Engraving from the book Hortus Malabaricus (1693), a Dutch treatise dealing with the medicinal properties of the flora in the Indian state of Kerala.
Excerpts from Hu Fang’s essay on E-Flux:
There is never a moment when plants are not moving.
Perhaps awed by the power of this night writing, humans produce poems and literature about plants, images of plants, social metaphors about plants. By means of anthropomorphosis, we adopt the wilderness. We turn plants into the mirror image of culture in order to dispel their mysterious, voiceless power.
Looking, by means of humble contemplation, allows us to enter into a dimension shared with plants. Once there, we do not willingly part with each other.
We have been documenting the disappearance of plants while generating an aesthetics of disappearance: humans appreciate the plants in a botanical garden or park for the value of their beauty and rarity.
There is another extreme: contemporary plant products used for treating and nourishing humanity are actually related to industrialization. Few of their ingredients come from the wild—most are the product of mass cultivation on the assembly line of green products. By way of commodity circulation, contemporary plant products have become a monument to the circulation of species, commemorating the fact that they have not yet vanished from humanity’s field of vision.
Most of the effectiveness of contemporary plant products has probably evolved from humanity’s endlessly accumulating projection of emotion over a long historical process, but there is no way to alter the plant’s current destiny of being consumed.From this we can understand why contemporary plant products are always packaged with especially lifelike images of plants,always duplicating to the utmost level the corresponding colors and fragrances, so that humans have gone from looking at plants to looking at likenesses of plants, which are used to continuously invoke the vitality that the plants themselves possessed before they were picked, processed, and fabricated.
If we take ancient survival wisdom (of medicinal plants, for example) as a starting point and continue through to today’s secret formulas for profit, the history of plant products itself interrogates the evolution of bio-politics: What is it that permeates our bodies, molds our life experiences, forms our perceptions of the world? What is it that can truly save us from our calamities,without our life become one of consuming false goods?
Plucking a leaf, and repeatedly chewing it as a giraffe would, yourecall how plants enter the human body. Stroking a plant, you areimpressed by how such a peculiar connection arises between itsown anatomy and that of a human. Plants, as well as the scenesand memories we associate with them, will constitute part of theunfinished manuscript of anthropology. How might we write,through innumerable creases in the foliage, the remnants of the forest, the wastelands of the city, our current methods for coexisting with the world?
Parallel Herbarium to open at The Brunswick Window on June 5th. More info soon!
Photos by Kether Tomkins.
Katamari Damacy – Video Game
Urban Waste as Raw Material
Waste facilities disengage from City & fortify themselves
“Waste remains an unruly substance.”
“Culturally, socially, materially leaky”
Perfume Barrier – McCarty Landfill, Houston
Clarify & Define definitions of Waste
You Cannot Do Discard Studies Intuitively
Fraction of 3% Municipal Waste is Household Waste
Industrial Waste – 97%, mostly mining
Waste as Metaphor
Waste as profit generator – Invented 1956 by Lloyd Stouffer
Dead Horse Bay – Remnants of People who were displaced from Sunset Park by Robert Moses
Latour – Objects have Agency
Archaeology of the Contemporary Past
Samantha McBride – Recycling Reconsidered
Museum of Waste
Capital / Ecology / Sovereignty
Trans-natural, Porosity, Seepage
Museum – Spectacle
– Experiment with Production of Knowledge
ML – Call for Definitional Precision
What is the educational system for?
Who Governs the Ocean?
“We are lettered parasites…who have… disciplined hinterlands” – Vera Candiani
ML – Impossible Problems –> Changing Business as Usual
You need: Collaboration –> Compendium (vocabulary)
Methodology should no be based on metaphor
Theory of Scale and Power
RN – “It cannot stay inside the academy otherwise we are only talking to ourselves”
How do you do a research question with other people?
Don’t use metaphor as a case study. What can this metaphor do/not do? How are we wielding it? Where does the metaphor stop?
Early Biblical Texts: Weston – Wilderness (primitive) – Wastland (despoiled proof of devine censure, place of salvation by transforming to a garden)
SWAMP – visceral disgust, science/technology, increase usefulness & mitigate contamination
MOUNTAIN – fear, repulsion, fascination, attraction – sublime
FOREST – moral disgust, gardening, redemption
FENS = Wetlands
We have the same reactions as our ancestors to wastelands.
Use visceral disgust –> Action
Moral –> Hold polluters accountable
Redemption –> Art *** Can sanction contempolation rather than engagement
Love grows from intimate knowledge.
Wastland does not inspire love.
Cleanup is impossible but only way forward offered.
Sol Lewinsky – Where do “publics” come from?
Popular Education – Using people’s esixting knowledge
Emotion <-> Aesthetics
Infrastructure – Conceptualized as layers, each resting on each other
Possibility of Radical Ethics around contraction (of economy) in relationship to artist’s work
Great Depression – Pausing of suburban expansion, looking inward
Problem underlying urbanism
Sanitary City –> Toxic City (w/ local inflections)
My “New Growth” Sculptures were installed recently at Drew University. It was a fantastic setting for these sculptures and great opportunity, but one funny thing happened right after installation. Before the cement was dry on the palm tree, someone had stolen it.
Of course I took this as a misplaced sign of approval – pilfering is a complement whereas vandalism is the opposite.
After a campus-wide email (the digital equivalent of LOST/REWARD posters), one half of the sculpture was returned anonymously – It was left in a parking lot, propped against the car of an administrator. (Each tree is made up of two sides, front and back.) I recreated the missing side using the returned half as reference, and all was well.
I recently heard the podcast episode “Palm Reading” on the fantastic podcast 99% Invisible regarding palm theft (which is apparently a thing….some live palms are worth up to 20K!) and also an analysis of what palms signify in our culture.
