P u b l i c C e r e m o n i e s f o r L a n g u a g e
Danielle Vogel's installations, interdisciplinary, and site-responsive works—or public ceremonies for language—are often extensions of her manuscripts and seek to uncover, reroute, and tend to the archives of memory shared between bodies, languages, and landscapes.
TO TINCTURE LANGUAGE WITH LANGUAGE
collaborations with plants & place
Woven into my life as a poet is the quiet and ceremonial work I make with plants, elements, and place in the form of flower, mineral, and environmental essences. For those who are unfamiliar with the medicine of essences: essences are a homeopathic remedy made from the energetic imprint of a plant, mineral, or place's unique vibrational resonance alchemically stored in water. This charged or imprinted water is then preserved in an organic grape alcohol and diffused into smaller dosage bottles.
Each flower, element, and place has its own resonant gift and what I think of as a “light signature.” These light signatures, when introduced into the body by way of the bottled essence, act as a kind of tuning fork within us. Our specific light signature—the energetic patterned-intelligence of our own unique human bodies—vibrates to meet, entrain, and attune to, or learn from, the vibrational teachings of flower, mineral, place. It is miraculous. A meeting of water, light, and embodiment. Over time, this process of entrainment is how healing occurs, allowing us to slowly repattern emotional, cognitive, and spiritual misalignments.
So much of my work as a poet happens in embodied ceremonial space off the page. And much of this work doesn’t make it—visibly—into the eventual book. Instead, these unseen ceremonies glow at the core of how the book unfolds ceremonial space for the reader. The ceremony of collaborating with place in the form of making, dosing, and sharing essences is at the core of three of the manuscripts I'm currently writing, tentatively titled Water Oracles, Sea Margin, and The Frequency of Flowers. Within these pages, poems are shaped as essences, frequencies for (re)attunement.
In Water Oracles, I'm working with essences made at sacred and ceremonial sites across my ancestral island of Sicily. In Sea Margin, I collaborate with essences made at estuary sites of the Long Island Sound. In The Frequency of Flowers, I narrate my work as a flower essence practitioner, inviting the reader into the ceremonial space of making and dosing with essences in poem-form.
I am a slow and ceremonial writer and collaborating with plants was a private practice for about a decade until the arrival of the Covid pandemic when I felt compelled to offer my largest public ceremony yet: with/in herbals, through which I began to offer personalized consultations and plant medicines in tincture, oil, and essence form. I think of the consultations as a chance to compose personalized poems or ceremonies in the form of plant medicines and protocols for my clients and the medicines offered in the apothecary as ingestible or topical poems. And just as I hope each of my books opens ceremonial space for attunement through the vibrational remedy of syntax and sound, I offer these consultations and plant medicines in kind.
There is so much more I will one day say about all of this. My work in A Library of Light (forthcoming 2024), for example, which draws on a decade's worth of investigation into biophotonics, epigenetic theory, and a poem's effect on the cellular field of the human body gave way to these collaborations with plants. But, for now, I offer below a tiny installation in honor of some of the plants and places whose essences I've been writing with.
*a longer version of the above was written for a lecture given at The Sitka Center for Art & Ecology in February 2023.
SEA MARGIN: A PROPHESY IN REVERSE
A collaboration with composer P. Matthusen and the American Composers Orchestra. Premiering at Carnegie Hall in New York, New York on March 25, 2022, 7:30 PM, Zankel Hall.
Process notes for Sea Margin, a prophecy in reverse:
As I listen to P. Matthusen’s composition, I see the bed of the sea, feel the upwelling of cold water lifting nutrients to the surface. I see microorganisms multiplying. I feel far away glacial activity. Tectonic shifts. Sedimentary life. Mineralization. The migration patterns of fish. The entanglement of roots and soil holding the shoreline. I feel a pull toward the hydrodynamics of the entire planet but also an insistence, a calling from the circulatory systems of our waters right here where I live.
I go to the estuary where the Connecticut River meets the Long Island Sound and think about its life through deep time. I feel moved to write a poem that is like a prophecy in reverse. A poem to unwrite the Sound’s seasonal hypoxia and forecasted catastrophes of climate change. A poem to help us to imagine Land, as our common language, already healed. To dream with the Earth and its waters in a posture of collaborative healing. To restore oxygen to the ocean. To balance its temperatures, water levels, and enliven its ecosystems. To write this convergence. Healthy river, healthy sea. To become it.
As I write, I work with the etymologic and geologic histories of the words: estuary, moraine, and sea. And the suffix, -ary, meaning, “of or belonging to.” I work with reports from Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, making use of their blueprint for resuscitating the ocean. I read many texts on the geologic and ecologic history of the Long Island Sound. And am in ceremony and oracular communication with the margin of the Sound as I listen to Matthusen’s 5 movements. I feel into what geographers of the Long Island Sound call “a resonant tidal basin.”
