Nancy Valladares

the density of breath

Shot with an electronic microscope, The Density of Breath is a meditation on plant hunters, plant agency, and botanical representation. It’s part of a series of films that trace botanical exchanges and the ghosts that emerge from vegetal histories. The film follows plant specimens that were uprooted and seeded, only to be dispersed as vectors through colonial networks of distribution. Seeds learned to move in the currents of the ocean and the wind, to float on water and air, to become the first stowaways and hitchhikers. Many botanical exchanges occurred during the transatlantic slave trade, and indeed, were spurred by the violent dislocation of human beings, while simultaneously altering the ecologies of territories under colonial rule. The technologies of plant transportation developed at this time, such as Wardian cases, seed preserving methods, systems of classification, and collection, laid the foundations for emerging biotic imaginaries. This moment marks a pivotal ecological and cognitive shift in colonial imaginaries: the pursuit of light in all its optic, chemical, and metabolic embodiments to expand the apparatus of human vision.

Nancy Dayanne Valladares (b.1991) is an interdisciplinary artist from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Through writing, photography, and filmmaking, her work traces the colonial legacies and agricultural histories of Central America through the lens of human and non-human migration. Her works intersect various fields and practices—drawing from economic botany, archaeology and archives to re-configure historical narratives through biofiction.

She received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is finishing her Masters at the program in Art, Culture and Technology at MIT. Her work has been exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago, Sullivan Galleries, SUGS Gallery X, ExFest Film Festival, The Research House for Asian Art, Columbia College, and Roman Susan Gallery in Chicago.