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Talk, Interactive Performance

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 August 2020, SVA Gallery, Stroud, England

The Tree-Huggers

Part 1, of a two-part performance that was an experiential and meditative exercise, wherein the viewers were guided through a tree-hugging session. 

Mentioned in this post by curator and art critic Lina Vincent

A Brief Background

A few months ago, while in discussion with friends had a shocking as well as an unsettling revelation- that in the west hugging trees is not only considered trivial, a ‘tree hugger’ is veritably a deprecating term.

In India tree-hugging symbolizes two majorly powerful happenings– First was a tragic and courageous event that later became known as a precursor to the 20th century Chipko movement. This was an extremely important event in modern India as it became a harbinger of the power of the common man/woman at the grass-root level. Both had been led by ordinary women, one from the arid desert region of Marwar and the other from the Hills of Uttaranchal.

Having just finished reading Edward Said’s book ‘Orientalism’, wasn’t sure if this could be the (long forgotten) cultural hegemony at play or, was a case of capitalist bullying.

I quote from a news article, “Show the slightest bit of concern for the environment and you get labeled a tree hugger. That’s what poor Newt Gingrich has been dealing with recently, as the other presidential candidates attack his conservative credentials for having once appeared in an ad with Nancy Pelosi in support of renewable energy. Never mind that he has since called the ad the “biggest mistake” of his political career Gingrich will be haunted by the tree hugger label the rest of his life. He might as well grow his hair out, stop showering and start walking around barefoot.”

Matters concerning the environmental and sustainable lifestyles being close to my heart, the invitation to perform in Stroud was a proud moment for me this small town is home to the group ‘Extinction Rebellion’. A small-town band of determined neighbors super-gluing themselves to local city council buildings has now grown into a global movement that has managed to reshape the Global climate movement. What sealed my decision to perform this two-part work at Stroud was this quote by one of their core members, which I came across while researching, where she says, "I'm a rebel. I'm a tree sister. I am an Earth protector.” This, became the perfect opportunity to if not reclaim the narrative around a tree hugger, then at least, to put another perspective out there.