Live Moss from Portland, Maple Burl from Illinois, Water, Digitally Projection-Mapped light.

Furbie was a ball of moss I found while walking through my new Portland neighborhood. He was in the street and I didn’t want him to get squashed by a car so I picked him up at took him home. Each morning, he would be super dry and spindly. I would give him a little water and watch him bloom - very dance-like. I took to recording this event, both in real time and time-lapse video.

The piece of wood is something a friend in Chicago gave to me on a trip we took to to a small mill he frequented. Its unique form is a product of its specific ecology and eliminates most of its potential cultural utility. This wood piece became Furbie’s new perch.

I had an idea of making a projection-mapped animation onto both Furbie and the wood. However, the addition of animation only seemed to distract from the rich specific qualities of both Furbie and the wood. The action of Furbie expanding with water was already nuanced and compelling. Instead, I projected white light onto the moss and purple onto the wood, for high contrast.

The projector grid pattern against the wood grain and texture complicates its spacial and material reading. The darker areas seem to recede while the lighter areas seem to protrude even though you know that that’s impossible. Furbie becomes a lamp - just emanating light. Electric. The strong reflection on the floor seems like the surface of water with the wood poking out and gently supporting the moss ball. The effect of the light treatment makes Furbie into an object of worship and the wood his alter. The act of watering becomes religious ritual. Indeed, it was a daily ritual for me. One I looked forward to.

This piece is about coping with difficulty through ecology. I didn’t worship Furbie, but he was a way for me to connect with my true self during a time of incredible hardship. He brought me joy. The new things I learned empirically with Furbie caused me to see the moss and lichens I saw on my hikes in the forest differently. I felt I knew them, had relationship with them. That brought me comfort and helped me feel at home in a new city.

Eventually, Furbie started to get sick- he turned a bit brown. I found a nearby tree with the same kind of moss growing on it and clumsily grafted Furbie onto a low branch. I would visit him on my regular walks. After a long time, he seemed to be gone. I don’t think he ever fully grafted. But, also, the streets in Portland are covered with moss balls just like him. Maybe it was natural causes.


© 2024 Pamela Hadley