LIANA: “Las Yerbas” Apothecary

July 2023 - October 2023

“Las Yerbas” Apothecary is a site for conversations between artists, Indigenous sabedores (Native thinkers), local communities, and researchers from New York City and Latin America around the power of sacred plants. Part traditional herbs stand, part cabinet of wonders, the “Las Yerbas” Apothecary presents aesthetic and cultural contrasts between Indigenous medicinal practices and Western apothecaries.

Liana, a multidisciplinary collective, investigates plant-human relationships and plant-based artistic practices. Seeking to broaden people’s understanding of plants as subjects with agency their work advocates for the mystical, political, and medicinal value of sacred plants, as these continuously nourish and strengthen many diasporic and local communities.

Botica “Las Yerbas” es un espacio de investigación interespecies en torno al poder de las plantas. Durante su residencia en Canal Projects, “Las Yerbas” gestionará espacios para fomentar la transferencia de conocimientos entre plantas y humanos mediante el intercambio multidisciplinar con artistas, sabedores indígenas y miembros de la comunidad local.

Mitad tienda de hierbas tradicionales y mitad gabinete de curiosidades, la Botica “Las Yerbas” presenta contrastes estéticos y culturales entre las conocimientos medicinales indígenas y prácticas alquímicas occidentales surgidas a partir de la combinación de elementos exóticos y sustancias extraídas de otros mundos.

A través de sus investigaciones y ejercicios pedagógicos de construcción colectiva de conocimiento, Liana busca ampliar la comprensión de las plantas sagradas y abogar por su valor místico, político y medicinal entre las comunidades locales y diaspóricas de la ciudad de Nueva York.

Integrated by a group of interdisciplinary artists and Latin American social researchers, Liana is a collective that aims to expand the urgent understanding of plant intelligence and wisdom and to promote interspecies dialogue through artistic research and practice. Liana reclaims sacred plants and advocates their mystical, political, medicinal and nutritional value for multiple diasporic and local communities. Liana investigates plant-human relationships and plant-based artistic practices, broadening the public conversation about plants as subjects with agency that can contribute to rethinking community well-being and healing.

Integrado por un grupo de artistas interdisciplinarios e investigadores sociales latinoamericanos, Lianav es un colectivo que tiene como objetivo expandir la comprensión urgente de la inteligencia y la sabiduría de las plantas y promover el diálogo entre especies a través de la investigación y la práctica artística. Liana reclama plantas sagradas y aboga por su valor místico, político, medicinal y nutricional para múltiples comunidades diaspóricas y locales. Liana investiga las relaciones planta-humanas y las prácticas artísticas basadas en plantas, ampliando la conversación pública sobre las plantas como sujetos con agencia que pueden contribuir a repensar el bienestar y la curación de la comunidad.

Juan Pablo Caicedo Torres (Bogotá, b. 1991) is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and researcher whose practice encompasses a wide range of sociopolitical issues. His work crosses diverse mediums, including visual and performance art, installation, socially engaged art, and interventions in public spaces. Through a decolonial and critical lens, his research focuses on analyzing power dynamics, with particular attention to historical, political, and environmental conflicts. He draws support from media analysis and an archive of images, soundscapes, and writings accumulated throughout his experiences. Operating as a catalyst for collaborative learning, advocacy, and solidarity networks, his work serves as a conduit for fostering dialogue. Caicedo Torres holds a Master of Arts in Arts Politics from New York University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the National University of Colombia. His artwork has been exhibited in museums and art spaces across Colombia, Spain, Switzerland, and Australia.

Giselly Mejía (Támesis, b. 1990) is a social practice designer, researcher, strategist and visual artist based in New York. In her 12 years of professional experience, she’s worked with the government of Colombia in recovering and disseminating the memory of the victims left by the armed conflict; with WWF Colombia on several projects around environmental protection of the Amazon; and with NGOs and Academia on projects on civil rights, human rights, migration, the legal conservation of fungi, rights of nature, freedom of speech, among others. Giselly’s practice takes the form of participatory research processes, the co-creation of communication strategies, the facilitation of workshops and spaces for conversation and learning, the co-design of services, visual ethnographies, exhibitions, design fiction projects, and digital platforms. Giselly holds an MFA in Transdisciplinary Design from Parsons. Her current interests circle around notions of reparation for the more-than-human, speculative design, sound-making and oral history.

Angélica Cuevas-Guarnizo (Medellín, b. 1988) is an anthropologist, interdisciplinary researcher and human rights journalist based in Brooklyn. Her practice includes exploring transmedia narrative formats and designing communication strategies that integrate experimental methodologies of social conversation to address urgent issues such as climate crisis, mental health, defense of indigenous thinking, social mobilizations, forced migration and armed conflict. Her work includes the publication of texts on Colombian botany, the design of public space interventions, the facilitation of pedagogical programs and the coordination of transnational journalistic projects. Angélica was a reporter for the newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá; she coordinated the communications office of the Dejusticia Center for Social Studies and was a professor of Journalism and Innovation at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Angélica has been a fellow at the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the Gabo Foundation and a research assistant at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. She is a Fulbright scholar with an M.A. in Anthropology and Design from The New School.

