© Britta Lya Damian 2017
Snails in Residency
2016-2017, Durational performance (7 months)
The performance-based durational project Snail in Residency is an arts-based research inquiry. Together with 45 garden snails researched and developed a series of performances. In exchange for the snails' participation, I provided them with housing, in the Norwegian winter, and a varied diet of snail foods. The “snail in residency program” was based on the idea of an exchange between human and non-human. Together we were working on the topics of connection, skin contact, emotional dependence, inhabited landscape, power dynamics and language barrier.
The inability to communicate in known patterns with those animals challenged me to reflect more about language and how much humans rely on it. To be able to do performances together, I had to develop some form of communication system with the snails. I tried to communicate with the snails through skin contact, material and body painting, I added edible objects, experiemented with the element of water and even used, inspired by John Cage, I ching, to make the snails alone decide about the details of our performance. Even though garden snails are used to human cultivation, I assumed they have not experienced to the human body as a landscape. I thought, that I discovered, that the snails don‘t like body paint colour when one of them moved over a strip of colour in the shape of a bridge to not touch it. Even though the snails did not consequently avoid the colour strips; some of the snails stayed within the lines and most of them at least reacted to the lines I had drawn.
During the 7 months I grew quite fond of the snails and I think they got a bit more used to me too. Ethical questions and doubts I had were all part of the project and let me reflect about the human's interaction with the earth and got me very interested in post-human philosophy. The project included several live performances and several photo and video shootings. Alongside the artistic work, I reflected on the experience of living and working with snails in form of autoethnographical writing.