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To Plant a Person

Invisible Bonds / performativity in the everyday of death by Cristina Maldonado


Plant a Person was initiated by Cristina Maldonado as part of her research project Invisible Bonds: Performativity of Death in the Everyday, within the frame (UN) COMMON Spaces of IN SITU.  It was initially researched in the Czech Republic in collaboration with Michal Salwinski and Eszter Koncz, and its first work in progress was presented in Au bout du Plongeoir in 2022.

Later on, in 2023, in a second visit to A bout du Plongeoir, Manon Gloro and Bleuenn Pasco joined the second laboratory to explore the next version of this performance. Manon became the second audience member to receive this experience. And in the beginning of 2024 the Plant a Person Society was formed, Cristina, Michal, Eszter in Prague, and Bleuenn and Manon in Rennes, met online regularly to map their experiences and to create a final protocol for this immersive performance. 

In March 2024 it premiered in the Stromovka Park in Prague within the program of the Art Community Center Punctum, and in April performed in the Open Day of (UN) COMMON Spaces in Pelt, Belgium.

Have you ever been planted? 

Trust in our experts and enter the speed of a seed…

“Decades ago I read in the university that in Mesoamerican thought is believed that the womb that carries a baby is connected simultaneously to birth and death.The child about to be born awaits in Mictlán, the land of the dead. It might have happened that I misinterpreted the concept of genesic death of Johansson but that doesn't matter because something was planted in my mind. 

I thought that burying a body was very similar to planting a seed, regardless of how differently we experience them. But what would happen if we would also feel similarly about them. What would it mean to tend and water our dead. What things would grow from this relationship. And how would I feel about my own death from this perspective? Perhaps knowing that something will grow after I am gone could also allow me to feel I'm nesting, comfortably in my end? 

These were only nice poetic and existential thoughts until I had to mourn a close relative. With the years I realized all the valuable things that grew from his absence, the new sensibilities I acquired, the new relationships I established with people, with him and nature, the things I created to reflect on memory, continuity and immateriality. 

To Plant a Person is the culmination of this process. It´s intention is not to erase the inevitable pain, fear, and loss that comes with death but to explore what other things can be felt towards our end. Can we open the way for new sentiments towards death?”

What it means to (or how you) plant a person? 

Death as seed

Burial as planting

Nest as burial

Dying as growing

What grows from disappearing

Bathing in (as) landscape

Connecting by disappearing

What it means to (or how you) water a person

Death as feeling cozy

Death as nature

Imaginary shapes of burial

Disappearing into yourself

Plant a Person Society

The first audience being a volunteer of the venue, Bleuenn Pasco who wrote:

“I feel like it is time to get up, a gust of wind lifts part of the tree branches that cover and protect me. The ghosts have flown away to make way to the magnificent landscape that surrounds me, to the voices of the children playing in the distance, and to the sound of the ball falling back on the ground. 

I do not believe anything magical happened under these leaves in the field. I think that I was alone, but the stories we choose to believe, for a moment or for a lifetime, bear a strength we often underestimate.”

Bleuenn Pasco

Following the philosophy of pollination, Plant a Person, beside performing wherever it is invited, it also seeks to root and grow wherever someone cares for it. Bleuenn and Manon, the first audiences of Plan a Person, will have a residency in A Bout du Plongeoir to test for themselves  the protocol and offer it to new audiences as part of the program of A l’oree du temps. In this way, Bleuenn and Manon will become the first independent cell of the Plant a Person society that performs in their region and that will continue to explore this protocol on their own. 

We learned from Manon and Bleuenn, that after receiving this experience, some people might have the wish to give back and provide the same experience to others. With them, we start a new research cycle focused on reciprocity, in which the members of our society, who should have some previous experience in working with audiences, are given the tools, the protocol and the support to perform themselves. We are open to new memberships of people who were our audience and would like to join us as caregivers to provide the experience because we want to offer this protocol to as many people as possible, in as many parts of the world we can. 

Because being planted is an urgent need in our times.

