Eliza Fernand
1-833-NATR-XXX

Toll-free Hotline

1-833-NATR-XXX shares Erotic Experiences with the Natural World for a Person at Home Alone and an expansion of this work for the outdoors in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, or wherever you dial-in. The hotline houses a series of narrated audio works: Houseplant Intimacy; Fooling Around with Air; For a Person with Running Water; Rock Walk for a Chicago Storefront; Graveyard Meander; and forthcoming creations. These works are multi-sited and accessible online, as a printed zine, and through the toll-free hotline.

The line is live – call right now: 1-833-NATR-XXX 



Graveyard Meander

Today you are taking yourself on a date, a steamy graveyard date.
Pass through the graveyard gates, crossing the precipice into this delineated Iand, with the familiar textures of stone and grass, soil and text. This is where we visit our dead.
You’re now standing on what is called hallowed ground, a slice of land deemed clean enough for the dead to rest, after a religious ceremony made it sacred and holy.
You are also sacred. But not holy, and not so clean either. You are a little bit naughty for coming in here on this romantic date in this secluded and spooky place.
You slip between rows and rows of phallic protrusions, each one announcing a life lived.

There’s a stillness and a quiet here, it’s palpable. The walls usher a hush, blocking the city sounds. Once you’re in, there are very few ways to get out.
You don’t need to think about how to get out of here though, because I want you to just meander.
Take the path that feels right for your body and move inside it.
This place is reserved for stillness, slowness, no agenda, nowhere to be but here. I hope you wore comfortable clothes and are ready to touch the ground.

Here the trees can spread out and talk to each other without interruption. Here the birds and the deer and the coyotes that somehow live in this city find their privacy. They fuck here. They give birth here. It’s one of the few safe spaces for them to meander and live.
We’ll try not to interrupt them. Or interrupt the mourners, who come here to say goodbye, come back to say hello, bring offerings.

Maybe the graveyard reminds you of a funeral you have been to. I remember the first funeral I went to, I was thirteen, and it was for a friend my age. It was a Christian funeral and I was confused and frustrated by her family’s upbeat attitude, how they kept saying now she is with her savior, so lucky to no longer be with us mortals. I chose to focus on the memory of the two of us smelling sweet dandelions on the playground, laughing at each other’s yellow-tipped noses before burying them deep into the petals again.

Smell is important here. Smell is important to our survival. Your smelliest parts are so very vital.
The olfactory sense is important in knowing what to eat, knowing who to mate with.
Smell is strong here in this memorial space, as odor memories evoke vivid autobiographical experiences. Encounters with smells stay with us and can transport us beyond our bodies.
Do you see a tree? Go over to the tree. Look for a place where a bit of soil is exposed, where the lawn ends at the base of this tree. The soil is the flesh of the earth.
Bend down and with two curled fingers, penetrate the soil and scoop up a cluster into your palm.
Bring the soil close to your face, and inhale the scent deeply. Breathe out through your mouth, onto the soil, warming it, and now bring it even closer to your nose to breathe in again.
Close your eyes and take four deep breaths this way. <audible breathing>
Let the memory that this smell brings open up behind your eyelids, fill your eyeballs, fill your throat. <audible breathing>
Does your family bury the dead? Do they lock them away in caskets or mausoleums, or do they find those coveted spaces where a body can return to the earth wrapped only in fabric? Perhaps they commit the body to flames.

My family cremates our dead and scatters the ashes in Lake Michigan. We go together on a boat to drop them in, taking turns, one handful at a time. The ashes look like glitter when they catch the sun in the water, spread out on bobbing waves before they sink.
All those little pieces of bones, they turn out to be heavy. The rest of the body turned into a cloud that flowed out the furnace chimney, joining the other clouds until it rained.

