Nos Habebit Humus


Oliver Kellhammer and Robinia tree


This installation, its Latin title translating as 'the earth will have us,' is a video conversation between me and the artist Kathy HIgh.

LInk to the exhibition guide:

A link to the video: 

password:  plant

Kathy has been thinking about her own death and has decided to have a natural burial upon her passing. After purchasing a plot at a green burial site, she designed a garden to be planted on the ground above her body so that it may be literally incorporated into the growing plants - becoming plant - during its course of decomposition.

As for me, I've had a long term fascination with how ruined cityscapes gradually are colonized and then absorbed by certain (ruderal) plants, for whom wasteland conditions serve as a preferred habitat, our once proud buildings with their expanses of pavement slowly being consumed as slow-release fertilizer.

Wandering with Kathy through the landscape of South Troy NY, I was heartened to observe in the ruins of shuttered factories and on unpreposessing, chemically contaminated brownfields, diverse biotopes emerging: urban savannahs, emergent forests, anthropogenic simulacra of mountain and cliff habitats, each providing opportunties for various organisms to gain a toe-hold.

Together and individually, we imagine and celebrate the potentials for the transformation of expired bodies and discarded architectures – into the fecundity of plants!

In this, the age of the Anthropocene, our thoughts often turn to mortality – both of our individual selves and that of the earth we thought we once knew. But life goes on  – our bodies and even our more permanent seeming edifices are destined to dissolve into the indefatigable processes of plant-ness and earth-ness.  Nos habebit humus. The earth will have us. The earth does have us.


Kathy High/Oliver Kellhammer 2015

Following the shock wave of human disturbance, novel beginnings bob in the wake – new juxtapositionings and hybridities of the feral and the cultivated, the indigenous and the immigrant, the built and the unbuilt, the primeval and the ruderal.
We bury a corpse, we graft a twig, we abandon an industrial zone – each act eliciting a response from the botanical life force that relentlessly incorporates what we leave behind into its living tissue.