Mónica Rivas Velásquez

Research project: Like Someone Learning: Drawing and writing an auto-ethnography of encounters with plants. A decolonial exploration at a time of climate emergency.


This practice-based research proposes a diverse network of performative practices as acts of decolonisation. By interrogating notions of learning through the reconstruction and exploration of an auto-ethnographic narrative of encounters with a set of plants central to the ecology of my native Colombia, my project aims to challenge and displace colonial narratives at the heart of Colombia's history. 

Espeletia and Plantago, prime examples of their unique ecosystem, the páramos - high mountain Andean biomes - absorb water from fogs and rains, supporting river-formation. The páramos deliver water to 70% of Colombia's population. During my research visits, my methodological approach has included gathering material through drawing, sound, video and interviews as part of my field work.

Central to this research, situated in contemporary art practice, is the development of a multi-modal presentation form which enables a polyphony of voices and gestures to manifest themselves, meshing human and botanical agency. Evolving iteratively, as testing processes, my performances address the páramos' complex context, as they transition into a post-conflict stage/era.

Interweaving personal and political history, botany, and notions such Gagliano's plant sentience (2014) and Mignolo's decolonial thinking (2018), I combine experimental writing with image, voice, and translation to offer tools that critically and affectively aim to unpack what layers constitute our encounter with nature.

  • Research degree: Practice-based PhD
  • Title of project: Like Someone Learning: Drawing and writing an auto-ethnography of encounters with plants. A decolonial exploration at a time of climate emergency.
  • Research supervisor: Mr Volker Eichelmann
  • Other research supervisor: Dr Sarah Bennett


I am a Colombian artist living and working in London. I use expanded notions of drawing and collage to explore embodied narratives and the coming-together of image, text and voice. In my work, I ask: What does a language of image and text do when it engages with a specific context or site. My PhD focuses on the Páramos – urgent ecosystems to consider in contemporary ecology.

I am interested in bringing into question representations associated with the notion of the ‘exotic' when exploring the botanical world. I do this by highlighting the everyday alongside stablished forms of research. The ambiguity and friction present between the personal and the formally researched forms a realist panorama where hierarchies of the intimate and the personal clash and coexist with the political and the collective.

My interdisciplinary practice involves expanded forms of publishing, exhibitions, and performance, incorporating drawing, painting, collage, sound and text. For over 12 years, I have engaged in education work in galleries and museums with inter-generational audiences. These projects activate contemporary art as a site of pedagogy. I am interested in the experience of shared, communal learning which in turn echoes into my research and studio practice.

Areas of research interest

  • Drawing
  • Collage
  • Performance
  • Autotheory
  • Botany
  • Decoloniality
  • Ancestral knowledge
  • Embodied narratives
  • Sound
  • Voice


  • MA Book Arts, Camberwell College of Arts, London
  • BA Fine Arts, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellín

Funding or awards received

  • TECHNE (AHRC) PhD scholarship
  • Research Enhancement Activity, TECHNE (AHRC) 2023