THIS IS SYMBIOSIS, a video performance for the 2021 Friends in Letters Memorial Fellowship

Ansel Bloom & Brenna Marie Gautam are siblings, best friends, and co-creators.

Brenna lives in Arlington, Virginia and works as a government lawyer. Ansel lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works as a family advocate.

This Is Symbiosis is a deeply personal project they undertook to reflect on—and celebrate—their evolving friendship over time, through slice-of-life vignettes written by Brenna and accompanying illustrations designed by Ansel. The video incorporates a soundtrack for the piece, with keyboard accompaniment composed and performed by Brenna and audio recordings integrated by Ansel.

In biology, the term symbiosis refers to any type of close and long-term interaction between two organisms: it includes everything from parasitism, toxic to one organism in the pair, to mutualism, healthy and beneficial to both entities. By creating illustrated windows into different phases of their friendship, from difficult childhood through hopeful adulthood, Ansel & Brenna were reminded that what might feel like a tumultuous, strained, or even parasitic period in a relationship can translate into something enduring and beautiful between friends in the long-term. This Is Symbiosis is about mutual growth, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Brenna Marie Gautam lives in Arlington, Virginia, and works as a government lawyer. Ansel Bloom lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works as a family advocate. Brenna writes to preserve and share the fleeting emotions she experiences, and Ansel paints and sketches as a means to wrestle through difficult questions about ethics and purpose, often incorporating found objects foraged during nature walks.

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