The Best Bogus Botanical Garden

The Best Bogus Botanical Garden aims to look at art practices that seem to recreate nature, either by manipulating organic elements in new forms, or by using and inventing their own materials. To further enhance the illusion of the simulacra, the exhibition takes the experimental form of an immersive environment, literally transforming the white cube gallery space into an artificial botanical garden.

Exhibition The Best Bogus Botanical Garden
Artist(s) Giovanni Castell, Lisa Creagh, Sakir Gokcebag, Janaina Mello Landini, Liz Orton, Jens Rausch, Maren Simon, Katie Spragg, Sadie Weis
Venue heliumcowboy artspace, Hamburg
Photography Rosie Jenkins

“Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, ‘Greenery’ symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose.”

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute describes here the meaning of 15-0343, better known as “Greenery”, or also Pantone’s colour of the year 2017. Arguably, their choice is not a surprising one, given that almost daily articles are published that relate to a heavily promoted nearly biophilic lifestyle. These articles might be seen in response to the growing awareness of our burgeoning disconnection from nature. Our “urban-induced alienation”, fostered by a massive digitization and a sound understanding of ecological challenges, has led to an idealisation of the natural world as a place soon to be lost where one can find refuge from daily distresses and rediscover one’s self and place in the world. Although nature has been considered the preeminent bourgeois escapist cure since centuries, the “back-to-nature revival” in contemporary popular culture is remarkable.

As a response to this condition also a vast amount of contemporary artists have started to investigate this changing relationship by simulating the very nature we have become disconnected from. To further enhance the illusion of these simulacra, the exhibition takes the experimental form of an immersive environment, literally transforming the white cube gallery space into an artificial botanical garden, not containing any living organism. Through the staging of a fictional environment, the embodied atmosphere (in Gernot Böhme’s interpretation of the concept) of a botanical garden is evoked, whilst at the same time there is an awareness of and playfulness with the notion of the construction itself.

In the fake, or bogus, botanical garden, Giovanni Castell grows entirely artificial ecosystems through the use of computer programming, Janaina Mello Landini creates tree-like sculptures cascading down from the ceiling from more than 3000 metres of linen and rope, Jens Rausch’ paintings draw people in in the curious layers of natural settings, and Katie Spragg uses the versatility of ceramics to experiment with our idealized image of nature. Sadie Weis on the other hand generates a new nature by killing a preexisting one through her crystallization of flowers, plants and rocks. Lastly, Sakir Gokcebag’s minimal, conceptual work plays into the blurring of art and decor in the exhibition.

Moreover, in the fictional botanist’s study room, artworks invoke the taxonomical inspiration and research underpinning the botanical garden itself. Lisa Creagh digitally composes photographs of flowers into intricate floral patterns that are reminiscent of ancient Persian rugs, but also of historic ways of displaying flowers and plants in taxonomy books. Liz Orton’s photographs show folders with natural specimen awaiting classification in Kew Gardens Herbarium and Maren Simon’s paintings look like micro-organisms or minerals, currently being closely observed.

The Best Bogus Botanical Garden is curated by Rosie Jenkins, Eline Verstegen, and Chiara Villa, three postgraduates from the MA Curating the Contemporary, organized jointly by the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design of London Metropolitan University and Whitechapel Gallery, at heliumcowboy artspace (Hamburg), on the invitation of Lavinia Rosen and Jörg Heikhaus.

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Tique | publication on contemporary art #3: Six Questions