Eco-Human Theory and Practice
ISSN 2713 – 184x
Eco Art Therapy
Ecological Education
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*reprinted with permission from “POIESIS: A Journal of the Arts and Communication”, 2024, Vol. 21, P. 178-187


Roseline de Thélin

is an Interdisciplinary artist, expressive arts teacher, creative coach and art therapist. Roseline’s artistic inquiry, as an artist, researcher, and teacher, revolves around perceptual shifts and evolution. Her creations are transdisciplinary, blending analog and digital mixed media with processes of deconstruction, juxtaposition and hybridisation. Through the use of collage, assemblage, poetic tableau, performance, video and installation, her work delves into layers of reality, memories, nostalgia, and visions of past and future.



"Memories of the Future" is an ecopoietic project by artist / expressive art teacher, who is aiming to raise awareness on the disappearance of the Prickly Pear cactus, in the Balearic Islands and mainland Spain due to a plague of Cochineal. Inspired by Donna Haraway's writings (“Staying with the trouble”, in particular) the artist created surreal scenes as “speculative fabulations” from a mix of artificial intelligence, digital and analogue manipulation, with the aim of fostering new narratives and perspective shifts in the face of ecological issues.

Keywords: Opuntiae cactus, Cochineal insect, tentacular thinking, “cosmovisión”, “speculative fabulations”, surrealism



Memories of the Future is an ecopoietic project, part of the SoS Cochichumbas” action, a collective of women artists based on the island of Ibiza (Spain) who decided to raise awareness through the arts about the disappearance of the Opuntiae cactus/Nopal, Prickly Pears, or Chumbera in the Balearic Islands and mainland Spain, due to a plague of Cochineal.

This collective undertaking was born from the realisation of our emotional and aesthetic connection to this beautiful cactus. For us, it had always been part of our landscape and our memories—it seemed indestructible and yet all of a sudden it was dying. We wanted to do something about it.

The project began with researching the history and context of the Opuntiae cactus, as well as its relationship with the Cochineal insect. Why is this seemingly indestructible cactus disappearing suddenly? What is the origin of the plague? What is the history of this plant and its predator? We first discovered that the Opuntiae cactus was originally from Mexico, and imported 400 years ago to Spain and Europe, following the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish, because of its intimate relationship with the Cochineal insect which produces a precious and coveted carmine red pigment.


Figure 1: Witness of Change – 2024 Limited prints & Nfts. Courtesy of the artist

This research took me on a journey from Ibiza to Oaxaca, Mexico, the cradle of the Nopal/Cochineal golden match, and progressively shaped as a visual storytelling inspired by Donna Haraways writings and vocabulary [1, in particular] to imagine possible or impossible futuries” or speculative fabulations,” weaving ecology, history, artificial intelligence and expressive arts.

Memories of the Future explores the web of interconnectedness shaping our world through the lens of the symbiotic relationship between the Opuntiae cactus and the Cochineal insect. This inter-species relationship serves as a gateway or contact zone” for tentacular thinking” [1] spanning across the historical ties between Mexico and Spain, colonization and cultural hybridization, the intricate play between nature and culture, biodiversity and human/non-human interactions.


Figure 2: Opuntia – 2024 Limited prints & Nfts. Courtesy of the artist 

Tentacular thinking: the historical and ecological context of the project

To tell the story of the Opuntiae cactus and the cochineal insect, we must start by honouring the cosmovisión” of indigenous cultures in Central America who perceived the cosmos as a harmonious and interconnected entity where plants, animals, insects, humans, and celestial bodies, coexisted in a delicate balance. This world view emphasized respect for all forms of life and the natural environment. Plants, animals, and insects held sacred significance and were revered for their symbolic importance and roles in myths, rituals, and ceremonies. The indigenous cosmovisión” is spiritual rather than exploitative and offers valuable insights into sustainable living, ecological stewardship, and holistic approaches to health and well-being.

Indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica possess extensive knowledge of plants, herbs and remedies derived from their observations and interactions with the environment. Both the Nopal cactus (Opuntia) and the Cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus) have historically been significant and respected resources among Aztec, Mayan and local indigenous cultures since the second century BC. The Nopal cactus features on the Mexican flag and is depicted in many ways in traditional and folk art. Both its pads (nopalitos) and fruits (tunas) are great sources of food rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is a natural anti-inflammatory and is used in traditional medicine to treat wounds, digestive issues, and diabetes. The cactus also provides materials for construction; its fibres were used to make ropes and adobe. Today it is used to create a vegan leather.

Indigenous cultures in Central America have been mastering the art of breeding the Cochineal insect on Nopals pads for centuries. The insect, particularly its female, produces carminic acid, used as a valuable natural red dye for textiles, wall paintings, pottery and ceremonial body painting as well as in natural medicine. Cochineal played a role in indigenous rituals and in artistic expressions. Its vivid blood-like red hue symbolized life, vitality, and sacredness.

