For Brief Encounters the Belgian artist Gosie Vervloessem (b. 1973, Brussels) deliberately chose a spot by cut trees. The subject of her performance: the trail of destruction left by an insect barely five millimetres long. The European spruce bark beetle is a dark-brown hairy beetle that moves through woodland like a silent killer, proving fatal for spruces in particular. Healthy trees can repel insects by producing resin. However, last year’s dry summer left many spruces weakened, so the insects were able to drill their way through the bark to the inside of the trees and lay their eggs. The larvae that emerge eat their way through the trees in a very distinctive pattern, which makes it look as if sentences are carved into the trunk. This behaviour has earned the destructive beetle the wonderful Dutch name of the ‘letterzetter’, the typographer.
This presentation is closely related to the practice of Vervloessem, who, in readings, performances, recipes and installations, observes natural phenomena in order to understand, interpret and categorize them. Vervloessem is fascinated by our desire for control and systems of order. Can everything be classified? How should we relate to a world that is chaotic and elusive and seems to have a will of its own? This is also the context within which her interest in invasive plant species, into which she has conducted extensive research, should be seen. Exotics have been introduced by humans into areas where they do not naturally grow. This began in the colonial era. Alien species adapt to their new environment and have a strong survival mechanism.
Vervloessem’s project Horror Garden is a response to this situation. She presents plants as autonomous, independently thinking organisms that liberate themselves from human exploitation and subjugation and then scare them to death. She has taken inspiration from horror films, in which plants sometimes go on the attack. At De Oude Warande she installed a wall with a display of exhibits from Horror Garden, combined with material about the spruce bark beetle. The public sat on wooden chairs and treestems while Vervloessem elaborated about humankind having to bow to nature, which in turn has to bow to an insect, the toughest of all living creatures, which since its existence on earth began, around 400 million years ago, has constantly adapted to changes and so far proved ineradicable.