Words by Nikki Hotchin
A new exhibition exploring interdependencies between humans and plants featuring range of international artists
- New major exhibition at the Eden Project explores relationship between humans and plants
- Featuring works by internationally-acclaimed artists Kedisha Coakley, Patricia Domínguez, Iman Datoo, Ingela Ihrman, Eduardo Navarro and Ai Weiwei
A new exhibition – Super Natural – is now open at the Eden Project, bringing together a range of international artists who explore the relationship – between humans and plants, as well as how people perceive nature and their place within it in varying ways. Exhibiting artists include Ai Weiwei, Kedisha Coakley, Iman Datoo, Patricia Domínguez, Ingela Ihrman and Eduardo Navarro, with new site-specific commissions and events associated with the exhibition to be announced later this season.
Plants feed, fuel and nurture us, provide the very air we breathe, and colour the fabric of our lives.Super Natural features artists who each explore and reflect on human relationships with plants, as well as on how people perceive nature – and their place within it – in varying ways. The exhibition encourages all of us to consider how different perspectives can inform and influence a shared understanding of nature and to celebrate the power of our imagination to reunite us with the natural world.
Works include Ai Weiwei’s Roots, a series of monumental sculptural works in iron, cast from giant tree roots sourced in Brazil during research and production for the artist’s survey exhibition ‘Raiz’ at OCA Pavilion, São Paulo. Some of the roots that were moulded could be over a thousand years old. Fly (2019), from the series of works, is on display at Eden. It reflects ancient cultures and man’s first tools for tree felling and woodwork and a tangible ‘uprootedness’ that mirrors the artist’s own life after being allowed to leave China in 2015, alongside the plight of refugees and indigenous populations that Ai has spent years documenting.
Kedisha Coakley’s Horticultural Appropriation (2022) is an archive of memories and experiences displayed through botanical and natural objects, such as volcanic rock, salt crystals, passionfruit and lychee. They form an investigation into the idea of repatriating knowledge and untold legacies. Coakley questions what is lost and what remains when botanical objects are removed from their native lands.
Iman Datoo’s work explores our tacit language, knowledge and narratives with plants and seeks to enrich our vocabulary through mapmaking, sculpture and film. Kinomic Botany(2022) is a 10-minute film that visualises a parallel world through ‘eyes’ of a potato, freeing it from its scientific and colonial ties.
Datoo’s Making a Name is an interactive and collaborative artwork composed of audio instructions inviting participants to be inspired and derive new names for plants through non-verbal methods of interacting with a potato. Participants’ individual observations will be written and collected as an evolving body of words by the artist. A Yukon Gold potato may be described as ‘yellow-as-the-tired-belly-of-the-lizard’, for example.
Patricia Domínguez’s digital and sculptural piece – Matrix Vegetal (2021/22) brings together experimental research on ethnobotany, healing practices and the commercialisation of wellbeing. Matrix Vegetal is a video work presented within a futuristic totem that examines some of these themes, as well as focussing on South American quantum thinking, dream fiction and organic connection technologies.
Swedish artist Ingela Ihrman has created A Great Seaweed Day to investigate links between intestinal and marine flora. The trailing dyed silk of Gut Weed (2019) is based on Ulva Intestinalis – a thin, tubular algae, commonly known as ‘mermaid’s necklace’ or ‘gut weed’. The draping red-dyed cotton of Sea Belt (2019) represents Dilsea carnosa – a species of red algae. Ihrman was inspired by a quote from the diary of Victorian housewife and marine botanist Margaret Gatty (1809-1873) who had a great passion for seaweed, sparked when retreating to the coast to recover from the latest of seven strenuous pregnancies. The contents of Gatty’s diary were mostly about family and high-society life, however, on some dates, she would simply write: “A GREAT SEAWEED DAY”.
Eduardo Navarro has two pieces in the exhibition. Photosynthetics (2021) is a collection of 24 charcoal drawings on biodegradable envelopes that depict part-human, part-plant beings. Each envelope contains a London plane tree seed, with the intention that the envelopes act as “biodegradable wombs” and return the seeds to the soil. Vegetal Transmutation(2020) (a collaboration with philosopher Michael Marder) is an immersive and meditative audio piece that invites the listener to explore the works within the show as a plant might.
Hannah Hooks, Eden’s Curator, says: “Every living thing on Earth is interconnected and this exhibition comprises a diversity of artworks that examine and challenge our perception of the natural world and our part in it, through a focus on our relationships with plants. It encourages us to consider what we might learn from plants, from the ‘more than human’, from reciprocal relationships in nature, and asks how different perspectives may inform and influence a shared understanding of ourselves as part of nature as opposed to apart from nature.
“Whether through senses and signals or elemental cycles we are all connected to a complex and dynamic web. Today, however, some cultures – including our own for the most part – have become separated from nature, both in language and in action. The hope is that this exhibition will act as both inspiration and provocation to demonstrate that we – like all life on Earth – are just really, really (as in, super!) natural”.
Super Natural is curated by Eden’s Senior Curator, Misha Curson, and Hannah Hooks with support from the Eden Project research team.