Vital Matters and House Calls
Vital Matters/House Calls
What does "home" mean to you?
What is vital to you?
What is sacred to you?
These and many other questions are at the heart of both Vital Matters, and its sister project, House Calls. Both projects bring the earth close, where the smell of tree bark and memories of water reminds us of our creature-hood, inviting us to slow down, come into our senses, and be able to relate to one another from a more grounded place, whatever catastrophe might face us.
I include them both here, because Vital Matters is really the overarching project under which House Calls sits. Vital Matters is the ensemble oriented, spectacular umbrella. House Calls is an intimate affair, intending to take me into one on one conversations in people's homes, and though I received a Ruby Grant in 2019 to develop House Calls in 2020, Covid made it impossible to engage with people in the up close and personal way the project demands. So it has also become an entry point to Vital Matters, an interview to help find Baltimore collaborators. They are both long term projects, with shared themes, some shared methods, that are designed to be taken into different communities.
Discussions of climate change in the political arena tend to be disembodied, reductive, and frought with party politics. In personal relationships it can be difficult to talk about climate change and what to do about it because we feel we don’t know enough, we don’t know what to do, or how to start, or simply because even addressing the climate crisis fills us with fear, dread or despair. And so, in relationship to a topic that should concern and unite us all, we often end up feeling alone, isolated and powerless. Many people of Earth have already been dealing with the devastating effects of climate change, largely poor, black and brown people. Histories of the fossil fuel industry and other forms of extractivism, the anihilation of native peoples and cultures, slavery, capitalism, misogyny and other forms of violence are inextricably linked, and so environmental and social justice are an essential part of addressing the climate crisis, and telling new stories of our relationship to the home we share.
Vital Matters is an ongoing, place and community-based, performative response to this predicament. It posits a celebration of our connectedness to the earth and its elements and creatures as foundational to moving into change, and offers ways of connecting to one another as inhabitants and stewards of earth during this climate crisis. The project originated and was workshopped over a period of eight weeks with a small ensemble of students at Kennesaw State University in the fall of 2019. It is currently being developed as a 2-3 year project with Submersive Productions, where Baltimore’s diverse land, creatures, and human populations, will shape our explorations.
A multi-arts, mobile laboratory for investigating local and global human relationships to the natural world and climate change, Vital Matters is based on the lives, skills, and interests of members of the ensemble, the locality in which it takes place, and the shifting reality of the climate crisis, each iteration of Vital Matters is unique, emerging like a cardiogram of the place and people it is exploring. It draws on environmental theatre and ecosomatics practices, the individual biographies and poetics of participants, scientific, philosophical, and other literatures, and the natural and human histories and present bio-articulations of a place, in this case, Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay Region. The culminating results will be multiple experiences for the public, including performances, installations, and conversations with diverse panels of scientists, culture workers, social and environmental justice activists, spiritual leaders, science fiction writers, and others.
House Calls is a multi-sensory interview, a walk down memory lane, an intake with Dr. M. about your visions for the future. It begins in my immediate neighborhood, in the homes of my neighbors, and moves outward to other parts of the city, engaging a diverse cross-section of the city's population. It gathers (and audio records) individual stories of home, migrations, and shifting relationships to the natural world, to land, water, and the non-human creatures that inhabit it. Ultimately, these stories will be woven together into a visual and sound installation where you may also add your answers to Dr. M's questions.