Dripstone is the research blog for queer visual artist, researcher, writer and curator Venus Jasper.

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We are Nature, defending itself

My year of 2023 began with a short visit to a queer community in the south of Spain. Similarly to my annual visits to my dear Queer Sanctuary(1) in north-east France, my visit to the land in Spain brought a LOT of space and perspective and spiritual processes – despite the alarming January temperatures. Everyone who is close to me has heard me say it for a decade now: city life really works against my capacities and needs very often. Being away from secular individual urban landscapes and surrounded by people attuned to the magic and queerness of nature helps me heal and helps me hear powers and voices inside that I've known as long as I've lived. Walking to a spring high in the Spanish Sierra Nevada made me realize how deeply meaningful and foundational my relationships to these "alternative" queer spaces in nature has been for my artistic practice, my research and ultimately for who i am becoming. Through the guardianship of my queer communities, I've began to unravel myself as a performing priestess and feisty writer.

Sacred Swamps. I've talked about growing up at the edge of Eindhoven before. About playing and being in the natural swampy areas near my house all year long. The Urkhovense Zeggen are wetlands on the tributary of a river that was worshipped in Celtic times, and later by Romans as well. Recent reading has been very insightful about finding out more about the people living in those swampy and green wetlands where I grew up. It is even said that Ambriorix, the last king of the Erubones, managed to escape from a Roman battalion -and thereby the Empire- by entering the swampy lands of De Peel, a place where by grandfather later worked as a peat-cutter, and where my dad often went to fish. Heck, the Erubones even used the triskelion symbol on their offerings – a symbol which I have been attracted to all my life.

I can say with certainty that the swampy lands where I spend countless days in my childhood talking to trees and clouds have truly formed a basis in my own sacred natural experiences and ways sensing – some of which I've expressed through my exhibition EARTHSHRINE (2022). This year, I am continuing my practice of relinking humans with the land through a new project centered on the Green Bog Lady: a Dutch Swamp Deity of Neo-Folkloric Rap (one who I've heralded in this spoken word piece for Onomatopee, Eindhoven, in 2017).

Green Bog Lady? Puddles, mud, ditches; marshes – these are exactly the kind of nature that characterizes the Netherlands. It is also the kind of nature that is often reclaimed and drained. On a workshop at Art Laboratories Berlin last summer, I learned exactly how deeply important the unique ecosystem of the Wetlands really are. In fact, I believe that "in-between" places with no immediate readable "function" often hide very important meaning and contributions. The idea to work this quality out in a wetland goddess is a means to help (re)recognize these qualities. After all, in the process of death and decay taking place in swamps, a transformation takes place which our Western standardized society is so averse towards: life and death merging in a murky magic not easy to interpret. This is what appeals to me greatly: the twilighted shading between extremes that often characterize our society. This shading is what makes swamps immensely Queer. The Green Bog Lady is someone who symbolizes the marginal magic and the not easily controlled and trespassed forces of the watery landscape. She is a speculative goddess of the unrecognized & slimy, the wet; the underground; and the transformation she surely brings forth.

Exploring the meaning, symbology and ecological significances of swamps, bogs, fens and wetlands will allow me to write a story -a allegorical myth, really- about a Swamp Goddess that lives in the wet and clay-y lands that I call home: the Netherlands. The stories will lead into new music, and the music will lead to a video piece, which in turn will be shown in an art-installation (#swampshrine?) that would also include ritualistic live performances. Haha, can't wait! (2)

Map of La ZAD de Norte Dame, France.

Wet Autonomous SpacesSwiping back to my time in Spain, there's something I've been dying to share with y'all. Something that struck me so fucking deeply. See, I've been reading this pamphlet called We Are ‘Nature’ Defending Itself: Entangling Art, Activism and Autonomous Zones (2021), written by Isabelle Fremeaux and Jay Jordan. It describes a wetlands much similar to where I grew up, and which also successfully offered an escape from the onslaught of Empire, but in much more recent times.

We Are ‘Nature’ Defending Itself describes the creation of an autonomous zone called La Zad, near the French city of Nantes. The account is deepening and radicalizing my thinking in ways that I don't know if I really feel comfortable with – although it really is fucking astonishing and awesome as well! It was quite queer indeed to read about the resistance against the state in a communal wetlands in France while being dressed in a scanty dress in the Andalusian heat on a private but safe shared land, yet there are some clear overlaps between both of these intentional communities, although one chooses to hide partially in plain sight while the other couldn't afford such a luxury.

What is the zad? A website dedicated to the project reads: "The zad is 4000 acres of wetlands, fields and forests, and 250 people in 80 different collectives live together without the state, occupying the land against the new airport project for the city of Nantes. Politicians called it “a territory lost to the republic”. With its bakeries, pirate radio station, tractor repair workshop, brewery, banqueting hall, medicinal herb gardens, a rap studio, dairy, vegetable plots, weekly newspaper, flour mill, library and even a surrealist lighthouse, the zad [is] taking back control of everyday life."

If there is no capacity to buy the book, the Wikipedia page about the project also narrates a lot of what has been created, although I highly recommend the booklet, as it is marvelous not only for the endeavour it describes (succesfully creating a space of freedom beyond the control of the colonial empire of the modern western capitalist sphere) but also for the way it so eloquently manages to take the reader on a journey that interlinks notions of Art, collectivity, craft, ecology, more-than-human relations and so much more. Seldom have i read a book that felt as poignant as this one, both on a personal level as well as on a level of understanding what is at stake (and what is possible!) in the world today.

image: We Are ‘Nature’ Defending Itself for sale at Zabriskie, Berlin.

