The founder and creator of Plant Gang is Liv Worsnop.
I am an artist and environmentalist who realised that the best and only thing to put my life and energy into is that which gives me life and energy, this magic planet.
I grew up on a small farm in the beautiful Tuki Tuki valley in Hawkes Bay. It was a childhood of pony rides over rolling hills, catching tadpoles, climbing trees and hanging out in the fairy garden. Be it the leaf filled life that it was, I don’t know fully when plants emerged into my sphere of reverence.
I remember crushing the leaves of a bush near the bus stop at primary school and conspiring with Shannon to make a perfume empire from the olfactory treats. We used to be armed with a raw cob of corn and bunch of sorrel leaves for our chilly AM ride on a rattly old school bus. At school, I was met with an apple in my lunch box that would take all of play time and half of lunch time to eat. We ate well at home, really well. Instead of friday night fish and chips, we would have a big cast iron pot of deliciously spiced lentils. Red cabbage with vanilla, venison with chocolate sauce, sour apple, coriander and cinnamon glaze for fresh vegetables. Delicious. All of this is to say, mine was a world pre-seeded with plants. They had always been a deeply rooted part of my life.
When I attended art school at Canterbury University, I was trying so hard to make work that spoke to nature. I was fascinated with the macro and micro imagery of rivers and veins. I cast a head of cabbage. I painted sticks red and blue to reference our vascular system. I would peruse old encyclopaedias, ripping out and making temporary collages with images of elephants and lions. But my work kind of sucked. I struggled to resolve ideas, to get them to a state of wholeness and completeness. I resisted making when there was already so much in the world. In the things I did make, I was always trying to rectify our relationship with nature but my attempts often fell short. I think making singular objects or images that tried to talk about these huge, complex issues didn’t work for me. After the wild earthquakes that began in 2011, I started to collect physical waste from the broken buildings. I was interested in how we as energetic beings activated the physical world. These buildings had been lived in and energised for 100 years then they broke, were discarded and pushed into dormancy. I catalogued these objects in museological arrangements but also breathed momentary activation into them through creating transitory sculptures. This project aligned with my interests and intentions. It worked because I found a way to look not at things, not at objects, not at physicality but the space in between, the connections, the places where life seeped in.
There was just one problem. The collecting was heavy. Literally. I had 1000kgs of iron, wood, concrete and bricks. It was not sustainable. In the summer of my graduating year an opportunity for funding to create public work plus physical spaces in the CBD were offered through The Social. I took this opportunity and transitioned my catalogue process from physical stuff to plants and the Botanical Appreciation Project was born. I went to the wild lots of our broken CBD and took stock of what grew there. The medicinal, material, edible and metaphysical information on each plant was recored and put into posters and postcards. The project was generous, insightful and soft and I realised how much I wanted to work in the CBD and how much I wanted to work with plants. Thus, PLANT GANG was born.
I began cleaning the human accumulated waste from the wild lots. Gifting care and cleaning to forgotten spaces. I then had another opportunity for funding and space and set my sites on a more ambitious project. Myself and an ever evolving gang built a Zen garden. Over the course of six weeks we moved materials around a site and trimmed trees, added large rocks from the red zone and formed a space that was welcoming, contemplative, calm and generous. It was much needed among the heavy, mechanized demolition of the city. Over five years we completed a number of projects and collaborations, many of which can be seen in Christchurch Creations.
Post-quake Christchurch - both practically and conceptually - offered us such a varied and unique context for our community to work within. Far from being offered a clear slate upon which to create, we were gifted an opportunity to choose how we weave our history and our future together. Priorities, opportunities, attentions were all shifted and a real chance was offered to contemplate and create this city through collaboration. It didn’t all happen like that of course - many a story can be told about the triumphs and tribulations we faced individually and as a collective. Still! Create we did. Plant Gang had many different iterations / actions / connections and intentions. Some were achieved, some where not - regardless - it was a really incredible experience to be driven by a vision for a better city and working alongside the many individuals and groups that were operating. The complexity of our collaboration is so wide and deep but is full of both subtle and sublime articulations of what it can look like when we work together.
Forever grateful I am to this once in a lifetime experience the world shook me into and others helped to facilitate.
By 2018 Plant Gang had exhausted me. Alongside all the good it bought forth, I had deep grief for the lost opportunities, failed plans and the deeper vision I had for Plant Gang not being bought forth. It is so so hard to plant life into rubble that is controlled by bureaucracy, government and old school thinkers. 2018 was the time for me to listen to my quiet voices asking me to seek different paths, to shed my old skins and focus my energy. As of August 2019 I have spent time focusing on my studio practice and giving time and attention to my parent farm.
STILL - the pull of Plant Gang has been ever present. I see the value in being online to share my love of plants and pave ways of how we can connect with nature and why we should. I have tentative plans currently but hope to stimulate individuals to take empowered and decisive action on helping to heal our home.
I have a deep wish to both deepen my knowledge and adoration of this very Earth whilst inspiring others to re-root themselves in the truth of our existence - we are a rich tapestry of inter-everything relationships. Allegiance to this is beyond vital. Remembering and reengaging with our plant allies is our only option to survive and thrive.