In September 2018 Uriel Orlow’s Theatrum Botanicum project will be realised across several venues in three cities in South Africa. Using the media of film, photography, installation and sound, and working from the dual vantage points of South Africa and Europe, the project considers plants as both witnesses and actors in history, and as dynamic agents—connecting nature and humans, rural and cosmopolitan medicine, tradition and modernity—across different geographies, histories and systems of knowledge, with a variety of curative, spiritual and economic powers.
© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2018. All Rights Reserved
The works variously explore botanical nationalism and other legacies of colonialism, plant migration and invasion, biopiracy, flower diplomacy during apartheid, the garden planted by Nelson Mandela and his fellow inmates on Robben Island prison, as well as the role of classification and naming of plants. Khadija von Zinnenburg Carrol describes how the project looks to the botanical world as a stage on which these histories interact as agents:
"Theatrum Botanicum is not Botanicum, it is the theater in which a ghost of botany enters. The species is theater, its genus is botany. The title Theatrum Botanicum is a binomial like the Linnaean Latinate variety central to Uriel Orlow’s critique. Theatrum Botanicum is not botany as theater either, but a theater in which botany is among a cast of colonial protagonists, the powerful influence of which Orlow portrays.”
The project developed out of a research residency undertaken in 2014 and evolved through successive trips between 2015 and 2017 in which Orlow undertook extensive research in archives, and collaborated with traditional medicine practitioners as well as those with legal and botanical expertise, traversing Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
The project has evloved over several exhibitions including: The Showroom, London (2016); EVA International (2016) curated by Koyo Kouoh; the 2017 Sharjah Biennal 13 (where it won a major award); and Kunsthalle St Gallen, Switzerland (2018). The South African iteration sees the project return to its geography of origin, giving local audiences and practitioners -
The project will be hosted between POOL and the Market Photo Workshop, in Johannesburg, the Institute for the Creative Arts (ICA) in Cape Town and the Durban Art Gallery.
Uriel Orlow, Theatrum Botanicum
POOL, 23 Voorhout St, Ellis House, Johannesburg
September 4–November 3, 2018
Uriel Orlow, Grey, Green, Gold
Market Photo Workshop, 57 Margaret Mcingana St, Johannesburg
September 7–October 21, 2018
Uriel Orlow, Imbizo Ka Mafavuke & Other Plant Stories
Durban Art Gallery, Durban City Hall, Smith St, Durban
September 14–October 28, 2018
Uriel Orlow, Green, Grey, Gold, 2015-