Vegetation as a political agent

Vegetation as a political agent

Parco Arte Vivente (PAV)

Claire Pentecost, Greetings from the Cornbelt, 2012. Five postcards, poster, and archival envelope. Regional Relationships (Chicago). Photo of deformed and contaminated maize by Alvaro Salgado, Centro Nacional de Ayuda a las Misiones Indigenas (CENAMI).

May 27, 2014

Vegetation as a political agent
31 May–2 November 2014

Opening: Friday, 30 May, 6:30pm

Via Giordano Bruno 31
10134 Turin
Hours: Friday 3–5pm, 
Saturday–Sunday noon–7pm

T +39 011 3182235

Curated by Marco Scotini

Works by: Ayreen Anastas & Rene Gabri, Imre Bukta, Amilcar Cabral, Filipa César, Critical Art Ensemble, Emory Douglas, Fernando García-Dory, Piero Gilardi, Daniel Halter, Adelita Husni-Bey, Bonnie Ora Sherk, Claire Pentecost, Marjetica Potrč, RozO (Philippe Zourgane & Séverine Roussel), Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas

The exhibition aims to investigate the historical and social implications of the plant world in light of the ever-increasing reclaim of “green” as an agent of change in relation to current neoliberal processes. To place a plant within a historical context means to consider not only its biological constitution, but also the social and political factors, which see it already positioned at the centre of the earliest forms of economic globalisation. The colonial plantations and maritime trade of the 17th and 18th centuries gave rise to the first systems of species control, and saw the emergence of cases of land expropriation and exploitation in the pursuit to monopolise spices. The exhibition seeks to shed light on the various stages in history in which vegetation served as a symbol of social emancipation.

Focussing on the dual contexts of the past and the present, Vegetation as a political agent combines artistic, filmic and architectural works by 14 international artists, documents pertaining to the historical pioneers of the first ecological revolutions, and scientific equipment relevant to the botanical world. Together with art works and installations, the exhibition includes a vast series of illustrations and samples of vegetation, and archive materials and posters produced in a wide variety of cultural contexts. The geopolitical areas to which the exhibition relates range from the Indian Ocean to Guinea-Bissau, from South Africa to Mexico. 

The historical and documentary section of the exhibition is the result of collaboration with the Botanical Garden of Turin and represents a selection of protected species, at risk of extinction.

Inside and outside the walls of the PAV, the interaction between agriculture and popular movements is investigated: documents relating to the figure of Amilcar Cabral, an agronomist and Guinean politician who led Guinea-Bissau and the islands of Cape Verde to independence from Portugal as well as a filmic work by Filipa César; the work of Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas that explores the role of ecological activism through figures like Mel King; the murals of Emory Douglas, a representative of the American Black Power movement, proposed by him in defence of the rural Chiapas; and Adelita Husni-Bey‘s study of the tree-sitting protest camps in the United Kingdom. FernandoGarcía-Dory‘s research focuses on the revolutionary model of waste recycling proposed by pioneer George Chan, while forms of expression and collective imagination are presented in the masks and costumes designed by Piero Gilardi and worn in the theatrical animations that challenge the use of GMO in maize cultivation.

The courtyard of the PAV hosts two environmental installations created for the exhibition by RozO (Philippe Zourgane & Séverine Roussel) and the Critical Art Ensemble. RozO has developed Salle verte, an architectural creation of a vernacular nature in the form of a plant cabin that visitors can explore. The far end of the courtyard will house the Sterile field installation by the Critical Art Ensemble

Vegetation as a political agent raises issues concerning the claim of creative sujectivity through horticultural practices as considered, for example, in the work of Ayreen Anastas & Rene Gabri that focuses on the launch onto the market of organic seeds to maintain the biodiversity; Claire Pentecost’s study on transgenic corn in Mexico; and the work of Marjetica Potrč who established a self-organized vegetable garden and park in Soweto. Daniel Halter works with flowering plants that have taken root in the Italian landscape but originate from South Africa, proposing a form of a reverse colonization of Europe by African invaders. The 1970s is represented through figures such as the Hungarian Imre Bukta and the Californian Bonnie Ora Sherk, and approached from the perspective of the pioneering interaction between art and agriculture against the contrasting backdrop of the Cold War.  

Over the course of the exhibition, a series of open workshops will be organized in collaboration with participating artists and will be documented in a catalogue, published by Archive Books, Berlin.

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Vegetation as a political agent at Parco Arte Vivente (PAV)
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May 27, 2014

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