Currently the protocol Plant a Person is finished and ready to travel as only a performance or also as a society. It will be performed in September 2024 in the Festival de la Mort organized by the Cooperative Funeral Home of Rennes and in Weekend Mortel a program of Atelier 231 that offers our  immersive performances, a thematic buffet and a talk with the members of alternative and regional funeral homes.  

© Fabienne Quéméneur

25 August 2022

Dear Cristina,

I hope you're well, that you had a good trip back and that you were able to recover from all those wonderful Breton emotions.

I realise that I've already been trying to write to you for several days about the incredible, overwhelming experience that you so sweetly and generously gave me. Let's face it, I'm not going to be able to do it perfectly or in the most minute detail, but I'm at least going to try!

After hearing you talk about your work on bereavement, your discussions and your discoveries, you told me there was a choice of two kinds of experiences, the first as part of a group, the second being a solo experience. I don't know what made me want to go for the solo experience. I think this was more than just curiosity, it was more out of a desire to discover something new. It was like my instincts were kicking in. I wasn't afraid, I didn't need to think, I just wanted to let myself be carried away and I trusted you implicitly. I feel like this trust was essential, in the sense that you exuded such goodwill and respect that it was difficult to be afraid of anything.

I was moved by the way you were able to really be present, without penetrating into the sometimes painfully personal grief of the people involved. I waited for you for a few minutes with a smile on my face, without having any idea of what was waiting for me, and without wanting to know. You came back with a big canvas bag and beckoned me to follow you. You asked me if I was allergic to insects and straw. I told you I wasn’t. And we smiled as we walked in silence, but in togetherness. I chose to let you guide me without thinking, and I think that was already the beginning of the experience and a form of ‘letting go’. You took me to a large field a little way off, in front of a sort of niche in the foliage. You lifted the branches and started to prepare a nest for me. Then you invited me to slip into it.

I was lying on my right side with my arms tucked under my head and my legs tucked up against my chest. There was something comforting and deeply familiar about the touch of straw and foliage. You tended to me for a long while. You wrapped me in a survival blanket, insisting on my feet and on my back being snug and warm. You packed straw all around me. And you built me a shelter from the branches. One end of the main branch was resting against my ribs and it felt as if the tree was breathing with me every time I breathed in. It was very beautiful, and very moving. At no point did I feel trapped. In fact, quite the opposite; I felt like I was outside of time, far away from everything and right where I belonged. Firmly rooted in the ground yet open to the sky and the wind. I think what really moved me secondly was the gentleness and modesty with which you created this space for me. All I had to do was let it happen, and you sort of allowed me to do that. It was as if you had given me permission to seize this moment, to experience the truth of it in the best way possible and in a profoundly serene and calming atmosphere. I don't believe in ghosts or signs, but I do believe that we need to tell ourselves stories and pretend to believe in them so that we can live our lives better. Anyway, that's what makes everyday life so much more beautiful for me, and so much more meaningful. It's an immense form of freedom, a way of arranging and colouring things around me to reflect my own inner world. And I think that by tending to me, and my space, that's what you enabled me to do tenfold.

You left quietly, and the tears were already rolling down my cheeks. It wasn't anything painful, quite the opposite, it was very gentle and quite natural. As if I could open myself up completely without any pain or difficulty. So even if rationally I don't believe in it, I chose to believe in it during this moment of suspended time. I chose to allow myself to tell myself stories, to feel ‘signs’, to see where it would take me. I was rooted to the ground, inert, as though I were no longer alive, and yet I felt a serenity stronger than anything I'd ever felt in my life before. And paradoxically, I was profoundly alive and open to the sky. I breathed in deeply and, like the tree, I was growing. “Is this what it feels like when you die? Silly question, you don't feel anything when you die.

Yes, but just imagine...” So if that's how you feel, I'm glad that people are able to go to their rest in such a beautiful way, which made my whole body shiver with emotion. Suddenly I felt like all my ghosts were joining me. Like they never really left, but that they were there, in the trees, in the grasses, in the ground and in the sky. In the gentleness of nature surrounding me. So I let them come to me, take me in their arms.