And Sea Margin: a prophecy in reverse takes shape as I position myself between the surface and bottom waters of the Sound. As I write intentionally sculpted lines to bring tidal currents into the body of the reader. As I gather sounds, images, and organisms into the poem to slow erosion, to cool the waters, to reverse snow melt, storm frequency and severity. Lines to invite the reader into this symbiosis. To catch and filter human-emitted greenhouse gases and excess nitrogen. Lines to lift schools of fish and to activate and thank the shoreline.
- - Danielle Vogel, January 2022
T H E E A R T H A R C H I V E S
THE EARTH ARCHIVES was originally commissioned by The Rhode Island School of Design Museum in the summer of 2015 and is now a touring installation that continues to evolve as it travels.
An installation composed entirely of voices, The Earth Archives brings together the recorded memories of hundreds of people creating what I call a living, aural archive of the elements. The elements—water, earth, air and fire—are often considered in their physical forms, rooted within a particular place and time. In my life-long archival project, The Earth Archives, the elements are invisible and set loose in the air as sound, but are, perhaps, no less tangible. Illuminating my interest in the art of archiving and the conductive power of language, this archive animates the elements through the acts of languaging and listening, bringing geographies and times into and out of tactility as the voices travel and accumulate.
To begin this project, I invited artists, writers, psychics, musicians, scientists, friends and families from around the world to gather their memories and experiences of the elements into a series of intimate recordings. Since its inaugural installation, I have opened the project to the public and I collect sentence-specimens from anyone interested in archiving their memories of the elements in any language.
If you would like to submit your own sentence-specimens, have me set up a memory altar and/or temporarily install this archive at your institution, please write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
N A R R A T I V E & N E S T
This ceramic nest-book series, originally inspired by my investigations into somatic, body-based therapies while writing my manuscript The Way a Line Hallucinates Its Own Linearity (Red Hen Press 2020), eventually gave way to the book-length project of Edges & Fray (Wesleyan University Press 2020).
I began working as a ceramicist in 2005 because it is what my writing practice necessitated from me. I wanted to explore narrative in a more embodied and tactile way. As a poet particularly interested in the somatic bond between a human body and the materiality of its voice, I had questions and problems I wanted to work through that the field of linguistics couldn’t support. For over a decade, I have dedicated myself to the study and teaching of writing and poetics, while learning from my ceramic endeavors. After harvesting my first pug of red clay from the foothills of Colorado, I began looking to the muscle of clay to think through questions about language and physicality: how language, as a life form, helps us contain, transform, and transmit experience. How it allows us to build invisible structures to meet within through sense and sound. How language collects transcriptions of time, place, and memory.
Language, silt, and soil are similar mediums; all are terranean, beginning deep in the belly of the earth. We scoop them up. We mold them into shape. As a poet/ceramicist, I want to weave my viewers into a renewed engagement with the tactility of language. I want to remind them that, as human beings, we are always building space and sharing structures between our voices and bodies. This collection of hand built vessels—or nest-books—are hung upon a wall and resemble, in both size and shape, a colony of cliff-swallow nests.
I began fashioning nests because just as a book is a complex reflection of its author, a bird’s nest is a unified and symbiotic shape of a bird’s circumstance, a mending of its body language and habitat. Books and nests are places of conception, development, fragmentation, and growth. Each ceramic nest—as a symbol of these concerns—performs as a dwelling for excerpts from my manuscripts-in-progress. My nests are homage chambers, places outside my own body where a book awaits its completion, where a reader can witness my processes of thinking, writing, and revision.
o f L i g h t
Source Material Collective
Based on Danielle Vogel's original poem A Library of Light; of Light is an interdisciplinary performance in which darkness is our initiator, nightly ritual, and a womb from which we emerge. Simultaneously, of Light explores how human beings are light bearers, and how the human voice, both invisible and perceptible, creates light. Performed almost entirely in darkness, of Light is an experimental opera and an incantation of celestial rhythm.
The piece was created by Samantha Shay (Director and Performer), Vincent Richards (Scenic Designer), KARYYN (Composer and Vocalist), and Nini Julia Bang (Vocalist), and was created under the mentorship of Marina Abramović.
Having been performed only once, the piece made waves through the interdisciplinary creative scene, with an endorsement of the piece by Björk in The Guardian after attending the premier, and Moving Masses, the only music released from the piece, being named Best New Track by Pitchfork in 2017.
Director: Samantha Shay
Original Music by KÁRYYN
Scenic Design: Vincent Richards
Lighting Design: Alexander Freer
Sound Engineering: Paul Evans
Traditional song transmission: Nini Julia Bang
Assistant Director: Suzanne Sterling
Production Manager: Chelsea DuVall
Producer: Dagny Berglind Gisladottir
Assistant Producer: Gerri Ravyn Stanfield
Filmed and edited by Victoria Sendra
Performed by Samantha Shay, KÁRYYN, Emily Jackson, Jodie Landau, Suzanne Sterling, and Nini Julia Bang.
To read more about Source Material and the incredible humans who make up this collective, please visit their website here.