Materia Medica of Islands

i wanted to tell you about the butterflies of the night
i wanted to tell you about the island
all encompassing
impossible to measure

Materia Medica of Islands is a durational site sensitive work. It holds within itan apothecary, a lamenting choir, nightly recordings of moths and a commemoration to the woman who secured everyone’s right to public access to the land and to forage. Together they create an oracle, a cosmology of the island.
The apothecary is an ongoing investigation and installation of medicinal plants and recipes to nurture resistance. Lamenting together is a practice of collective healing, a tradition of mourning held and performed by women.

In the garden, under a waning moon, a choir gathers to lament
rattles of eagle ferns and pebbles naming sorrows, embodying pain
To grief is to (re)member

they call in the winged spirits,
the guides of departed souls 1

Moth’s have been studied here since the 1960’s
Their short lifespan and sensitivity to variations in the environment make them indicator species for climate change

Nightly recordings of wings catching the light documenting death
their last flight
becomes the oracle
cards of endangered and disappearing species trace nocturnal bodies
threads dyed with lingonberries
a stitch a flutter, a witness
a voice

Common weeds grow in abundance but we are not allowed to pick them This place is controlled and monitored nature fenced and measured
moulded, abandoned buildings protected by moss and lichen attached to walls
of old bunkers
with sleeping bats
Rosa rugosa, an invasive species
grows by the shoreline
a member of past lives and communities

In 1914 Ilma Lindgren, a working class woman and widow, fought solely for public access to the land. After six years of battle she won the case to secure the law of everyone’s right to forage. It all started with a bucket of lingonberries picked on an island. Learning to name and gather your own food creates intimate connections with the place. Eating and ingesting wild plants and berries is a direct relationship with the soil and the light. Looking after oneself and one’s community is the root of care.

1 moth and soul both mean psyche in old greek, psyche also means to blow, to breathe

2 care in old English is caru which means grief