E-book 04: The Art & Herbarium Exhibition (edited by T. Bristow, J.H. Brueggemeier and D. Wyatt)
Archives of natural collections are fertile ground for artists across a range of media – from photographers, painters and sound artists, to poets, graphic novelists, and biographers. The artworks in this publication reflect these sensibilities and discomforts.
Edited by T. Bristow, J. H. Brueggemeier, and D. Wyatt, this e-book includes six newly commissioned works by artists including graphic novelist Tom Bristow and illustrator Elizabeth Hickey, poet Bonny Cassidy, sound artists Rosalind Hall and Josh Wodak, and photographers Harry Nankin and Jess Hood.
E-book design: Kaitlyn Chai
ISBN: 978-0-9871189-5-0 (E-book)Download EPUB Download PDF
Art and Herbarium exhibition – creative ecological investigations (edited by Tom Bristow, Jan Hendrik Brueggemeier and Danielle Wyatt)
Archives of natural collections are fertile ground for artists across a range of media – from photographers, painters and sound artists, to poets, graphic novelists, and biographers. Historically, visual artists have been an integral part of these institutions, responsible for graphically representing, in intricate and technically accurate detail, the parts of specimens too small to be seen by the naked eye.
Contemporary artistic engagement with natural collections, however, has come mostly from outside the institution: artists looking in as observers, bricoleurs and explorers, recovering forgotten pasts, or speculating, nervously, about possible futures. Artists have been drawn to these spaces for a variety of reasons. Some are in thrall to the aesthetics of natural objects themselves, and to the institutions’ conventions of display and preservation. Some explore the relationships between natural collections and technological developments in fields like photography and nature printing. Others have sought to use art to reflect upon, and at times, critically intervene in, the collecting histories, personal stories, pedagogic practices and scientific methods of these institutions.
This wealth of engagement tells us that artists have something productive to say about natural archives, and by extension, the ways in which we have come to know and (dis)connect from the natural world—it might be about the wonder and strangeness of plants and plant worlds. Or about the way natural archives have been implicated in larger national and colonial narratives, and in histories of dispossession and exploitation. Presciently, artists are drawing our attention to the ways in which these institutions are now linked, in vital ways, to the very survival of some species, and if not survival, to recording the legacy of their loss.
Crucially, what is apparent when we look across the burgeoning body of creative work engaging with natural collections, is how powerfully environmental crisis either drives or casts a shadow across this art. The reality of climate change, habitat and biodiversity loss, brings a new urgency, and a new emotional vocabulary to environmental art. This art draws us into intimacies with plant and plant worlds, at the same time as it elicits uncomfortable emotions: vulnerability, anxiety, melancholy, a sense of imminent disaster.
The artworks in this publication reflect these sensibilities and discomforts. Together, these works bring insights that overlap with critical scholarship in multispecies studies, eco-feminism and eco-philosophy, postcolonial studies, and with the broader fields of environmental humanities and anthroposcene research.
This ebook is a publication of the catalogue of the exhibition, Art and Herbarium, which was exhibited at Lab 14 Gallery in Carlton, 2-16 March, 2017. The exhibition commissioned six original artworks, inspired by the collections of the University of Melbourne Herbarium (MELU).
The artists include graphic novelist Tom Bristow and illustrator Elizabeth Hickey, poet Bonny Cassidy, sound artists Rosalind Hall and Josh Wodak, and photographers Harry Nankin and Jess Hood.
The original printed catalogue’s elegant design is by Jacob L'Huillier Lunt, in imitation of the aesthetic and formal qualities of herbarium specimens as they appear in their institutional context. Kaitlyn Chai designed the extended e-book version of this catalogue.
In light of the volume and breath of engagement with natural collections by artists, writers and researchers across the globe, we are publishing the original catalogue as an ebook to make the exhibition accessible to a wider public. We also want to connect the works presented here with the Art and Herbarium journal issue of Unlikely. Together, the two publications form their own small archive of arts and natural collections engagement, slanted towards the antipodes.
The exhibition, Art and Herbarium was made possible through the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.