepresentative of how nature is experienced that it left me reflecting on issues of containment, exploitation and humankind’s desire to control the natural world. I wanted my response to speak of the power struggle issues and developed a series of layered, superimposed photographs – the framed exhibit itself with added body parts, my reflection in the glass and architectural elements of the gallery – and encased them in thick acrylic tombs.

The second project (commissioned by Wandsworth Council) was to design and create a public sculpture to replace Barbara Hepworth’s Single Form, in Battersea Park, whilst temporarily on loan. Here, the essence of the design was to place art within nature in such a way as to respect the natural surroundings and invite interaction with visitors to the park.

TOMBS (Series of 4) Special project with Saatchi Gallery, London (2022) by Annie Trevorah. Image courtesy of Annie Trevorah.

Your recent solo exhibitions “Symbiosis” and "Triffids," draws on the concept of gender to analyse the relationships between humans and nature. Can you share what inspired you to delve into this particular theme and how it has evolved in your artistic journey?

Reflecting on the relationship between plants and humans, I became fascinated by the similarities of the two biospheres in particular our shared reproductive systems. This formed the basis for my first solo show Symbiosis in February 2023.

Triffids, my second solo exhibition this year took place in October 2023 as part of Chelsea Physic Garden’s 350th anniversary celebrations. Occupying 4 floors at the Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park the work draws on the ecological dimensions of science fiction to imagine a speculative future where the colonising species is not human but plant.

What can you tell us about your sculptures entitled Predator 1 and 2?

In privileging the nonhuman, Triffids prompts us to reconsider the human subject as just one of many organisms within a dynamic ecology of being, each with their own intrinsic vitalisms and potentialities, invariably involved in practices of their own becoming. Predator 1 & 2 further develop the concept of gender from an eco-feminist viewpoint; Out for revenge, Predator 1 has assimilated the female genitalia and adapted armour to deceive and eliminate the human life that tarnished its habitat. Whilst Predator 2, at once phallic, embodies sex and sexuality in all its intricacy to confront the classical thought that has relegated plants to a status devoid of sensation, feeling and emotion. At the same time, it draws on the history of herbal aphrodisiacs that insist upon the role that plants can play in eliciting sexual responses in humans to take revenge on those who have long exploited them.

(Left) Predator 1 (2023); (Right) Predator 2 (2023) by Annie Trevorah. Image courtesy of Annie Trevorah

Your art practice encompasses a wide range of mediums, from sculpture, textiles, print, and photography to video and sound. How do you decide which medium to use for a specific project, and what challenges and opportunities does this versatility bring to your creative process?

For me, it is all about the narrative. Deciding what I would like the end result to be, I try to think how best this can be achieved and try not to be limited. Experimenting with materials and learning new techniques is a key element of my practice.

In terms of materials, I try to incorporate elements of nature into my work such as seed pods, vegetables, fallen branches and stone as well as using discarded items – shower hoses, and cooking utensils. Although I mainly sculpt in pulp and clay, I do sometimes use synthetic materials to highlight discourse.

In your work, you challenge the anthropocentric perspective and encourage us to see ourselves as part of a larger ecology. Could you elaborate on how this shift in perspective influences your art and what it means for our relationship with nature?

In dethroning anthropocentric sovereignty and repositioning our thinking from the human perspective to that of nature, my work interrogates the human/nature boundary and questions assumptions about human superiority over the environment, asking us to reconsider the human subject as just one of many participants within a lively ecology of meaning and value - each with its own agentive desires and possibilities.

(Left) Evolution (2023), (right) Auricle (2023) by Annie Trevorah. Image courtesy of Annie Trevorah

You mention the concept of an "adaptive alien species" invading our world in your work. What does this idea symbolize, and what implications does it have for our future existence in an ever-changing environment?

Anatomically modern humans existed some 200,000 years ago and our development together with our most powerful asset - the brain - has made us the dominant species propelling us into the Anthropocene (the age of man), a phrase coined by Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen in 2002.

As global climate changes become more extreme, The physical planet will dictate the biology of the earth and how those that inhabit it evolve and this is where my main area of interest lies. Reflecting upon our future existence, my work poses the question of a biological invasion of an alien species, part human/part plant, equipped with adaptive features to survive in a future hostile to human survival.

Can you share any upcoming projects or future directions in your art practice that you are excited about and that your audience can look forward to experiencing?

I am currently working on a collection of interactive sculptures that will be ready in Spring 2024.

Eco-alien family (2023) by Annie Trevorah. Image courtesy of Annie Trevorah

In your opinion, how can art contribute to raising awareness and being a positive driving force in the current contemporary atmosphere? Do you hope to provoke a certain reaction or mindset in your audience through your work?

The eco-catastrophe we face challenges us to rethink the space assigned to art in terms of creativity, social impact, thinking, knowledge exchange and artistic practice.

In his latest book, Inclusions, Nicolas Bourriaud proposes that artists are the anthropologists of this new era. “Artists acknowledge the fading of the division between nature and culture, which has been the matrix of segregation for millenia, capitalism, patriarchy, slavery, social segregation, the exploitation of land, subsoil, and animals—all are based on status distinctions between subject and object. Against the commodification of natural elements”.

What message or call to action would you like to leave our readers with?

Doubtless, the legacy of our fingerprint will show the degradation of the earth and countless extinctions. As the realisation comes that all the things we desire, enjoy and need in life depend upon commodities such as energy, water, food and consumables, so comes the realisation that this is at an environmental and social price and as we continue to change earth it will no longer be able to perform the biosphere functions necessary for our survival. At this crucial point of the Anthropocene epoch, we will either have to preserve nature or find ways to artificially enhance it, both of which we are capable of doing.

Find more about the artist's work here.

Inhumana (2023) by Annie Trevorah. Image courtesy of Annie Trevorah

Cover image:

Paphies by Annie Trevorah. Image courtesy of Annie Trevorah

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