Your Chance to Have a Conversation with the Plant World

Your Chance to Have a Conversation with the Plant World

by Yash Saboo April 4 2018, 3:15 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 51 secs

Ever talked to plants? If not, now's your chance. A new exhibition called "Big Botany: Conversations with the Plant World" opened last week at the Spencer Museum of Art in the University of Kansas. The exhibition examines the integral relationships between humans and plants through works by more than 50 historical and contemporary artists from the museum’s collection, loans and site-specific installations by four artists-in-residence.

Kicking off the exhibition was the Big Botany research symposium, beginning with the keynote lecture, “What a Plant Knows,” by Daniel Chamovitz of Tel Aviv University. Art historian Giovanni Aloi of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and philosopher Timothy Morton of Rice University will give lectures on April 11 and May 2, respectively. All lectures will be live-streamed through the museum’s YouTube channel.

Source : Collezione Gaddi

Blending art and science, “Big Botany” includes prints and photographs, specimens from KU’s R. L. McGregor Herbarium, rare books from the KU Spencer Research Library, scientific illustrations and live plants. The exhibition is organized by Stephen Goddard, Spencer Museum of Art associate director and senior curator. Goddard said, "the interdisciplinary nature of the exhibition aims to capture the critical role that plants play for all life on Earth."

“No one discipline can adequately address, discuss or answer the environmental and ecological challenges facing us,” he adds. “The questions are getting so big that it takes many disciplines to address them. That’s the richness I’ve tried to bring to the exhibition.”

Themes explored throughout “Big Botany” include the scientific study of plant forms, the challenges of sustaining plant diversity, humankind’s affinity for the beauty of plants and the imagined future of plants, from biomechanical plant hybrids to a post-human world where plants retake the Earth.

Four artists-in-residence completed site-specific works of art commissioned for the exhibition. American artist Sandy Winters’s immersive mixed-media murals depict the clash of nature and culture. English artist-collaborators Ackroyd & Harvey use photosynthesis to bring portraits to life with installations made from sprouted grass. Outside the museum’s front entrance, a greenhouse contains Austrian artist Mathias Kessler’s installation that monitors and communicates the stress levels of plants through sound.

Major funding for this exhibition was provided by two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and one from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for $177,000, which is the largest federal grant the museum has ever received. Overall, “Big Botany” has received more external funding than any other exhibition in the Spencer Museum’s history.

“The relevance and urgency of the topics addressed in this exhibition are evident by the number of significant grants, gifts and awards that have made this remarkable project possible,” Spencer Museum Director Saralyn Reece Hardy said. “We are indebted to these organizations for their consideration of a large-scale and complex project that continues to delve into new domains.”

The interactions with the plants will be endless — and endlessly important to our planet. Biologists have long contemplated how to address how humans hurt plants, and such factors as deforestation and climate change threaten the greenery that sustains human life. Meanwhile, plants feed us, intrigue us and decorate the world around us. The exhibition will teach the true meaning of sustaining plants for the future.

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