By Hagere Selam “shimby” Zegeye-Gebrehiwot
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Midori Hirose about her arts practice and thesis work. Hirose has a poetic praxis. Her approach to research, materials and subjects engage with points of inquiry rooted in wordplay. Hirose is serious about whimsy. Her work navigates contemporary issues like mutual aid and solidarity while reframing what we understand as worthy or important. She centers the shape, history and scale of the peanut, which functions as a small portal that engages ecology, recyclability and play.
Midori, this interview is just an excerpt of our chat, so I wanted to make you a found poem from it in honour of your research poetics.
Interview Poem Between Midori and shimby
i would love it
if you could
about your experience
through your practice.
i’ve been trying
my thought process
through this thing,
or possibly undervalued
this thing called nut here nut now.
that really resonated.
how one breathes
its own agency
geocarpic, this method to self fertilize
the blue collar snack.
devoted for crop rotation
that’s really important
like the peanut
molds that are topology
within the cracks
or the gaps
that find themselves
some charred remains.
it was really hard to do it from afar
i used to, I decided not to
i was going to be a cab driver.
i got to meet people
from different walks of life.
of potential energy
at eye height
a portal of sorts.
I would love it if you could tell me about your experience in the MFA and some of the projects and themes you’re working through in your practice.
I’ve been trying to hone my skills and my thought process through this thing called never not here. Usually things that are overlooked or possibly undervalued when it comes to different aspects of our world and so within that theme I’ve been zooming in on this thing called nut here nut now.
I tend to do a lot of work that is quite playful. I like to do a play on words and work through themes in a poetic form. I really love poetry and writing, but I don’t consider myself a writer. But, I really like playing with words. With not here not now, I’ve been writing out the words nut here nut now.
I approach art as a way to be open. Something that I really glommed onto was written about Buckminister Fuller. He was talking to these scientists about the fourth dimension and how it was all about ‘haha crystals,’ which were these forms that explored different shapes of laughter, different forms of laughter. The guffaw was one form, the chuckle was another shape, the giggle was another shape. That really resonated with me. Through the MFA program’s first year I was really playing around with the idea of haha crystals and how one breathes and this form of meditation of sorts. So, I did a lot of performative works where I would be breathing, and I created glass flutes that I would be breathing into sugar water, and I found out sugar water can turn into crystals over time. I could be applying myself to these forms of laughter during these different forms of breath.
From these different forms of laughter, I started exploring the nut, the peanut, and learning about the peanut, especially during this time. The peanut is able to host its own agency. It has this great way, it’s called geocarpic, this method to self fertilize. They flower, the flowers release their petals and once they’re gone, they turn into pegs and go down into the earth and then become peanuts. There’s very minimal care, and you get a large yield through this. There were a number of things that really resonated with me when looking at the peanut as a form or as a symbol. What really interested me was the history of the peanut because it refers to something that may be overlooked: you know how popcorn in hardware stores is considered the blue collar snack and prior to that it was the peanut.
The peanut was unearthed when George Washington Carver became this amazing artist of sorts. He was a scientist and also created almost three hundred different types of products for peanuts. He devoted his life to figure out how to help people be innovative with their farming techniques using very affordable user friendly tools and it also helps the soil for crop rotation. It was a very healthy form of living, very affordable, and it was just something that … meeting the community with care is something that’s really important in my life.
I guess I’ve been working towards that with my arts practice for a number of years now. This is something that I wanted to highlight in a way that wasn’t heavy handed, but like the peanut. Nut here, nut now. Through this process, outside of school, I run a group called Snack Bloc. We support marches and different actions and vigils. Living mutual aid, doing a lot of work with unhoused folks in the community. I run another collective too with some really great women which we call Trash Hackers Collective. It’s a way to have discussions with people about recycling discarded plastic and how to reintroduce that into people’s lives because of how plastic is growing. I made molds that are peanut shaped. These are informed by talking about history and current day. I think about topology to some extent, thinking about the peanut and plastic.
I really love the way you name never not here as a point of departure and how you then talk about not here not now but thinking about word play, not necessarily as someone who identifies as a writer or poet but who has a poetic praxis. I don’t know if that’s how you feel but from the little I’m hearing, it’s so beautiful to hear about this work and your research in the history of the peanut because you’re thinking about peanuts linking to nuts which links to a rhyming with not.
They are never not here. I think a lot of the unsung heroes or even walking down the street. I often think of taking the childlike perspective as a sort of approach to something with a new lens, without having to define it. The never not here also are things that could be within the cracks or the gaps that find themselves unexpectedly in those spaces.
What I’m hearing is an openness to a different kind of understanding of how things interconnect that doesn’t centre the most obvious points of connections or people. Does that sound right?
Yeah. What comes to mind is last year, I was working a lot with Indigenous members of the community, and we were physically running supplies every weekend to different reservations, and I was picking up some charred remains and would start drawing with it. I also realized through that process, learning about char and how although it brings devastation, it also is an important part of the cycle. Bringing up can be uneasy sometimes, or revisiting. I see it as activating potential energy or reactivating in different ways in different forms.
I know you name not here not now as something that stems from a never not here approach but is that an approach you came to independently or one you came upon? I’m still a little bit fixated there, mainly because it’s the first thing that you’ve named.
In terms of the never not here, something that really jostled me was in 2011 there was a tsunami and earthquake that hit Fukushima and from that time on, I really jumped in on mutual aid efforts. It was really hard for me to do it from afar so I started approaching it in terms of how can I work within the community and help my community. That was an eye opener as far as getting to know different people in the community. I really changed my job up. I used to work at a creative agency doing research, and I decided not to do that anymore. I was going to be a cab driver. I didn’t know if it was my arts practice, but eventually I did apply my arts towards that. When I became a cab driver, I got to meet people from different walks of life. That really helped me gain understanding as far as where I was from. It wasn’t just transporting people to the airport, it was picking people up from the jail after public transit hours. Picking people up from the hospital, from the mental ward to take them to a motel. Navigating really unusual situations where I would have never known otherwise. That really opened me up to wanting to work more with people from different walks of life. In 2011, I approached it like, what am I as an artist? Okay, I’m a woman, I’m an artist, I’m this human being who lives here so how should I engage? I started talking to a lot of women artists at that time and that eventually became how I started interviewing people, over 190 women, talking to all kinds of people from different backgrounds. That’s where never not here started.
I’m curious about the work that’ll be a part of this show, the idea of needing a breather and the end of this program. I’m wondering about this final body of work, the materials, your praxis and research.
The materials I’ve been working with are these human strains of plastic that have been collected as part of the waste stream. They’ve been created in the form of peanuts. I consider these plastic forms as forms of potential energy. It’s a physical plastic, a type of polypropylene, but I refer to it as an agro waste of sorts. I think of the shell, because it referenced the shell. Cellulose fibrous waste that can be found in different parts of the world. With the work itself I’m going to be replacing one of the panels.
I’d like to hear a bit more about scale because it seems so considered in different ways. Not just the scale of the works but scale and installation in proximity for the viewer to interact with it. There’s probably so much that you’ve had to think of and work through.
With monitors, it would be at eye height drawing that viewer in to create an intimate moment. It makes me think about when kids come across ants and you want to get up close and personal. It’s a little box. It makes me think of a portal of sorts into another space.