Now I want you to find a place to lay down. Lay down flat.
How many bodies have been laid to rest here, resting, resting, in their final resting place.
But how can we really rest when we live on in memories and stories and the advice we gave and fights we had. Have you ever talked to someone for the last time? Did they say something that made you never want to talk to them again? They go on living but for you they ended with that conversation, they live on in that conversation, they don’t get the chance to fill in more space in your mind or your life. They haunt you. You haunt them.
You are already haunting people and you haven’t even died yet.
Life is a series of impermanences. Think about all the things you like about your body. All those hot spots and good crevices and protrusions. They won't be around forever, so you should enjoy them now. Maybe right now.
Sink a little deeper into the earth you are laying on. Not far below the barrier of clothing and grass is the mycelial network, pulsing through the soil with earthy electric currents. It’s a massive network of cellular strands, thin like threads, reaching to join each other with intertwined tips and connect all the roots of all the plants.
This quiet and slow place is ideal for mushrooms, who are quiet and slow, to fruit from their mycelium roots. Mushrooms are organs of sexual reproduction, just as you are and I am.
Fungi reject the binary of plants and animals, mixing qualities of both in their queer existence.
They rely on mutualism and hold no hierarchies. If only we could be like mushrooms.
Humans are temporary fruits that come above ground and drop our spores, and decompose everything in our path, and feed the network of the bodies buried below. We pop up after a rain and show our colors. We are dirty, we are filthy, we don’t fit the standard of classification. Decomposition is very steamy, very hot. And very very smelly. It transforms and consumes and peels away everything that isn’t nutritious.

It’s hard to think past the scale we exist in, the scale of the human lifespan. Mycelium is the oldest living organism, it has outlived millions of other species on this planet and it can live forever and it knows all of your secrets. If anything, this network of fine strands could take some of those secrets, some of your dirt, some of your filth, and metabolize it for you.
It could connect you, to other mushrooms, plants, ashes, bones.
Now I want you to squeeze every muscle in your body, become hard. Harder. Harder.
That’s really hard.
Now relax, relax your pelvis, relax your fingertips, relax your forehead, relax yourself into the ground, dropping your spores, through your open palms, into hallow hollow ground.



Freshwater Beach Walk

Gently enter the beach at the south end.
Look for and find a large weeping willow, poised at the base of an outcropping of land over water.

Get close and put your hand on this tree. Press your palm into the rough grooves of the bark, the skin.
Bring your face very close to your hand until your eyes unfocus and you can’t see the difference between your skin and the skin of the tree.
Your body is pressed to the trunk, your breath is warm on your hand, and your eyeballs are so close that all textures at once obliterate your view.

Now, pull back but continue contact with the tree, in a way that feels good for you. And feels good for the willow.

This is the same kind of tree that was in my grandmother's yard. There was a rope swing on it and we could swing out over the lake and in a moment of bravery, drop into the water. That weedy little lake there was an outlet of this great lake. The pull I feel towards the beach now is an attraction rooted in the intimacy I experienced with freshwater lakes as a child.

What about you?
Do you know freshwater well?

Do you come here often? Are you drawn to the beach like a well known lover or are you afraid of it?

Let’s get closer to the water. We will play a choose your own adventure game.
There are two options to move forward – 
through the dunegrass path to the left or down the cement pier on the right. Both paths lead to the same destination.

If you are afraid of the beach, walk down the pier.
If you are turned on by the beach, walk through the dunegrass.

Entering a stretch of dunegrass always makes me think of cruising.
You are cruising in the dunegrass.
A stranger approaches, hard, holes open, wet, ready for you.
The sharp grasses prickle and sting your bare skin as you give in and give out in this semi-secluded public space, quickly and without regret.

Over on the pier, there is stranger danger.
You stand close to the edge, leaning against the thin metal railing to look out over the water, back at the city.
A stranger comes from behind, out of the dunegrass, and for some reason swiftly pushes you over the rail into the waves.
Isn’t it thrilling to splash through the surface, fully clothed and fully soaked.
Heavy and buoyant and sinking and floating.

At the end of both paths, you have reached the shoreline- are you there yet?
You are where the dunegrass sanctuary and the dangerous pier meet the sand meeting the lake.

This lake is massive.
Try as hard as you can to see across it. On the other side, on all of the other sides, there are landscapes mirroring this one.
Just look out. How far can you see?

