Wild Plants

Nicolas Humbert

Switzerland 2016, 1h 48min.

We are all journeying towards death. Everything will irrevocably end at a certain time. In hundred years’ all is forgotten. This linear view – and fear – of death and the end of it all, is challenged in the art documentary Wild Plants by the Swiss Nicolas Humbert. Through unhurried portraits of people wandering a different route, poses Humbert a slow-moving society diagnosis. By watching people who choose other lives, he forces us to look at our own lives with renewed eyes. He turns the gaze towards those who choose to remain on the outside, those who live their lives at a more leisurely pace, and who through the cultivation of leeks, marigold and aubergines are rebelling of sorts against the development of society, consumerism, the time squeeze, and the human relationship with life itself. Humbert visits French cooperatives, a «guerrilla gardener» in Zürich, an indigenous leader at Wounded Knee, a lumberjack and urban farmers in Detroit.

6635_6_9893Cyclical world view. The dominant display of a classic, «modern» performance world is that the years, life and the world are headed somewhere – towards a goal – in a linear direction from a start to a finish. The opposing vision is the circular world view, where days, weeks and the year are cyclical, and everything reappears. Sioux medicine man Hehák’a Sápa (Black Elk) (1863–1950) termed it thus: «The birds create circular nests, because they have the same religion as us. The sun rises and sets again in a circle. The moon does the same, and they are both circular. Even the seasons create a large circle in their changing nature – always returning to how it used to be. »

To the Detroit-artist and urban gardener Kinga Osz-Kemp in Wild Plants, meeting the soil, the compost and the plants was an awakening. She lost her mother at a young age, and had a complicated relationship to death. «At the heart of all we do, is the compost, » Osz-Kemp says in the film. It is vital for something to die in order to create life. «I am no longer so worried about what will happen to me after I die. It no longer feels like a terrible ending. »

wild_plants_4Through her work with compost and cultivation, she now understands that the end can also be the beginning. «Compost is just a step in the cycle. I used to think that everything has a beginning and an end. The cyclical world view suddenly became very visible and natural just by looking at how compost creates new life, » says Osz-Kemp.

Guerrilla leader with seeds. On a farm in Nova, Ohio grows the last known apple tree planted by missionary gardener Johnny Appleseed (1774–1845). Early on, Appleseed decided to dedicate his life to the planning of seeds. He walked barefoot through the USA and planted apple trees, fenced them in to protect against grazing animals, and gave the local the responsibility of looking after his trees. His goal was for the settlers to have access to apples, which again could be used to produce cider.

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