Following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, the carmine red Cochineal pigment became a highly valuable trade commodity and a source of immense wealth for the Spanish Empire. Red has always been a powerful symbolic colour, representing love and war, blood and sacrifice, beauty and anger, revolution and progressive forces. Cochineal dye became the popular red pigment used to colour clothing for royalty, the church, European nobility, and lavish interiors. It also became the preferred carmine red colour for European painting schools and a natural food colorant.

To exploit the cactus’ potential for breeding the Cochineal insect and produce the coveted red carmine dye, European colonizers imported the Opuntiae cactus to Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. This is why today this cactus is present in all continents’ temperate and hot climates. In many of these regions, the Opuntiaes myriad other uses remain often unexploited or even unknown. Today in many countries the plant is labelled as invasive due to its remarkable resilience to heat and drought. The cactus reproduces itself not only through self-pollination and seeding but also through fragmentation; any pad falling on the ground can root and grow a new cactus. The Opuntiae cactus also has the ability to hybridize with many other cacti, creating hundreds of sun-species. Its rapid reproduction can potentially endanger more fragile eco-systems, as has been the case in Australia where the cactus, imported to host Cochineal insects for dye production, has spread over hectares and hectares of land.

However, the Carmine Cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus) has never endangered the cactus before in our region; what was happening now in Spain? We then discovered that the origin of the plague was due to the introduction of a new strain of lethal Cochineal (the Dactylopius opuntia) by the Spanish preservation administration to eradicate the Opuntiae cactus from a nature reserve where it was endangering other native plants and eco systems.


Figure 3: Cochineal – 2024 Limited prints & Nfts. Courtesy of the artist

The propagation of this new breed of Cochineal, coupled with a staggering 50% decline in insect diversity in Spain, many of which are natural predators of the cochineal, is what actually contributed to the plague that is decimating the Opuntiae cactus not only in Spain but also in Morocco and could potentially spread to other European and African countries. This is a notable loss of an amazingly resourceful plant that has been part of the aesthetic of our Mediterranean landscapes for the last 400 years.

Artistic exploration: Artificial Intelligence, surrealism, hybridization and shifts of perspective

What if the Opuntiae Cactus and the Cochineal insect were to play a central role in our future? This question started to inspire possible or impossible narratives for the future of these two species. These narratives became prompts that I fed into an Artificial Intelligence Image Generator (Mid-journey) to create series of speculative fabulations” scenes.

Speculative fabulations” are a type of imaginative storytelling that enables us to unfold new worlds through what could take place in the future or could have taken place in the past. Speculative fabulations” enlarge our perception of history, fantasizing stories that re-shape possibilities, creating characters and myths, to shift our perspective in the face of global and local ecological crisis [1].

For this project, I collaborated with Artificial Intelligence Image Generators that produce hybrid images from written prompts. Algorithms search the internet for available images related to the prompt” and combine them into seamless collages” in an unpredictable surrealistic and aleatory fashion. At the heart of surrealism is the idea of pushing beyond the limits of the human conscious mind to explore the irrational and the subconscious, as well as freeing the imagination from pre-conceived ideas. AI art, in creating unexpected connections between previously unrelated images, is questioning the possibility of a new kind of human/machine collaborative imagination.

Some will argue that AI art reduces the artist to a typist and is offering the fruits of creativity without the effort, the search and the self-doubt” [2]. This has not been my experience on this project, as working with AI demanded many trials and errors to finalize artworks. Others defend that AI-generated art offers a fresh perspective on surrealism. By using algorithms, AI can create images and compositions that might never have occurred to human artists, but still need the artists creativity and imagination to be truly innovative.” [3] AI art is born of a new type of creative collaboration between humans and machines.

In Memories of the Future, the created artworks imagine a world in which the Opuntiae Cactus and the Cochineal insect are central to our past-future evolution. The generated images or speculative fabulations” scenes are produced from a hybrid blend of artificial intelligence, digital manipulation, and hands-on analogue craftsmanship. As arts-based research, and by engaging with AI, the project aims to experiment with processes of artistic hybridization, crossing between heterogeneous medium/techniques/modalities, and tests how they shift our perspectives while expanding creative and imaginative possibilities.

Memories of the Future wishes to sensitize the public to the aesthetic and emotional relationships we have with our landscapes, the fragile equilibrium of our biodiversity, and the complex network of historical, cultural and ecological connections we are weaving with the plants and insects that surround us. Through this project, we realize that our landscape is the result of 400 years of cultural and ecological hybridization, enlarging our perspective on the role that these processes play in our evolution.

