Installation view of Emily Jones, Sand Dollar, Sea Biscuit at Prairie

Emily Jones’ praxis approaches art making from multiple ecological trajectories. First, in that the work itself is treated equitably as an organism and as analogous-to-an-organism (the biotic/abiotic status unimportant here). Then, in that the work exists not solely within itself as object but always outside itself as a living network; the art making and exhibition structure themselves create a series of cooperating organisms. A corpus that, at multiple scales, questions the relationship of these organisms to each other and to their surroundings.

The labor to produce the work is as much an organism as the work itself, the gallery itself, or the bodies relating to themselves and to each other and to the negative space between all these things. At any given moment, at any given scale, Jones’ work skateboards back and forth (or perhaps tendrils out like a cephalopod) between organism, population, community, ecosystem, biosphere, almanac, or even dramaturgy. Endless holes are punctured to form an image. Wax is folded into floral golems. Gallons of earth are displaced and mixed with glue. Neurons fire walking past a skatepark and a ramp is built, the energy of the skatepark (itself an ecosystem) is transposed over the gallery, and amidst these actor-organisms, a play is performed by human bodies.

An ecologist, like an artist, like a dramaturge, is a cartographer of energetic systems in an environment, in an ecosystem. To account an interacting thing, which is itself a chorus of forms; a series of muscles form an ear, and the cacophony of signals this accumulation receives. Processing sensation is always an ecological experience. The quotational You, your car, the road, the heat, the palm trees, the airconditioning, the sign, the photons from the sign, the lines and marks on the sign that inlay THERE IS NO THREAT into the retinas. These actor-organisms ballets across the celestial movements of the senses, retelling the material conditions of the universe. Everything is at once signal and receiver, a series of open systems within an open system. Or, to say it another way, one can put quotes around absolutely everything.

Emily Jones, And to every living thing that creepeth upon the earth Hand embroidery on linen. 2018

When the arts and sciences are utilized properly their power is not in the laying waste of old myths but in the creation of new ones that imbue an expanding sociobiome with life support systems. By enhancing the places where things exist simultaneously as micro and macro organisms, the bramble blocking the portals in antisocial, individualist thinking can be pushed back. These portals aid cross-fertilization; the folding of sociopolitical space-time; they bridge fields of inquiry to germinate new ways of seeing each other. If we can utilize these fields to triangulate the validity of previously invalid forms of life we enrich our ecosystem of understanding. I make no claim that art is de facto political or revelatory, it almost never is. But figurative and literal ecological praxes in art can push towards an ethos of understanding things in situ, as coagulations of materials in context. From her play Civilian Jones’ character Narciso says:

Long ago we used to use gold. Then we used paper, the paper says ‘yes there is gold’. Dollar bills are just representing the idea of money. Currency is old fashioned. You don’t have to touch money. You don’t have to see it. Nothing happens in the physical world. Imagine believing in a different fiction with such strength.

Images from the performance of Civilian

It is Jones’ play Civilian that adheres the cellular elements of this show, that bundles them and sets them ablaze. The show itself becomes a theater burning to the ground — while the drama of the work plays out with human bodies, material bodies, nebulous bodies; bodies with their own hidden dramas. The character named Immunity says:

Twelve million people live along Lake Michigan’s shores. The region is often referred to as the third coast. Quiet Sun. Everything here is nowhere else. This happens nowhere else. 

One may suddenly picture the coast and the location of the gallery on that coast. One drops a pin in one’s head, and by extension the planet, the solar system, the galaxy. This momentary out-of-body experience turns quickly into a with-other-bodies experience that sparks an almost psychedelic togetherness. And then, while I am in the show, and then again when I am writing this piece, I imagine a planet millions of light years away, where life is only just crawling out of some ocean. Perhaps this is the power of ecological thinking — to set ablaze every living thing that creepeth upon the earth(s) and that creepeth in the mind — since this happens nowhere else.