Spider Plant Dialogues: A Performance Piece



Spider Pant Dialogues is a performance workshop that encourages illogical social activities to inspire an intrinsic experience between plant and human.

Performers gathered at a rental home in suburban Guelph, Ontario to participate in this workshop. Everyone was given an envelope containing instructions, and was then told to select a dialogue partner from a large pile of spider plants in the kitchen. Performers were encouraged to seclude themselves with their plant and get comfortable by nesting in pillows or stretching out on the floor. They were allowed to reorganize couches, benches, and chairs in ways that offered a private experience.

The envelopes contain a marker, two name tags for each performer, and index cards that instruct participants to perform four tasks:

  1. Read botanical facts to the plant
  2. Position, groom, and name the plant
  3. Practise soothing breathing exercises to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the plant
  4. Partake in a casual conversation describing their surroundings and feelings to the plant

This work is influenced by John Baldessari’s 1972 performance Teaching a Plant the Alphabet. His piece is described as an exercise in futility, which to me can cause a sort of unexpected idyllic experience, especially when the work is related to plants or naturalism. I wanted to perform a direct response to Baldessari’s Teaching a Plant the Alphabet because he completed his performance as a response to Joseph Beuy’s  1965 performance How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. These artworks are influential because they encourage viewers to consider logic, but to also to look past logic to gain a more innate understanding of the work.

At the end of the piece, I asked all performers to fill out a brief questionnaire about their affiliations with fine and conceptual art, their interest in plants, and what their thoughts were on this workshop. Overall I would say that this workshop was a success. I discovered that Spider Plant Dialogues was the first conceptual art experience for many participants. I am pleased to have hosted a performance piece with individuals of many backgrounds and fields of study. -M


Spectroscope Workshop

A spectroscope is a device that is used to analyse light by separating its parts into a spectrum.

On November 18th, 2015 I hosted an in-class workshop where I taught our class to build and use spectroscopes out of cereal boxes.

The spectroscopes we built used a CD to defract the light once the device is aimed at a light source.

How to Build Your Own Spectroscope:

Materials required:

– 1 cereal box
– 1 CD
– 2 Index Cards (Can be replaced with 2 razor blades)
– 60 degree angle (printable angles can be found online)
– black tape
– scissors
– ruler

Your spectroscope will look something like this:



– fold cereal box shut and tape the bottom edges so no light seeps in
– on the top left of the box measure roughly one-two inches and mark a line across the width of your box
– cut along the line and unfold the flaps that were created and cut the flaps off


– use your 60 degree angle and line it up to the top corner of the box so the hypotenuse of the triangle angles toward the center of the box. Measure and draw a line 3 inches from the top corner of the box. You will have a 3 inch line starting at the top corner of your box, and the line will lead ROUGHLY toward the center of your cereal box.

-cut those lines

-flip the box over and do the same thing on the other side



– cut a 1 inch high rectangle out on the opposite side of the slits. The rectangle should be the width of the box.

-Use your index cards or razor blades (sharp edges facing inward toward each other) to block out most of the rectangle you just cut out. Place them horizontally, closely together, leaving a 1mm gap between the cards. Tape the cards securely to the box.



-Tape the box closed

-Slide the CD into the slot


-Point the index card slit at a light and look into the square hole into the box at the bottom of the CD. You will see your bright white light bulb break up into its composing colours!


Here are some more photos from the spectroscope workshop:

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Here are the final products:


John Baldessari: Teaching a Plant the Alphabet


Leading Californian Conceptual artist John Baldessari is an American Collagist, Painter, and Photographer. He explores themes that question what art is and in the 1970’s, he abandoned painting to explore a diverse range of media. His work plays with humour and some of his later works are influenced by pop-art.

Baldessari’s 1972 work, “Teaching a Plant the Alphabet”, has been described as an “exercise in futility. An absurdist lesson in cognition and recognition.” In this video, he holds up a piece of paper with a letter of the alphabet to a common house plant. He repeats the letter aggressively and quickly (A-A-A-A-A) and after a few seconds he moves on to the next sequential letter in the alphabet.

This work may strike the viewer as illogical and foolish, but it can be explored past banal themes and irony. Baldessari performed this piece as a reaction to Joseph Beuy’s 1965 performance “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare”. Both performances cause the viewer to feel a visceral understanding of their work. The logical education task performed in an illogical way results in a greater experience for the viewer.

