Feral Cities — Maela Ohana & Zuri Camille de Souza
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Feral Cities is a collaborative publication that brings together the works and thoughts of two image-makers, connected by a shared interest in intersectional urban ecology. Weaving together film photography, scanned images of collected flora, typographic design and written observations, the book explores the many ways of perceiving - and understanding- botanical networks within our cities.
Drawing on her research in India, Turkey, Europe, and Dubai, Zuri Camille de Souza considers restorative practices to subvert the neoliberal, resource and extraction-based definitions and limitations that shape how we perceive our lived—and living—environments. She draws parallels between the semantics of “native / invasive” classifications in botany, and the binary prejudices used to confront political and social “Others.” Finally, she proposes links between “travelling ecologies,” the merging of floral, geological and botanical bodies as a consequence of globalized agriculture, and the power structures that underlie our ‘social landscaping’ in the context of political displacement, refugee movements and social rupture.
Alongside these ideas, Maela Ohana’s photographic and written work in Montreal considers “subcultures” of urban flora as productive sites of discovery, rife with symbolic and narrative meaning. To her, wilderness and its potential to recolonize urban landscapes offers new perspectives on how public and architectonic spaces function. By proposing new practices of deep engagement with the cityscape, she looks at biophilic theories, histories of urban flaneurs “botanizing the concrete,” (Walter Benjamin), and rhizomatic assemblages as botanically-inspired models of thinking.
Through alternations of photography, poetic observations, and theoretical descriptions, Feral Cities navigates through a range of historical and subjective perspectives on the human-plant relationship. Rather than arriving at a concrete conclusion, it forms an elusive collage of ideas, leaving the reader space to transpose each concept into the context of their own lived environments.
The authors hope that the narrative experience of Feral Cities will inspire us to look - and think - more closely, when it comes to the wild bodies co-existing around us.