Michelle

Caron-Pawlowsky

Altars, 2021—ongoing

Altars is a project that memorialises plant species that have gone extinct as a result of human development. This project stems from research into queer ecology, a theory that considers environmental studies and queer theory to be deeply interconnected. Queer ecology works to break down arbitrary human conceptions of what is “natural” and “unnatural” and aims to challenge the value we ascribe to certain living beings above others. Using the framework of queer ecology led me to consider how the lives and deaths of plant species could be honoured in the same ways as those of human beings. What does a plant’s final resting place look like? 

Altars is a site-specific installation project that memorialises native, extinct plants from the area of installation. I collect leaves, petals, stems, and roots from plants in the area and use them to “reconstruct” the extinct plant. This reconstructed plant is buried in the ground and an altar is erected above it. The installation becomes a shrine, burial ground, and memorial site, honouring the existence of each species. Humans have driven nearly 600 plant species to extinction, and there are currently over 6000 threatened or endangered plant species around the world. Altars aims to encourage a deeper consideration of what it means to lose a plant species entirely.