‘ORCHID, BEE and I’ (OBI) is a fictional ethnography of a near future, prompted by our own and collective experiences of living with the climate crisis and the pandemic. It delves into the paradoxes of protection, isolation, care, intimacy, symbiotic relationships, anthropocentric practices, and the deeply-held human desire for companionship with other species.

In the format of a short film, we present a one-day scenario in 2049, where a Person, an Orchid and a Bee Balloon spend Christmas Day together as a household. Oscillating between an observational view and an orchid point of view, contradictions between human and non-human are revealed.

To enter the world of OBI is to join the experiential thought experiment with us. Please be prepared as an anthropologist landing in a strange yet familiar world to piece together a variety of underpinning mechanisms—i.e. world-building elements—that constitute the overwhelming sense of alienation in the filmic scenario.  Ultimately, the entire experience seeks to confront and amplify how things are made into the way they are, and through this, opening up spaces for critical reflection and imagination about the world we are living in right now.

OBI was conceived by Chen Zhan and Jingru (Cyan) Cheng in the Christmas 2020 amid the peak of the pandemic in the UK. Departing from those gloomy winter months of isolation, the project has been developed in various collaborations with fellow artists, designers, researchers and filmmakers. World-building is a collective endeavour after all.

Behind the filmic world-building is a methodological experiment: Speculative Anthropology. More on the conceptual framing, please see the column series on PRECARITY︎︎︎ at KoozArch. The concept and method of the project were presented at the Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival Conference (2023).