How to Place Your Roots


Performance instructions for cultivating an embodied representation of your American identity by planting seeds in containers

  1. Get some soil.
  2. Attempt to source it from an ancestral land.
  3. Realize a hardware store might just have to do.
  4. Talk to your family.
  5. Make a chart tracing your family lines. Go as far back as you can go.
  6. You will hit dead ends. Realize some ends are harder than others.
  7. Tread lightly on yourself.
  8. Dig deep.
  9. Look the past straight in the face.
  10. Follow your intuition.
  11. Research political events that correspond to your ancestors’ nativity.
  12. Remember countries are both created and destroyed.
  13. Look for clues in cultures that mirror your most intransigent traits.
  14. Look in unlikely places, for example, in DoT environmental reports. Often someone has collated copious amounts of original source material in order to lay down new concrete. 
  15. Make some educated guesses.
  16. Choose your set of facts.
  17. Research plants native to your ancestors’ lands. Go as far back as you can go.
  18. Realize plants do not care about countries.
  19. Consider borders and the arbitrariness of wind.
  20. Consider climate.
  21. Consider your options.
  22. Consider which plants are the hardiest, and which ones may be best suited for the life you can offer.
  23. Choose your set of plantcestors.
  24. Gather your seeds.
  25. Plant them in starter cells.
  26. Water them.
  27. Do not over water. Do not under water
  28. Expose them to light. Keep them in shade.
  29. Provide good drainage. Plants thrive in marshland.
  30. Tend.
  31. Tend.
  32. Tend.
  33. Create/find/colonize the perfect container for transplant. Fill it with your soil.
  34. Consider that you or your ancestors may not have chosen their places to live. Neither have these seedlings.
  35. Consider responsibility while watching the sprouts emerge.
  36. Transplant seedlings when they get 6 weeks/8 weeks/1 year old.
  37. Watch them grow.
  38. Watch them whither.
  39. Watch them thrive.
  40. Watch them die.
  41. Watch one strain try to dominate the rest.
  42. Consider mortality.
  43. Consider cooperation.
  44. Consider the improbability of this community of life.
  45. Consider the improbability of you.

This performance poem was written as a documentation of the process I went through to create the “self portraits in bloom and decay” in Bodies of Bois Mallet. It exists as a set of performance instructions, printed on butcher paper and mounted on found wood with bark. It is installed as a take-away for visitors and or passers by in a galleries and/or public spaces to read, tear off, take with them, and reflect and/or activate according to will. They can also be performed in as a public reading.