The idea of Kupala Tea performance started with the visit to the Phytology’s Bethnal Green Nature Reserve – a wilderness space in the midst of East London – that also runs a medicinal herbs garden. The interdisciplinary ethos of the project space, the herbs in season as well as the amphitheatre fire at the site served as the vital ingredients for bringing the people together in this performative work.  During the performance, Olha had the invited the audience to recreate the elements of Eastern European folk medicine ritual, by offering to participate in the communal experience of drinking herbal tea. This participatory performance, touching on relational art,  was based on the inquiry into the fragmentation of memory and faith through the lens of folk healing and mythology.  The resulting imagery and dialogue acted as a foundation for Olha’s subsequent painting artwork.

The event has also become Olha’s first foray into curating as the concept of the Ukrainian summer solstice festival Kupala has easily lended itself to collaboration resulting in participatory workshops on herbal crown and seed puppet making by the Growing Puppet Project. Also during the event, Lumen collective has projected media solar installations and involved astronomer Paul Hill to give a talk on the significance of solstice in science.  Here is a bit more about each participant:

Phytology leads a research project at the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve aimed at exploring the use, value and function of wildness within modern urban ecosystems. Phytology is part physic garden; part cultural institute; part urban wilderness; and a platform for collaboration between the arts, sciences and humanities.

Lumen is an art collective, focused on our contemporary relationship to astronomy and light. Through exhibitions, seminars and residencies, Lumen advocate and promote the awareness and accessibility of astronomy within urban environments. They collaborated with Phytology’s Artist In Residence, Ellie Doney, producing a number of solar-themed projections within the Nature Reserve in response to the Kupala celebration.

Paul Hill is a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (author of Awesome Astronomy podcast, and Space Ambassador for ESERO), talked about the significance of the solstice in astronomy. He brought a collection of lunar rocks & meteorites along with a collection of telescopes pointed at the Sun, Moon, Saturn & Jupiter.

The Growing Puppet Project is a new collective project between Puppeteer and Artist Sian Kidd and Artist Sarah Blissett.  The project aims to engage with the creative possibilities of plants, digging into ideas of transformation and growth to discover new connections with each other and the natural world. Each puppet had an element that can be detached and planted at home, continuing the cycle of renewal and growth and giving new life to your puppet in a different form.

6 July 2017, Photography by Piotr Charkiewicz and Pon Souvannaseng