In 2011, ee portal (Elyse & Emilio Portal) initiated their collaboration with the multidisciplinary work, advanced life support unit, at the University of Victoria. As part of the installation the duo deconstructed the space, removing the the gallery door to project shadow, a video that documents the movements of a woman (and friend) who was told she would never move her body again after a severe spinal cord injury. In the face of great adversity, she slowly regained access to her body through a movement therapy based on physics and somatic studies, called Feldenkrais. Founder, Moshe Feldenkrais said, “We move according to our perceived self-image.”
As numerous life supporting structures now face ecological paralysis, what does it take to adjust our collective self-images that consume so much of our planet? ee portal are continually motivated by the courage of this woman to recover her body - piece by piece, starting with the smallest movements.
While Elyse and Emilio have their own independent ecological art practices, ee portal offers a third space to collectively exchange, stimulate, and coalesce diverse approaches and perspectives to issues that are massively intangible, such as the Anthropocene and the 6th Mass Extinction.
Their methods of working are fluid, spontaneous and encompass many fields including philosophy, poetry, spirituality, ecology, performance, sound, video, sculpture, painting and craft.
They often employ a large old smoky canvas, naturally extracted plant dyes and fibres, cryptic field recordings and alternative sources of energy.
ee portal are inspired by many contemporary artists including Francis Alys, Joseph Beuys, Rebecca Belmore, Beth Carruthers, Lynda Gammon, Ann Hamilton, Kimsooja, Richard Long and Wolfgang Laib.
The ecological philosophy of Timothy Morton has become particularly influential to their practice, and will be delved into during their 2019 summer residency at the Burren College of Art, County Clare, Ireland.
When not making art, they enjoy playing with their son, Teo Sol.
An organic mesh of critical discussions, intuitive stimuli, and the climate crisis form the basis of our collaborations. We talk about politics and the Anthropocene; ecological worldviews and philosophies; our ancestries; the many projects of Joseph Beuys, Rebecca Belmore, and other artistic influences; the capacity of local plants to inform us about the world around us; material choices and material impacts; craft and other technologies.
From this tangle, we look at the potential for multidisciplinary art to generate restorative actions, land poetry, and communal pondering.
We consider restorative actions in art as bringing about some type of remembering of ignored, forgotten, discarded or erased entities, objects, events, qualities or essences (Sheela na gigs).
Materials for land poetry come from images, sounds, words or objects whose source can be quite paradoxical: is it coming from me, or that flowering plant?
Communal pondering is a type of inner revolt to the status quo, especially the ideology that sees the Earth and all its inhabitants as some sort of human playground for industrial extraction, what Timothy Morton has coined as agrilogistics – a 12,000 year old anthropocentric ideology, which emerged with the on-set of agriculture and religion. Communal pondering is the desire to rebuild an honest exchange or transmission not only with humans, but also with the entire biosphere – the symbiotic real.
The ecological philosophy that we are engulfed in is the object-oriented-ontology (OOO) school of thought, especially the work of Timothy Morton. In his 2017 book, Humankind, Morton describes the symbiotic real as “special non-explosively (implosive) holist interconnectedness”. Morton’s term for one of the phenomenal aspects of the symbiotic real is subscendence, which can be understood by the following phrase: the whole is always less than the sum of its parts. What this leads to is an ecological and philosophical understanding that all objects (humans and nonhumans alike) are irreplaceable and intrinsic to the whole. As OOO is concerned, it views reality in a flat ontological approach, which entails that all objects (including all life forms, ideas, inanimate objects like fridges and stone sculptures such as Sheela na gigs, as well as hyperobjects such as global warming and the internet) are valued equally. This is a radical departure from correlationism philosophy (the entire modern Western philosophical trajectory of subject/object and human-centered paradigms), and has profound implications for art and all aesthetic domains.
Throughout our creative process we often check-in with each other to help us understand the actions of our work, asking ourselves: How are we becoming ecologically aware in the context of this project? What worldviews or perceptions can inform us about the relationship between our work and the climate crisis? Can art (and our art) provide doorways into kinship with humans and nonhumans? In our time of burgeoning ecological awareness, can we value, equally and responsibly, the spectrum of our experience?