• Sat 15 09 – Sun 18 11 2018 •
Floraphilia Plants as Archives


Curated by Aneta Rostkowska


Venue: Academyspace, Herwarthstraße 3, 50672 Cologne
Free admission

15 9 – 18 11 2018
Thu + Fri: 15:00 – 19:00
Sat + Sun: 14:00 – 18:00

The exhibition is closed on 20 10, 21 10, 1 11 and 11 11 2018.

If we look closely at the history of humanity, we observe that there have been various plants that have influenced human lives on a large scale. Opium, cotton, coffee, sugar cane, cinchona, rubber and many more, each in their own way, form unique organic archives of social, economic and political processes.

It is especially the history of European colonialism in which plants have played a crucial role. Transporting them from and to colonies was a source of huge financial profit. Colonies served as perfect places for germinating tropical plants that couldn’t grow in a European climate. They helped form markets and colonizers profited from monopolizing trade, introducing import taxes and licensing exports.

The science of botany and botanical gardens as places where it flourished were fundamental to the colonial exercise of military power. Botanical gardens enabled the collection of plants and their examination, propagation and transformation, making them formative tools of the colonial appropriation. Botanists examined notes made by traders, and later received seeds and specimens from them. They sent disciples to far corners of the world to collect plants (Carl Linnaeus, an eighteenth-century Swede, sent out about twenty). They were supported by monarchs (between 1760 and 1808, the Spanish king sent fifty-seven expeditions to investigate the flora of Spain’s colonies).

And although colonialism officially ended decades ago, the current wealth of Western societies is, to a large extent, based on ongoing exploitation of now former colonies in the name of the ideology of the ‘free market’.

The goal of the exhibition Floraphilia. Plants as archives is to illuminate these social and political aspects of the history of plants, botany and botanical gardens. In various ways the artworks in the exhibition refer to plants’ co-option throughout colonial history and history in general, as well as to their economic, feminist and migratory contexts. They encourage us to reject the common conceptualisation of a plant as a mechanistic thing that only reacts to simple stimuli, leading us to a vision of significant continuity between humans and plants, which – dynamic, breathing and growing – possess intentionality and even memory.

An important part of the exhibition is constituted by copies of archival materials found in institutions in Cologne (such as the City Archive and the Cologne University Library) and beyond. Their function is to trace the colonial background of plant collections in the city and the region.

Floraphilia’s exhibition design by Mateusz Okoński, which itself forms one of the artworks in the exhibition, is a white cube made out of cotton textile. All the exhibition spaces have been carefully covered in the material, emphasising the fragility of the spaces and their dependence on political and social events.

A special edition of SURPLUS project will be also present: the artist Magda Buczek digs into discourses, lifestyle trends and modern ecologies to fish for new semantic fetishes concerning the world of flora. Texts are printed on used garments in a limited edition of ten. T-shirts and hoodies are available for purchase ONLY during the opening of the exhibition on 14 9 (from 18:00 to 20:00), and the public programme related to the project, on 15 9, 30 9 and 31 10.

The exhibition marks the opening of the two-year project Floraphilia: On the Interrelations of the Plant World, Botany and Colonialism. In 2019, Floraphilia will take place at the following partner institutions: SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin, Council in Paris, La Loge in Brussels and Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art in Kraków.

The greenhouse lamps for Karolina Grzywnowicz’s installation have been kindly lent by LED Farmer (www.ledfarmer.pl). Kalle Hamm’s participation is supported by Frame Contemporary Art Finland. Dagna Jakubowska’s participation is supported by Adam Mickiewicz Institute (www.culture.pl).

MARIA THEREZA ALVES (* 1961 in São Paulo) is an installation artist based in Berlin. Her installation The Return of a Lake (2012), which deals with the cultural, ecological and political history of Chalco, a municipality near Mexico City, was part of documenta 13. Another project, Seeds of Change (2012–2016), examines the exotic vegetation of port cities like Bristol and Liverpool as well as their roots in overseas trade.

