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Interruptions: Aliyah Hussain

The sleep of plants


The sleep of plants is a new experimental ambient soundtrack with accompanying animation. Inspired by the narrative and themes presented in the 1967 feminist speculative fiction short story by Anne Richter. The story starts with the following quote by Henri Michaux, “Slowing, we feel the pulse of things”. This sets the pace for the work, using it as a framework to create and draw out the sound. Presenting the work as a meditation, or moment for intentional stillness. An act of resistance. Considering how this interruption of our busy lives can act as a time to consider the perspective of other life forms. Conversely, there is a horror that exists in this story, in being still, in being plant-like. It produces both restlessness and unease. Especially in this moment when people who are able to, are being asked to stay in their homes, to stay in one place.

The story tells us about a woman who, operating at a different pace to those around her, eventually slows right down and plants herself in a large plant pot as a way to counter the chaos of human life. Waiting patiently until she produces roots that burrow deep into the soil. Her roots come after a long period of determination, suffering from lack of water and sunlight. The story ends with dancing under her leaves and blossom, when she is taken from her home with her mother and planted in the middle of the lawn by her ex-fiance.

“The current pandemic is a crisis for neoliberal capitalism as well as for individuals. One that exposes a new place for vegetal and other nonhuman beings. Can human life eventually flourish in this place as well? In our shared state of immobility, could plants provide us with a model for political struggle or mobilization without our resorting to threadbare motifs of cultivated gardens?” Antónia Szabari & Natania Meeker. Becoming Stil, essay (Authors of, Radical Botany, Plants and Speculative fiction)

About the Artist

Aliyah Hussain’s practice approaches themes found within feminist science fiction literature, in particular the possibilities of co-sharing space in domestic or social settings. She works with abstract forms and uses these to construct narratives in order to explore different modes of communication and miscommunication. With a background in performance and an interest in process and material, her work moves across sound, ceramic sculpture, drawing and collage. Sound works are created with contact mics and sculptural objects, incorporating drawing, gesture, pressure and tension. Aliyah is based at Islington Mill studios in Salford. She has released three EPs of experimental electronic music -"Native Tongue" on Bloxham Tapes and ‘Woman on the Edge of Time’ and ‘Sultana’s Dream’ on Sacred Tapes. Recent presentations and commissions include, Always mysteries of the tongue, HOME, Manchester (2019), you feel me_ and ~ all the feels ~ at FACT, Liverpool (2019), Warm Worlds and Otherwise by Anna Bunting-Branch, QUAD, Derby (2020) and Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge (2018).

Part of the Interruptions programme of free events provided by the Holden Gallery.