Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
In a political economy of consumption and growth, we have become removed from listening to the earth’s stories. My practice explores the vast entanglement of interactions that organisms and non-human entities have within their environments, often taking influence from models of collaboration and coexistence.
I see my practice as a fungal network that shifts depending on the shifting parameters of my practice, with each piece of work becoming a new collaborator within the network and forms a larger collectiveness. Often when I am researching a body of work its already creating the next piece of work through the off shoots of the research.
Who are your biggest influences?
Back in 2016 I saw a show at Nottingham Contemporary by Marguerite Humeau called ‘FOXP2’, The show had these giant prototypes of elephants that had been developed via conversations with scientists and other specialists. They displayed different degrees of sentience as they were brought to life in a re-enactment of the moment the mutation of the FOXP2 led to a structural change in the the human Larynx, allowing our ancestors to develop language. I was really influenced by the way the show weaved together stories about the origins of life and language, but also the development of possible futures and collective consciousness.
I have recently also become extremely influenced by the writing of Robin Wall Kimmerer. Her two books Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass are really amazing, Kimmerer mixes indigenous knowledge and scientific learning to create a vision of a new world that promotes reciprocity, seeing and gratitude. In Gathering Moss I became particularly influenced by the way Kimmerer slows down and really takes time to understand and learn from the moss. Although moss aren’t very good competitors they are the oldest plant on earth so watching the ways moss build soil and purify water can teach us many things for future world building.
Can you talk about how your interest in natural biological sciences came about and how it informs your practice creating works that often materialize in other 'tech' media?
A big turning point in my practice was a project I worked on with Matthew Verdon and Marine biologist Alex Curd. The project was an amalgamation of research on technology corporations adoption of the concept ecosystem as a strategy for value-adding and gaining competitive advantage and research Alex Curd put forward on the assisted evolution of coral for Ecosystem Based Management. This project massively shifted my practice and I started to explore how we could look to models of symbiosis in the non-human to influence the way we change the narrative around sustainability and the climate emergency.
I became increasingly interested in the way we have become entangled with the digital, research from Anna Tsing and Donna Haraway became central in the way I thought about bringing tech into my practice, Anna Tsing questions in her book The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015) at what point does a gathering becomes a happening and can human contamination of the Earth’s environments, ecology’s and creatures become some form of collaboration? A Post-nature? I see my works becoming a form collaboration between human, non-human and technology.
How important is the choice of material in relation to realizing the concept of your work?
When I was making project entitled 'Club Myrmecophytes' I became interested in open source software, the project explored how ant colonies in the Swiss mountains have started sharing resources and I found it interesting these open source softwares had particular relation to the concepts of the work as the software can be used, changed, distributed and developed in a collaborative and collective manner.
I started using Blender, a 3D creation platform that can be used for Modelling, rigging, animation, rendering etc about 5 years ago, since then I have gradually worked my way through a vast array of knowledge that is shared freely online on platforms like YouTube. More recently I have started using Unreal Engine which is game engine that renders in real time.
The collectiveness pushing the parameters of how these softwares are used evolves the softwares at incredible speeds.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Would have to say Mixamo- Mixamo is an 3D character animation program that uses machine learning to automate rigging and animating 3D character/ models. This free program has been extremely useful when making project like ‘Club Myrmecophytes’ and ‘We are symbiotic’, It probably saved hours of work.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
Gathering Moss And Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants - Robin Wall Kimmerer
Staying with the trouble - Donna Haraway
The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins- Anna Tsing
Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World - Timothy Morton
Entangled Life - Merlin Sheldrake
New Dark Age - James Bridle
I also really enjoy the Emergence Magazines Podcast.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I have a new solo show opening on 6th August 2021 at CBS Gallery called ‘Nutrient Market’.
The show explores the Myco-Heterotroph, a type of plant that has learnt to cheat the system. Instead of photosynthesising a Myco-Heterotroph draws the energy and nutrients it needs to survive from nearby plants, via a shared mycorrhizal fungal network.
Like a Myco-Heterotroph, tech corporations extract resources (data) within the digital network and convert it to valuable and powerful commodities. As the sticky streamers from these networks become entwined within daily life, how do we navigate these ever more complex networks?
Chez Boris have produced some amazing design work work for the show and Anna Souter has produced a really great text to accompany the show.
I am also working on a New film in collaboration with Dr Katie Fields which is being commissioned by Sheffield Doc Fest which I am extremely excited about!
Gregory Herbert, Nutrient Market, 2021, Film still, 4k, Image courtesy the artist
Installation View of 'Floral Being' by Gregory Herbert. Frances Disley, The Cucumber Fell in the Sand. Courtesy of Humber Street Gallery and the artist
Gregory Herbert, Building your partner ecosystem who are your potential ecosystem partners, Collaborative project with Matthew Verdon and Marine biologist Alex Curd
'Floral Being' By Gregory Herbert, Installation View. Frances Disley, The Cucumber Fell in the Sand. Courtesy of Humber Street Gallery and the artist, 2019. Photo by Jules Lister.
Still from 'Club Myrmecophytes' by Gregory Herbert
Gregory Herbert, 'We Are Symbiotic', 2020, Commissioned by FACT