Southern Guild is proud to present Volume IV. Chaos Calamus – Interspecies Reciprocal Altruism, a solo exhibition of new seating pods by Porky Hefer from 8 February to 20 April, 2023. Woven entirely in Kooboo cane – Hefer’s original material of choice – and incorporating carved timber sculptures by artist Adam Birch for the first time, this body of work reflects on the phenomenon of mutually beneficial symbiosis between species.
A keen observer of natural phenomena, organic forms, animal behaviours, and ecosystems, Hefer’s work is steeped in his fascination with biomimicry. A patch of forest floor, an anthill, the movement of lava – in Hefer’s mind, each unravels a parallel universe that offers a metaphoric lens through which to view our relationship to each other and the world at large. His collections of sculptural seating environments are speculative interventions, a series of playful proposals that take their cue from nature’s unerring adaptability, resourcefulness and interconnection.
Although originally inspired by the complex woven nests of the sociable weaver bird, the works in Chaos Calamus look to microbiology in their development of seating typologies – in particular, to amoeba. The unicellular organisms are known for their ability to alter their shapes by extending and retracting pseudopods or arm-like projections. Amoebas defy our assumptions around solidity and shape in the way they move, morph, and grow. “An amoeba keeps breaking up and reinventing its own structure in order to move into a space to perform a task,” says Hefer, describing them as the ultimate monster from a sci-fi movie.
The taxonomy of the exhibition’s title refers to the Chaos genus of amoeboid organisms which includes the so-called “giant amoeba”, Chaos carolinensis, the largest and best-known species. In Hefer’s speculative science, these works are a new species incorporating a fictional link to the Calamus genus of rattan palm.
The neat, bulbous shapes of the artist’s earlier nests are here extended and draped, resulting in fluid and oozing forms with interiors generous enough to accommodate at least two sitters inside. They are supported by large tree-fork sculptures by Birch, and as such, constitute a marriage of forms, crafts and makers – a symbiosis to which the title alludes. The works were also produced with the contribution of Hefer’s long-time collaborators, cane weavers from the Cape Town Society for the Blind, as well as welder Wellington Moyo, who crafted each metal frame.