2014, Juni Botanical Drift: Walking Kew Gardens & Workshop in Economic Botany. The miniature world of Economic Botany in Kew Gardens, its elaborate greenhouses and follies, is the site and material of this botanical drift, organised by Petra Lange-Berndt and Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll. In this workshop phase it addresses recent advances in plant molecular biology, cellular biology, electrophysiology and ecology that have unmasked plants as sensory and communicative organisms, characterized by active, problem-solving behaviour. To better grasp how plants interact with their environment and to understand these organisms from different perspectives, we will carry out interventions into the Kew Garden systems. This series of responses is enacted directly in the living archives at Kew, including the Marianne North, Economic Botany, and colonial plant collections.
Botanical gardens, documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display, and education, are well-tended areas infamous for their connection to European imperialism and its expansionist projects. The group’s art-research will theorize the gendering of the botanical garden, the ephemeral and chaotic in ‘nature’, and the much-debated amateur scientist model for contemporary artists. Understanding ourselves as within the Anthropocene’s age of transgenic modification we interrogate how Kew distracts from climate change with its illusion of stability. Economic histories of globalization will be unfurled through plant protagonists such as ferns, trees, sea coconuts, other rebel species, and their vegetable philosophies.
Participants included: Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll (artist and historian, Cambridge / Berlin), Petra Lange-Berndt (art historian, UCL), Emma Waltraud Howes (dancer and artist, Berlin), Mark Nesbitt (curator of Economic Botany, Kew Gardens), Caroline Cornish (researcher, Kew Gardens), Bergit Arends (curator, London), Kim Berit Heppelmann (fashion designer, Berlin), Sunoj D (artist, Bangalore), Melanie Jackson (artist, Slade), Kath Castillo (botanist, Natural History Museum, London), herman de vries (artist, Eschenau / Knetzgau, Germany), Wietske Maas (artist and curator, Amsterdam), Matteo Pasquinelli (philosopher, Berlin), Connie Butler (artist, London), Hazel Dowling (artist, London), Philip Kerrigan (art historian, York), Alana Jelinek (artist, Cambridge), Natasha Eaton (art historian, UCL), Claire Loussourne (film maker and anthropologist, London), Olaf Pascheit (art historian and photographer, Hamburg).
Photos © Olaf Pascheit, Hamburg