ALBERTO BARAYA (* 1968 in Bogotá) uses photography, video, found objects and drawing to satirize colonial exploitation and its effects in contemporary global trade. His works have been part of numerous biennials and solo exhibitions – including in the Museo de Arte Moderna de Bogotá and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Baraya lives and works in Bogotá.

MAGDA BUCZEK is a Warsaw and Copenhagen-based multidisciplinary artist and the author of the collaborative platform SURPLUS. Her projects often involve texts, performance and artistic collaboration. Her works have been exhibited at Calvert 22 in London, WANTED Design in New York and SOMA in Mexico City, among other venues.

KAROLINA GRZYWNOWICZ (* 1984 in Cracow) is a multimedia artist who takes an interdisciplinary approach in her practice. As a comparative literature scholar she incorporates extensive research and elements of storytelling in her art projects and installations. She lives and works in Berlin.

KALLE HAMM (* 1969 in Rauma, Finland) studied design and fine art at Lahti Institute of Fine Arts and at Aalto University in Helsinki. A central focus of his work is the examination of cultural encounters and their impacts in historical and contemporary contexts. Since 1999 Kalle Hamm has regularly developed projects with the artist Dzamil Kamanger. He lives in Helsinki.

CANDICE LIN (* 1979 in Concord, Massachusetts, USA) pursues an ethnographic approach with her work and takes up positions of postcolonial critique. Most recently her work has been shown in galleries in Porto and Los Angeles; she has also taken part in various group exhibitions internationally. Lin is co-founder and co-director of Monte Vista Projects, an artist-run gallery in Los Angeles. She lives and works in the same city.

TERESA MURAK (* 1949 in Lublin, Poland) is a performance artist who has made a name for herself in the field of environmental art and as a feminist artist. Themes like the relationship between nature or plants and humans play a central role in her work. She has had solo exhibitions at the gallery of the Polish Institute in Düsseldorf and at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, among others. She lives and works in Warsaw.

MATEUSZ OKOŃSKI (* 1985 in Kraków, Poland) is an artist, curator, collector and exhibition designer. A graduate of the Faculty of Sculpture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, he is founder and former art director of Zbiornik Kultury at the Malopolska Institute of Culture. In 2010 he established the art group Quadratum Nigrum with Jakub Skoczek and Jakub Woynarowski. QN dig conspiracy theories and cracks in history; they combine classical works of the avant-garde and inspiration from remote times into new and often startling compositions. He lives and works in Kraków.

URIEL ORLOW (* 1973 in Zurich) combines film, photography, drawing and sound in his research-intensive artistic practice. His work has been shown at various film festivals, art biennials and in renowned museums. He holds teaching appointments at the University of Westminster in London as well as at the Zurich University of the Arts. Orlow lives and works in London and Zurich.

NAUFUS RAMÍREZ-FIGUEROA (* 1978 in Guatemala City) graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has received various scholarships and fellowships, including the renowned Guggenheim Fellowship. His performances and solo exhibitions have been shown internationally at diverse museums and art biennials. He lives and works in Berlin and Guatemala City.

ACHIM RIECHERS (* 1958 in Hannover) lives and works in Cologne. After studying visual communication, which he completed in Cologne with a Master of Arts degree, he taught film and photography at various universities and has been publishing photo books since 1993. In 2013 he founded the journal Richas Digest and the exhibition space of the same name in Cologne. His often sociologically based photographic works are part of various international collections.

MEGGY RUSTAMOVA (* 1985 in Tbilisi) lives and works in Brussels and Ghent. In her installations and video work she deals with themes like displacement, language and identity. She has taken part in numerous group exhibitions, including at CAB Art Center in Brussels, at the Salzburger Kunstverein and at Project Arts Centre in Dublin. Her film Light Displacement was shown at the Short Film Festival in Oberhausen in 2018.

JUDITH WESTERVELD (* 1985) completed her studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and later her Master in Artistic Research at the University of Amsterdam. In summer 2018 she had her first solo exhibition, The Dream of a Common Language, at the Lumen Travo Gallery, Amsterdam. She has also taken part in many group exhibitions. Judith Westerveld lives in Amsterdam and Cape Town.

Floraphilia: On the Interrelations of the Plant World, Botany and Colonialism is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation. Alt text