[Orientalist Study, Figures by the Water, Egypt (c. 1890) by A. Marchettini]
The Spirit of Elsewhere….the Holy Land…Exoticism…Orientalism….Luxury and Leisure….
What New Jersey college student wouldn’t want an occasional taste of these things, all evoked by this particular species of plant.
We are drawn to the range of resilient life forms found in neglected urban and suburban landscapes. the contrast between carefully planned and maintained landscapes and spontaneous spaces provides a filter through which to contemplate questions of wilderness versus civilization, biodiversity versus “nativeness”, and the idealized versus the “natural” .
Our proposed project looks closely at plants that tend to live in close association with dense human populations. Growing where others can’t or won’t, the plants held in our seed bank are those best adapted to live in the long shadow we throw on the landscape. Recasting these “weedy” species as companion plants for Anthropocene age, the project draws parallels between the characteristics of successful spontaneous plants and patterns of human population growth and flux in globalized cities. We are encouraging viewers to look at the overlooked and to be aware of how our value systems interact with both humans and non-humans.
We would like to create an interactive library of seeds gathered from wild-growing plants in the Bronx. Anyone can take seeds to plant or add to the library.
It will include:
1. A central piece of furniture built largely from locally scavenged materials. This would be a card-catalog style structure with many small drawers where the seeds are organized and labelled for easy access. A peaked roof will symbolically connect it to the outdoors.
2. A “work table” with envelopes and supplies for adding seeds to the library, plant ID books, a map of the Bronx with sites where we gathered seeds indicated.
3. Photo and video documentation of our process of gathering the seeds.
4. Live plants in pots on the table, at window sills, and on the floor.
5. A project website including an online catalog of available seeds as well as further documentation of their gathering. We will encourage visitors who take seeds to email us photos of their growth.
Nina Katchedourian – Geneology of the Supermarket
“The Genealogy of the Supermarket interrelates people who appear on common products in the grocery store and organizes them so that they appear to be members of one large family.”
“A “world view” of extreme and almost paranoid interconnectedness emerges. As with many of my map works and chart pieces, the project seems to suggest some underlying coherent research or guiding principal, but the piece ultimately speaks more about taxonomy itself.” — source
“On the other side of the hedge, however, reality is ours. It is the absolute condition of all existence. The plants that grow there are real because we want them to be. If we find them intact in our memories, the same as when we saw them before, it is because we have invested them with the image that we have of them, with the opaque skin of our own confirmation… Motionless, imperishable, isolated in an imaginary void, they seem to throw out a challenge to the ecological vortex that surrounds them….
“There are plants, for instance, that appear clearly in photographs but are imperceptible to the naked eye. Some violate the normal rules of perspective, looking the same size however close or far they may be from us. Others are colorless, but under certain conditions reveal a profusion of colors of exceptional beauty. One of them has leaves with such a tangled maze of veins that it caused the extinction of a voracious insect that at one time had threatened the vegetation of an entire continent…
Brandon Keim: Thoughts on Taxidermy, Fashion & Bighorn Sheep
“There are at least two distinct currents to this mainstreaming of naturalia. Label one the Nineteenth Century Explorer: Spiced with steampunk, evoking an age of mannered discovery, gentleman adventurers launching expeditions and returning with tales to delight drawing-room crowds. A spirit of mechanical marvels and curiosity cabinets, maps drawn well but incompletely, of biological ephemera and naturalists’ drawings…..
“…..A psychic escape from the pervasive sense that no space on our map remains blank, that civilization has filled its container and is pushing back inwards. A need for nature in denaturalized lives…..Or maybe the meaning is not so dark. Maybe naturalia frames emerging appreciations of urban and suburban ecologies, or a sense of new, as-yet-unfilled maps arising in digital and social space, freed from old topographies.”
“…..A sign, a signifier, a t-shirt drawing of a deer based on an image found in the first page of Google’s image search. And I can’t shake the feeling that naturalia debases nature, turns animals into objects, renders our beautiful, extraordinary living world and its inhabitants as aesthetic commodities with no more or less meaning than paisley or a bright colorway. It’s life as accessory.”
From Celestial Empire of Benevolent Knowledge, an essay by Jorge Luis Borges:
“The oriental tome organises animals into categories thus: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.”
By John Knight and Sigfried Krakauer
Excerpt from essay by An Paenhuysen:
[The piece] goes unnoticed by most visitors because, at first sight, it is very common. The installation of the piece took place in 2009. I was present when the Californian artist John Knight had a simple request for the gardener: the grass in the rondel had to be left untouched from that moment on. The piece is then also titled The Right To Be Lazy. It is inspired by a 1883 manifesto by Paul Lafargue. Lafargue, who was the son in law of Karl Marx, wrote his manifesto as a protest against the dominating working ethics, including Marx’. Only in laziness, so he argued, ideas can come and culture can exist. Therefore Lafargue pleaded for the 3-hour working day: also the worker has a right for his/her own culture.
Thanks, Sarah, for the tip!
I greatly enjoyed yesterday’s syposium at Drew University, organized by Valerie Hegarty. Here are some notes on the final 2 speakers:
“To think in terms of millions of years in the present moment”
Witnessing large dynamics that happen outside of viewshed = what art can do
“Traces of Real Life Lived”
Ideas of Wilderness
Biblical – Where the infidels live
Romantic – Welcomed/fearful infinity of the sublime
American – Manifest Destiny
Garden of Eden to Harvest & Industrial Progress
Proof of God / God’s Cathedrals
Science – Finite / Stewardship
“Redesign our relationship to natural systems”
“Shared Public Memory of a Possible Future”
“Weird Engagement w/ Natural Systems”
Trees as Landlords: TREExOFFICE