1 John Baldessari Teaching a Plant the Alphabet video - web

Source 1

Source 2

Cloud Appreciation

Clouds influence the lives of humans on a daily basis yet it is so common that they are overlooked and under appreciated. Today I Googled “cloud” and my search turned up hundreds of articles about “icloud”, “cloud computing”, and “cloud storage”.

We sensationalize the enigmatic nature of these fluffy objects by naming our computer software after them. However, for most Canadians, our cloud education ends after grade school. Luckily, that does not mean we cannot return to appreciate clouds later on in life.

The term “cloud” is defined in the Marriam-Webster English Dictionary as a visible mass of particles of condensed vapour (as water or ice) suspended in the atmosphere of a planet (as the earth) or moon.

I have assembled a brief list of cloud genera to refresh my fellow colleagues and peers:

Cloud Basics:

There are three levels of common clouds to know: high clouds, mid clouds, and low clouds.

High clouds include:

1. Cirrus

-detached, white filaments

-mostly in patches or bands

-composed of ice crystals

2. Cirrostratus

-smooth, hair-like appearance

– transparent and covers most of the sky

3. Cirrocumulus

-layered thin clouds

-appearance of grains or ripples in the texture

Mid clouds include:

1. Altostratus

-striated or fibrous clouds that cover most of the sky

-dark grey or blue in colour

-occasionally reveals the sun

Altostratus translucidus over Hong Kong, China in May.

2. Altocumulus

-layered clouds in the form of round masses or rolls

– may be fibrous or diffuse

-white and/or grey in colour

3. Nimbostratus

-diffuse cloud base

-dark grey, often recognized as a rain cloud

-thick enough to block the sun

Low clouds include:

1. Cumulus

-dense with sharp outlines

-develop vertically

-sections that light hits are bright white, the rest is grey

2. Cumulonimbus

-upper portion smooth and fibrous

-dense, appears in the form of a mountain

3. Stratus

-grey with a uniform base

-produces drizzle, ice grains, and snow prisms

Stratus cloud

4. Stratocumulus

-patchy clouds with dark tessellations

-rounded masses or rolls

 Aerial photograph of Stratocumulus perlucidus clouds over the midwestern United States


As I was refreshing my knowledge of clouds, I happened upon this very interesting blog post on rare cloud formations. When you start to appreciate clouds, your world becomes more enriched. Identify a cloud the next time you are outside!

Wellington Woods Spider Plant Giveaway and Social

This past Wednesday I had the privilege of volunteering at the Wellington Woods Community Centre with the University of Guelph Horticulture Club. The event was advertised to the residents of Wellington Woods, which is a university residence for families with young kids and upper year students who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The event was geared toward social interactions, plants, and arts and crafts.

The Horticulture club provided spider plants grown earlier in the year along with mason jars, soil, and gravel to pot and decorate the plants. This event was directed by Lissa Schoot Uiterkamp of the Horiculture Club and RES Life.


Spider Plant = Chlorophytum comosum. A hardy flowering perennial herb.


People of all ages arrived at the community centre from 5pm through 7pm on Wednesday October 14th. Many people from different backgrounds came together to pot their spider plants.



The plants ranged from the common all-green variety to other modified versions with white or red sections in the leaves. The mature plants had small white flowers. Spider plants are easy to grow as house plants. They will survive in less than perfect conditions although they thrive in direct sunlight. These plants are perfect for introducing children to plant care as they are able to grow in shady environments with partial sun, as well as they are very easy to propagate without damaging. If you obtain your own spider plant, be sure to water it daily, ensuring damp soil!


Spider plants have large white fleshy roots


I learned how to propagate the larger plants to fit into the mason jars.

We encouraged the residents to decorate their mason jars with ribbon, stickers, and drawings. The children were very excited to personalize their chosen plant. Many children were also fascinated with how large the plants will grow, as the baby plants were 1 to 3 inches tall (Ageing plants grow ~ 3 feet tall).


It was refreshing to witness a community of many languages and ages come together to learn, pot plants, decorate their jars, and drink hot chocolate.


This next photo series was my favourite. This young boy’s mother told him to show me the plant so I could take a picture of him. He gladly shoved his spider plant into my camera for a quality photograph.





A resident taught us how to make hanging water bottle pots to encourage recycling. It was a very enlightening experience for me to participate in this event. Some children were so excited that they volunteered to search the area to promote the event. All this, despite it pouring outside!