Juan Pablo Caicedo Torres (Bogotá, n. 1991) es un artista interdisciplinario, educador e investigador cuya práctica abarca una amplia gama de temas sociopolíticos. Su trabajo cruza diversos medios, incluido el arte visual y de performance, la instalación, el arte socialmente comprometido y las intervenciones en espacios públicos. A través de una lente decolonial y crítica, su investigación se centra en el análisis de las dinámicas de poder, con especial atención a los conflictos históricos, políticos y ambientales. Se apoya en el análisis de los medios y en un archivo de imágenes, paisajes sonoros y escritos acumulados a lo largo de sus experiencias. Operando como un catalizador para el aprendizaje colaborativo, la promoción y las redes de solidaridad, su trabajo sirve como conducto para fomentar el diálogo. Caicedo Torres tiene una Maestría en Artes Políticas de las Artes de la Universidad de Nueva York y una Licenciatura en Bellas Artes de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Su obra de arte se ha exhibido en museos y espacios de arte en Colombia, España, Suiza y Australia.

Giselly Mejía (Támesis, n. 1990) es diseñadora de prácticas sociales, investigadora, estratega y artista visual radicada en Nueva York. En sus 12 años de experiencia profesional ha trabajado con el gobierno de Colombia en la recuperación y difusión de la memoria de las víctimas dejadas por el conflicto armado; con WWF Colombia en varios proyectos en torno a la protección ambiental de la Amazonía; y con ONGs y Academia en proyectos sobre derechos civiles, derechos humanos, migración, conservación legal de hongos, derechos de la naturaleza, libertad de expresión, entre otros. La práctica de Giselly se materializa en procesos de investigación participativa, co-creación de estrategias de comunicación, facilitación de talleres y espacios de conversación y aprendizaje, co-diseño de servicios, etnografías visuales, exposiciones, proyectos de diseño ficción y plataformas digitales. Giselly tiene un MFA en Diseño Transdisciplinario de Parsons. Sus intereses actuales giran en torno a las nociones de reparación, diseño especulativo, creación de sonido e historia oral.

Angélica Cuevas-Guarnizo (Medellín, n. 1988) es antropóloga, investigadora interdisciplinaria y periodista de derechos humanos basada en Brooklyn. Su práctica incluye la exploración de formatos narrativos transmedia y el diseño de estrategias de comunicación que integran metodologías experimentales de conversación social para abordar asuntos urgentes como la crisis climática, la salud mental, la defensa del pensamiento indígena, las movilizaciones sociales, la migración forzada y el conflicto armado. Su trabajo incluye la publicación de textos sobre botánica colombiana, la realización de intervenciones en espacios públicos, la facilitación de programas pedagógicos y la coordinación de proyectos periodísticos trasnacionales. Fue reportera del diario El Espectador; coordinó la oficina de comunicaciones del Centro de Estudios Sociales Dejusticia y fue profesora de Periodismo e Innovación en la Pontificia Universidad Javeriana en Bogotá. Angélica ha sido becaria del International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) y la Fundación Gabo e investigadora asistente en el Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. Es becaria Fulbright y tiene un máster en Antropología y Diseño de The New School.

Research

'Las Yerbas' Apothecary

by LIANA

‘Las Yerbas’ Apothecary was an interspecies research space focused on knowledge transfer between plants and humans. During the 2023 Summer Residency at CP, Liana designed a series of dialogues, events, and artistic workshops to foster multidisciplinary exchange with artists, Indigenous sabedores and local community members who create, cook, think and heal in interconnection with plants.

Understanding plants as sentient beings, Las Yerbas explored how plants feel, communicate, think and affect our shared realities. Building upon recent investigations around plant sentience, indigenous knowledge, and contemporary artistic practices, Las Yerbas was a space to engage with plants as subjects. It expanded on how the arts offer an opportunity to connect with plants beyond the Western epistemic approach, highlighting the political, mystical and aesthetical agency of plants.

During four months, Liana collaborated with the Mixtec indigenous women’s collective Voces, with whom they produced ‘Comedor de Quelites Mixtecos,’ a series of five recipe zines that unfold the stories of families and traditions migrating from the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, to New York. Liana’s residency also activated conversations and scenarios focused on decolonizing the coca plant, seeking to expand the complexity of a plant that has been reduced as a raw material for producing narcotics.

Comedor de Quelites Mixtecos

by LIANA & Voces

Liana began working with Voces to bring together their oral histories as Indigenous migrant women, as well as their memories of cooking and healing with plants. Voces is a collective of Indigenous women from Guerrero (México) who work in New York City to preserve Mixtec knowledge, language, and ways of life. The interviews with Mary José Prudente, Eufemia Neri, Zenaida Simón, Margarita Romualdo and Paulina Mendoza documented a series of recipes that reveal different types of communication with plants in the traditional knowledge of Mixtec women. Plants are used to season their food, elaborate home remedies, and harmonize their daily spaces and spiritual ceremonies. The project led to the creation of five recipe zines and activating a public dining room, which took place in October 2023 at Canal Projects. The dining table was a place of conversation around the journey of the plants that travel along with the immigrants and Voces deep ancestral ties to native herbs and traditional wisdom used not only for cooking but also to cure and treat various illnesses.

Coca-Humans Transferences and Futures

by LIANA & Tatiana Arocha

Liana explored plant life’s politics, intelligence and poetics, with particular emphasis on the study of coca. The collective exhibited three artworks from Colombian artist Tatiana Arocha at ‘Las Yerbas’ and designed a public program around the vindication of the coca plant. The program included the facilitation of community engagement activities, including research exercises on the future of coca; the screening of short documentaries on Colombian coca-growing families; and a workshop with artist Tatiana Arocha focused on drawing with coca leaves, coca flour, corn, tobacco, and other vegetable textures.