Many questions remain open. What will be the impact of Artificial Intelligence on art and creativity? Between curiosity, hope, fear and ethical questioning, how will Artificial Intelligence impact our evolution? Will Artificial Intelligence help us address some of our global and local ecological issues? Will AI, a pure product of our imagination, be our saviour or our curse?

Weaving digital and physical: The final artworks

All images displayed below are part of the “speculative fabulations” series ©roselinedethelin 2024. The article features only a few images from the series developed for this project, there is a total of 100+ images divided in 4 series. 

The project comprises four physical artworks (60cm x 60cm), each featuring 25 miniature speculative fabulations” scenes, woven in strips of printed and hand-painted canvas with vintage ribbons, in Rococo frames.

Each of these four pieces explore one of the following futuries” or speculative fabulations” themes:

Witness of Change fabulates a world in which the Opuntiae Cactus is the main plant species of our planet, flourishing and flowering on all continents and land types. In each image, the silhouette of the payesa,” the traditional peasant woman from the island of Ibiza, a disappearing human species, an archetype of ancient knowledge close to the land, becomes a witness of the ecological changes happening around her. She also used to be part of our landscape and I have embodied this character in a live performance (Nostalgia 2019). The silhouette was drawn from photos of this act

Hybrid World fantasies imaginary global transportation and trade of Opuntia cacti across seas and continents, reshaping our planets landscapes with all types of hybrid species.


Figure 4: Hybrid World – 2024 Limited prints & Nfts. Courtesy of the artist

Planet Nopal invents a world in which the Opuntiae cactus is central to life on earth, providing energy and food for humans, animals, cyborgs and humanoids, as well as medicinal products, cosmetics and fibre, to create all kind of objects.

Figure 5: Planet Nopal – 2024 Limited prints & Nfts. Courtesy of the artist

Living Red revisits and re-invents the myriad uses of the Cochineal red pigment, which is notably less toxic (though not vegan) than synthetic red pigments. It can be employed in food, medicinal products, cosmetics and fabric dyeing.

Figure 6Living Red – 2024. Limited prints & Nfts. Courtesy of the artist


Figure 7Memories of the Future. 4 weaved canvases printed and painted with vintage ribbons, each 60x60cm. Сourtesy of the artist


Figure 8Witness of Change. Limited edition prints on Eco paper 27x27cm. Сourtesy of the artist

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Figure 9:

The project also includes:

A video with the full series of the miniature scenes:

A physical world map collage (160cm x 120cm) that will be finalised in a participatory way during the exhibition. The map will gather visual information relevant to the Nopal/Cochineals history worldwide. Participants will be invited to imagine their own speculative fabulations” from the miniature scenes and images, and collage them on the map.

Memories of the Future is part of my doctoral research on Hybridization & perceptual shifts in artistic creation.”


  1. Haraway, D.J. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC.: Duke University Press.
  2. Horning, R. (2022). Word Processing // Art in America, April 18,
  3. Surrealisty Blog (2023). Breaking down the boundaries of human imagination: The surrealism of AI-generated art, April 06,

Reference for citations

de Thélin, R. (2024). Memories of the Future: Speculative Fabulations on the future of the Opuntiae Cactus & the Cochineal InsectEcopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice, 5(2). [open access internet journal]. – URL: (d/m/y)

About the journal

In accordance with the Law of the Russian Federation on the Mass Media, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) on September 22, 2020, the web-based publication - The peer-reviewed scientific online journal "Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice" was registered (registration number El No. FS77-79134).

“Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice” is the international multidisciplinary Journal focused on building an eco-human paradigm, disseminating eco-human knowledge and technology based on the alliance of ecology, humanities and the arts. Our journal aims to be a vibrant forum of theories and practices aimed at harmonizing the relations of mankind and the natural world in the interests of sustainable development, the creation of Eco-Humanity as a new community of human beings and more-than-human world. The human being is an ecological being, not separate from the world. The Ecopoiesis journal is based on that premise and aims to develop a body of theory and practice within that framework.

The Journal promotes dialogue and cooperation between ecologists, philosophers, doctors, educators, psychologists, artists, musicians, designers, social activists, business representatives in the name of eco-human values, human health and well-being, in close connection with concern for the environment. The Journal supports the development and implementation of new environmentally-friendly concepts, technologies and practices in the various fields of health and public life, education and social work.

One of the priority tasks of the Journal is to demonstrate and support the significant role of the arts in their alliance with ecology and the humanities for the restoration and development of constructive relations with nature, raising environmental awareness and promoting nature-friendly lifestyles.

The Journal publishes articles describing new eco-human concepts and practices, technologies and applied research data at the intersection of humanities, ecology and the arts, as well as interviews and conference reports related to the emerging eco-human field. It encourages artwork, music and other creative products related to eco-human practices and the new global community of Eco-Humanity.