More about the Horticulture Club

The goal of the Horticulture Club is to bring people together across many different disciplines to share their love for plants. It originated in 1908 with the intent to provide a means of discussing content not covered in class. Today their objective is to “enhance the educational experience of any University of Guelph student with an interest in horticulture”.


-The art/practice of garden cultivation and management

-The cultivation of a garden, orchard, or nursery 

-The cultivation of flowers, fruits, vegetables, or ornamental plants

Meetings for the Horticulture Club are held at the Bovey Tropical Greenhouse in Edmund C. Bovey Building every other Wednesday.


Mierle Laderman Ukeles: “Touch Sanitation Project”

Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ work explores the value of appreciating the overlooked. She is fascinated with maintenance art, a movement that places emphasis on domestic labour. Ukeles’ interest for service oriented work stemmed from her analysis of her daily duties a mother, wife, and artist. She believes that all the maintenance of her daily life becomes her art practice.

Her work, “Touch Sanitation Project” is a two year-long performance piece that featured Ukeles drawing attention to New York City’s sanitation workers and their hard labour to keep the city clean. She interacted with over 8500 sanitation workers, taking the time to visit them personally at their front door to meet, shake hands with, and thank them for their services to the city. Ukeles said to each worker, “Thank you for keeping New York City alive”. In this piece she invites us to appreciate and re-evaluate the labour required to sustain a city.

Agnes Denes: “Wheat Field – A Confrontation”

When picturing New York City, one might visualize skyscrapers, Wall Street, bustling crowds, stock exchanges, and perhaps the amalgamation of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Agnes Denes challenged this image of New York City by planting and harvesting two acres of wheat on the Battery Park Landfill in Manhattan, 1982 right beside the borough’s city scape.


Denes titled this project “Wheat Field – A confrontation”. With two assistants and a handful of volunteers, Denes constructed the successful and lush wheat field on a landfill. The harvested grain was sent to twenty-eight cities around the world in the exhibition “International Art Show for the End of World Hunger”. The wheat also fed horses of the New York City Police. The wheat’s growth cycle lasted for four months before the location was reconstructed into a billion dollar luxury complex.


The wheat field appears to be a criticism toward humanities’ superiority complex with nature. It is a metaphor for nature’s potential, even in the dirtiest, unhealthiest of turfs. Denes believes that her project is a comment on a mismanagement of resources. After the completion of Wheat Field, Denes commented that “Manhattan closed itself once again to become a fortress”. This work draws attention to the power of human decision and the power of nature.





Interpretive Biologist Chris Earley speaking at the University of Guelph Arbouretum

What a perfect day to be a naturalist!

Today we took advantage of the gorgeous weather on our hike with Chris Earley at the University of Guelph Arbouretum.

Armed with our nets and peanutbutter jars, our team forged the forest looking for insects to identify.


We discovered many species of insects including spiders, moths, beetles, and two different dragonfly varieties: White Face Meadow Hawk and the Autumn Meadow Hawk. Earley explained the difference between dragon flies and damsel flies, which are often mistaken for each other. We identified a spotted spread wing damsel fly with cobalt blue eyes.


Andrea analyzing a male Autumn Meadow Hawk

Earley emphasized the importance of working with art and science in unison, to better understand and appreciate the natural world around us.

Other interesting things we learned today with Earley:

  • How to hold a frog
  • How a wood frog hibernates in the winter
  • How dragonflies mate
  • How to use a “Beat Sheet” to capture insects from trees
  • How to carefully handle insects with a net
  • The natural order of the arboretum

Here you can watch our hilarious attempt to make bird calls with our hands!

Gareth Moore

Gareth Moore is a Berlin-based artist who was born in Matsqui, British Columbia, 1975. His works are largely conceptual and often investigate the world around him. Moore’s aesthetic is quirky and playful. He collects objects, ideas, and markings to form his installations. He is interested in the idea that objects carry hidden stories, focusing on the relationship between the accidental and the intentional; the real and the imaginary.


This is an image of Moore’s “My Clothes in the Woods”, 2009, Berlin.

View photographs of Moore’s solo exhibition “A Burning Bag as a Smoke-Grey Lotus” at La Loge in Brussels. These images are accompanied by a visceral press release by Moore that is very much worth the read.