The seagulls are here. They’re always here. They are the companion of the beach.
While the mallards and the swallows and the geese were away the seagulls have been here all winter with their coats puffed up, gathering on the piers in the dark mornings, in the cold air.
They lean against the wind and are held up by it, they bob and float on the waves.
Scavengers at heart, I can relate to them.
Now they wait for the warm weather, when the beaches fill with bodies and snacks and trash are everywhere.

Do you see that there is an area where many small stones have accumulated on the sand? Swept up into a pile by the currents.
Most of them are orange like tumeric, gray, or white, or black, or sometimes green.
These stones are so smooth, even the ones that are not a smooth shape still have smooth surfaces.

I have a beach date, we meet here and pick up stones to play checkers with on the chess tables nearby. Our teams are usually gray vs. turmeric, oblong ovals. When one player piece is crowned, they turn into another color of stone, and then they have the royal ability to move backwards and forwards and just fuck shit up all over the board. We end up crowned and chasing each other around, square by square, stones sliding on lacquered concrete, stones jumping each other, kicking the other off of the table, back to the beach, back to the crowd. We dance around a conclusion, both angling for a tie. But games aren’t meant to end in ties and I eventually win because there is just so much fire in my chart.

Don’t start looking too closely at the stones, because you will want to take them all home –
you will think you have found a special one, and then another one, and then after a while of being surprised by how many special ones you are finding, you will realize they are all brilliant and you can’t possibly take all of them with you.
There are so so many stones. The Earth keeps giving the stones and the waves keep turning them into sand.

Some people I have met on dating apps have told me that they don’t go to the beach because they don’t like sand.
If you do like sand I want you to touch it.
Sit in the sand. Pick up some loose sand, and as if your hand were a funnel or the waist of an hourglass, release a stream of sand onto the back of your other hand.
Now take another handful and release it on to your palm.
Another, on the back of your hand.
Another, on your forearm, moving down from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger. Now make two fists and extend those middle fingers long and shove them into the sand. Maybe you are deep enough to feel the sand below being a little cooler, maybe moist.

With your fingers buried in the sand and your gaze out at the water, I want you to imagine that the waves are your lover.
They are licking and lapping at you nonstop. Sometimes they slow down, and drag tauntingly down the length of your body.
Sometimes they laugh and lap harder and harder, crashing on your skin, rearranging those molecules like you were the sand.

Close your eyes and listen to the waves. Listen to them touch you.
Stay here like this, and listen.



A rock walk for someone at a Chicago storefront

Rocks are all around us, ever changing, made by earth ingredients that shift and squish and heat and cool and meld to one another.
Rocks squeeze out of the crust, they join bodies with other rocks. They fall apart and they build back up again with new mineral compositions, new geographies, as they build geologies.

Here in the city, rocks have been transformed into new rock – the cement and asphalt and brick that covers the ground and rises from it in squares and rectangles. These are rocks displaced by human hands, by machines, by transport. They are mined and blasted and crushed and churned and fired until they take the new shape that we like.

Now I'm going to take you on a rock walk.

You are standing in front of a storefront window.
Turn around and walk across the street. Here is a gravel lot behind a chain link fence. You can see the debris of construction – loose piles and neat stacks of man-made rocks.
Look down at the borderline between the public sidewalk and this private lot and you will find many stones.
A stone is what we call a smaller piece of rock. A stone you can carry.

Get closer to these stones and choose one to take with you on this walk.
Many of these are sedimentary rocks- a stone made of other stones.
Can you look close and see the makeup of your stone?
What are its qualities? What is its smell?
This one looks like it might be concrete, globbing together peach-colored gravel. This one is grey with greenish chunks that flake when scraped.
This one is dark and smooth, round on one end and flat on the other.
Is your stone wet? Get it wet. Put a little bit of your spit on it, and see, how does it change? Do you dare give it a lick?

Once you have chosen your stone, wrap it tightly with your fingers, against your your palm, the warmth of your blood pulsing below the surface will gradually change the temperature of this stone, now set adrift by your body.

Cross the street again, back to the storefront, squeezing your stone.

Do you know what makes a rock hard? It's pressure.
Pressure makes me hard too. And friction.
What makes you hard?
Rocks are all about pressure, and texture, and weather.
Rocks teach us about transformation and adaptation.
Changes, both sudden and gradual, usher geologic formation.

