24.12.2019 | Words by: Emma van Meijeren
When asked to describe her approach to fiction in 1986, speculative writer Ursula K. Le Guin presented her method through the theory of the carrier bag. Rethinking the weapon as the first tool created by humans, she proposed the bag or container as the earliest cultural invention instead. Whereas the version of history where Man first created the weapon as a tool to attack, to kill and to position himself as a hero, the carrier bag theory thinks of the bag or holder as the first human creation. It centers the desire to gather and commune instead of the desire to dominate and control. It looks at multiples: multiples of beings, of communities, of identities and of ways of thinking. It is, indeed, the essence of Le Guin’s approach to speculative fiction. As she explains:
"When I came to write science-fiction novels, I came lugging this great sack of stuff, my
carrier bag full of wimps and klutzes, and tiny grains of things smaller than mustard seed, and intricately woven nets which when laboriously unknotted are seen to contain one blue pebble, an imperturbably functioning chronometer telling the time on another world, and a mouse’s skull; full of beginnings without ends, of initiations, of losses, of transformations and translations, and far more tricks than conflicts, far fewer triumphs than snares and delusions; full of space ships that get stuck, missions that fail, and people who don’t understand."
Instead of viewing her stories as stages for a singular hero, they are containers for the tiny artifacts and personalities of a shared and imagined future. Le Guin builds new worlds in her novels. She inspired writers and thinkers, artists and musicians to do the same. To imagine a future that can reflect critically on the present. A future of creatures that are offspring of the inventor of the carrier bag instead of the weapon.
Artists Marlyn Kist de Ruijter and Aura Lydon are similarly interested in building speculative futures. Over the past three years they have presented their installations Off-Grid (2017) and Sweet Tooth (2018) during the December weekender in Het Muzieklokaal. This year they’ve moved to De Cinema with their new installation Amorfa immortal. Marlyn and Aura met a year before their first project, and bonded over their common interest in worldbuilding. Their work is characterized by great attention for detail, morphing human/natural objects and a keen eye for textures and colours.
Amorfa immortal grew through a collision of the organic and the artificial that doesn’t necessarily clash or synthesize, but rather asks what happens when they cross pollinate. Humans take elements of flowers, while flowers morph into blue lavender silicone. Characteristics are exchanged and take their own course in a carrier bag communion.
Elements that stand out in Amorfa immortal are, for instance, the white ceramic cast of a friend’s head. Hands growing out of flower buds. Flower buds attached through a structure that reminds of anal beads. It is no coincidence that some of the materials and shapes might remind you of what’s on sale in your local sexshop. The installation is reflected from beneath by a mirroring version of Eris, a previously frozen dwarf planet at the furthest reach of our solar system. Lit up from underneath by a blue light, the hybrid plant life on Eris gets a desaturated colour palette of white and pale blue, green and lilac.
Collisions and transformations, translations and cross pollinations are, much how Le Guin described this along the theory of the carrier bag, “far more tricks than conflicts”. They play and disguise, ask a viewer to think about the relations between the elements and don’t necessarily present any answers. The question of human interference in the natural world runs beneath these images and isn’t presented as a positive or negative effect. It’s a reminder of how human interference in nature always means human incorporation in nature. How we become part of distant planets, near plants and speculative futures. These blurring boundaries are already a fact of life, and looking honestly at what this might mean for the future is to open the carrier bag and find our hands gliding past every pebble, anal bead and mustard seed we might find.
Picture by: Françoise Bolechowski
Amorfa immortal can be visited during all club nights between December 26th and January 5th.