I smiled, because I didn't really believe in it, but it was so good to tell myself these stories. It was so healing. I wept with a smile on my face as I embraced all this love that I was giving myself. Suddenly I felt like I was in my grandfather's arms. Like in the photo of me as a baby. There was the warmth of the blanket on my back, but it felt like the warmth of his arms holding me close.

I smiled, and maybe he smiled too. I felt so good, so safe. I felt like nothing could happen to me, I was there and time had stopped so that the poetry could take over. My tears continued to flow, I was happy to know that he felt what I felt. I was happy to be in his arms and feel all this tenderness.

I think he was proud of me, looking at me with his sparkling eyes and wry smile. You don't really need words, you don't really talk about these things, you feel them with your whole body. And I felt it so intensely.

I didn't want to move; I knew this moment wouldn't last forever, but it would last in my memory. I didn't move, I didn't want to move, but I breathed in and out and I cried and I felt more alive by the minute. It was the first time since he died that I’d felt like I was in his arms again, and I didn't want to open my eyes for fear of losing him. There was the warmth of childhood, the sweetness of long summer evenings spent talking on the terrace. This awareness of doing something a little for you, and a lot for life. There was nothing fanciful about this moment, I felt free to leave, and I felt that all I wanted was to continue to live, to live even more intensely. To make trees breathe and tears glisten on my cheeks and on my smile. As someone who doesn't believe in signs, it's a good thing Jung explains them in terms of synchronicity, because when I felt it was time to get up, a gust of wind lifted part of the branch that covered and protected me.

I slowly slipped out of my story hut. It was like waking up from a dream. I was smiling even wider, feeling the sun on my skin, the straw under my legs, the wind in my hair, and I was so happy to feel so alive, so at peace. I wanted to keep feeling that way for as long as possible. The ghosts vanished to make way for the magnificent landscape around me, the cries of children in the distance and the sound of a ball dropping to the ground. I gently emerged from my stories, and smiled with amusement and wonder at the fact that I'd managed to give myself permission to believe all of this for such a long space of time.

Even despite these beliefs seemingly evaporating the moment I left this space that I'd had all to myself. I pondered on what these beliefs of a short space of time said about me. And I realised that I'm the person who was proud of myself, that I was the one who showed myself all this love and allowed myself to let go. And I was even prouder of it. So now I feel even more alive, and I love the power of these stories that we tell ourselves so that we can see things that have happened and those we are missing in a gentle, poignant way.

I don't think anything magical happened under those leaves in the field. I think I was on my own, but the stories we choose to believe in, for the space of a moment or a lifetime, have a power that we often underestimate. And even if nothing tangible or concrete happened, in my own artistic reality, this encounter really did take place, and it made me feel wonderful, special and rare things. It enabled me to transcend myself and experience the world and nature so strongly that I don't want to stop telling myself these stories for anything in the world.

Smiling, I got up to find the whole team, to feel life this intensely a little longer before the night put an end to this incredible day.

I know that I haven't managed to convey absolutely everything in this email, that everything needs clarifying and that words don't seem to be adequate enough to describe the power of these sensations and the stories we tell ourselves... But it's a desperate attempt to thank you profoundly for enabling me to experience this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thanks for the feelings and the insights this experience gave me into beliefs. Thank you for your sweetness and tenderness...

All my warmest regards,



Thank you Bleuenn for accepting to share your experience with other people. 

Thanks to Fabienne, Benoit, Maëlla, all volunteers of Au Bout Du Plongeoir, Anne Le Goff, Martina Černa, Eszter Konc, Michał Salwinski, Jana Vlastníková, Tada Michal and also the other Michal.

This project was developed thanks to the residency in Rennes, France hosted by Au Bout Du Plongeoir and supported by Atelier 231 and Čtyři Dny. And to the residency in Nový Bydžov, Czech Republic in Centrum Červeněves supported by Čtyři Dny. 

Invisible Bonds performativity in the everyday of death by Cristina Maldonado* is an action of the IN SITU the European platform for artistic creation in public space, in the frame of the project (UN)COMMON SPACES, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

*Member of Sistema Nacional de Creadores del Arte. Scretaría de Cultura, FONCA.