Now look at the decorative details of the storefront.
This column is covered in spiraling nipples! Stroke them gently with your fingertips. Press a cheek to them, explore the hardness against your soft skin. What stone is this? Were these protrusions carved out of sandstone? Or were they cast with a slurried mix of mined limestone and shale? Were rough-hewn blocks of stone excavated nearby, or did they travel far to make this building?

Follow the building’s facade around the corner and now you are in an alleyway, flanked by a stretch of brick buildings conjured in clay on one side, and a cement wall speckled with pebbles that supports the train line on the other. Inspect this cement wall, see what stones are temporarily lodged there, what rock formations have accumulated on the ground. Perhaps touch these stones with the one that you are carrying.

Two blocks east of here, there is a beach full of stones.
The water is lapping at them right now, stirring and grinding them.
With every wave they become more round, more smooth.
Some of the stones you might find on this beach are actually brick, are actually asphalt disguised as pudding stones.
The man-made stones find their way back into the rock cycle, back into the earth and the sand and the wind. The tiniest bits of rock traveling through this alley in rainy runoff and dusty gusts will eventually compress again, amassing together into a strong, hard, archive of experiences.

With your rock in hand, start walking down this alley.
Just as the train slides by, moving static bodies along the line, the rocks surrounding you have been moved and relocated infinite times.
Water has done most of this work.
Freezing erosion, glacial drag, rushing rivers.

Close your eyes, keep walking. Pretend now that you are water, flowing down this ravine, carrying the stone down yet another path to transformation.
Yes, keep your eyes closed, walk in a straight line and this alleyway will hold you. The stones below are holding you.

Open your eyes, rock is all around you.

Keep walking forward, towards the split in your path.
Your stopping point is ahead, where this alleyway becomes two.

How can we embody a stone? I’ve been stone cold, I’ve been stoned out of my mind, I’ve been a rolling stone, transient and light and unattached. 
Metamorphic rocks start as one type of rock and gradually change into a new type. They become stronger and denser under pressure. Perhaps like a stone I have congealed as a conglomerate and become more myself.
Now I am in another process of becoming lighter. I had a car for 10 years and I recently decided to sell it. As I started to dig out the layers of trash and memories, I realized that my car was full of stones. A handful of them from a month spent in Utah, others from countless trips to Lake Michigan beaches. Each one a souvenir. Even Canadian coins I flattened on New England train tracks, these are a touchstone for an experience, a chunk of mineral I picked up while rolling along.
Stones often hold the energy of a place, and we also put our own memories on them – is this another meaning for the phrase “to set in stone”?

Have you reached the fork in the road? This is the end of our walk. Find a place to set your stone down here. Now, find a different stone to pick up, it could very well have been left here by another rock walker, a snow plow, or a sudden downpour. Give your new stone a sniff, maybe a lick. Turn it around and around in your fingers, then tuck it into your pocket to take it away.

Keep this stone on you, as a talisman for now, ascribe it with your own meaning, and when the time is right drop it off at another geological site.



Since 2020, 1-833-NATR-XXX has been distributed in public through posters and tagging in cities across the U.S. and Canada. Fernand has developed "commercials" for the hotline, riffing on promotions for anti-depressants, phone sex lines, and miracle products. New elements are being added to the hotline –  is a part of Navigations, a series of artist projects shared and realized in public/common space.

Eliza Fernand is an artist and educator who works primarily with video, sound, fabric, and clay. With a BFA in Sculpture from Pacific Northwest College of Art, and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Sierra Nevada University, they have led a cross-country career, attending over a dozen artist residencies and exhibiting internationally. A new citizen of Chicago, she continues to pursue artmaking and teaching opportunities, with the aim of provoking acceptance of loving practices outside of the norm, and promoting experimentation on all levels. For more information, please visit elizafernand.com.

Freshwater Beach Walk (PDF)

A rock walk for someone at a Chicago storefront (PDF)

Eliza Fernand “NATR-XXX” at Roman Susan | Chicago Artist Writers - March 14, 2023