"I believe that all organizing is science fiction, that we are Shaping the future we long for and have not yet experienced" - adrienne marie brown

Including powerful quotes such as the one above, We Are ‘Nature’ Defending Itself brings together wisdom of collectivity, organizing, magic practices, activism, the more-than-human, politics, paperwork, togetherness with land and place and our own bodies. It speaks of composting differences into the humus of a present-day futurisme of hope, galvanized in action, Solidarity, specific and otherworldly wisdom of collective radical and direct action against a planned airport, resulting in the transference of the mythical Asterix and Obelix village into our swampy earthy world anno right now. The ZAD did not only survive, it succeeded in birthing what most of us living today would have considered impossible; a permanent but not stagnant autonomous region, where multi species thrive and cross-pollinate (non-sexually haha) each other beyond the boundaries of class, background, age and belief.(3)

A warning though: besides the miracles and the poetry, the publication also accounts the deeply unfortunate and mortal implications of countering the machine of state and capital – the death of a young botanist. Though sacrifices of the living is by no means an official part of the recipe held in this booklet, severe physical struggle and perseverance against all odds certainly is -albeit woven into the bliss of the collective worlding of a world that hitherto lingered only in pirate saga, mythic histories and science fiction. The story of the ZAD, and its houses, metalsmiths, brewers, farms, libraries, common halls, turrets and crafted wonders is indeed a practice of magical and activist worldbuilding (verb) that surpasses every Solar Punk story I have until this day read! Of course, the book does frequently refer to older sister movements like the Zapatistas, who liberated regions in Chiapas, Mexico, and hints at several Temporary Autonomous Zones which Hakim Bey wrote about in the eponymous book T.A.Z. (1991). But to me, the unique chance to see a zone like this appear, struggle with and stay despite the French state in recent times is truly inspirational, at least as much as it is confrontational.

Where the story of that one pagan Asterix village which resisted the Romans merely created a series of good old jolly heroism and appraisal for a resistance that ultimately broke (the Romans indeed slaughtered the entire cultural legacies of pagan Celtic, local and unique ways of life), the story of le ZAD as heralded in We Are ‘Nature’ Defending Itself alternatively canonizes the beginning of a possible new world: a patchwork zones of specific differences and queer collaborations. A foamy orgasm of bubbles inter-melting with each other in what philosopher of ecology Baptiste Morizot called "the community of importance", a community defined not by the competing interests of its members, but the delicate and powerful bonds that link them. A social ecology, a composting interconnected living: a revival of the commons. The many hands and bodies that created this modern day ecosystem of hope and resilience have used the muddy earth around them much like the swallows building nests in the nooks of the handcrafted Barn of the Future using only their own spit and the earth around.

If you believe a different world is what must be accomplished, I offer you this manifesto as one possible tool. Study it closely, as it contains the secret recipe of Panoramix' potion magique.

Order now at Pluto Books: https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745345871/we-are-nature-defending-itself/
Or download here.


I end this blog entry here, as I feel that I've said a good hello into this new year to all of you. What I do want to ask though, is your support as I intend to visit the ZAD, both to learn from and relish in the realness of this project, but also to visit the swamp-y landscape that holds and supports it – the swamp as resilience: commoning as sacred land relationship. I am very curious about this wet landscape, and hope to record audio there at night in support of my exploration of the Green Bog Lady. Please support me in that entire journey as well, haha, any tips or links or people or resources would surely mean a lot!

Lastly, I simply want to say that it feels VERY good to journal about visiting "alternative" projects and communities again, as the long years surrounding COVID really did make such things impossible. Thank you wonderful special beings that were present with me in the valley near Granada these first special days of the new year.

Catch you on the horizon!

Much love,
Your peace journalist


(1) I choose not to mention the name of my Queer Community as it was a custom of the place around the time I arrived there first (2014): in respect to serendipity and to oral cultures, we are free to tell people of our magical forrest upon encounter when we feel a kinship to the one whom we are speaking with, yet we like to keep our digital exposure to a minimum.

(2) Thank you Amsterdam Fund of the Arts (AFK) and Amarte fund for the initial financial support in this endeavour.

(3) The authors describe an event called "the gamble of the forms" in which the now remaining collectives at La ZAD did sign documents presented by the French state in order to ultimately survive an army of 2500+ officers and tanks who would swipe them off in a possible final swoop after Macron had officially declared that the airport planned there was officially canceled. To some, this paper signing countered the entire endeavour of living without the presence or influence of the state, to others it simply meant the enactment of an ancient form of non-compliance: the map is not the territory. The papers do not represent the reality that continues to live at ZAD.

- Wikipedia on the ZAD- Zad Forever, a blog about the ZAD
La ZAD: Another End of the World Is Possible, Learning from 50 Years of Struggle at Notre-Dame-des-Landes
Sacred Swamp, my growing collection around the inquiry into current/historic Swamp Goddesses and some computer game imagery to support the realm of a possible new Swamp Goddess
EARTHSHRINE: sensing sacred soils, text on my recent show in Eindhoven
To live and die with soil, a text on soil and EARTHSRINE by Georgia Kareola
Greenhouse of Trust, on my first week in Tamera project, Portugal (2016)
What you see is what you get, on my first week studying Permaculture (2016)
Re-viving Matriarchy, on my exploration of paganism and new land-based folkstories through (pop)music

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