inside of the planetary gardening exhibition

The Planetary Gardening Exhibition: The Art Event You Need to See

If you’re interested in more than just growing plants and animals for food, and you’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between human activities and every single element related to the flora and fauna, then you’re definitely going to like the Planetary Gardening exhibition. Held in Canberra, Australia, the exhibition is presented by PhotoAccess. It showcases the work of no less than 19 artists, curated by Laura McLean and Ashley Lumb. It lasts until the 26th of March, and we have all the details you should know before attending.

Planetary Gardening Exhibition: Everything You Should Know

Administrative Details

Before getting into what you should expect to see in the Planetary Gardening exhibition, and who the people behind it are, we thought it would be useful to provide you with the administrative details everyone who wants to attend should know.

First of all, the exhibition opened on March 3rd and as we’ve already mentioned, will last until the 26th. Second of all, it is located at the Manuka Arts Centre in Canberra, Australia, in the Huw Davies Gallery. The person who opened it is Professor Libby Robin. She teaches at the Fenner School of Environment and Society from The Australian National University, and she’s an Affiliated Professor at the National Museum of Australia.

The two curators of the exhibition are Ashley Lumb and Laura McLean. Since this is a group exhibition, there’s more than just one artist showcased here. In fact, 19 artists have contributed to it. The group includes Renata Buziak, Melanie Bonajo, Dornith Doherty, Janet Laurence, Merilyn Fairskye, Joe Hamilton, Anaïs Tondeur, Robyn Stacey, and Suzanne Treister.

You can visit the exhibition on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday between 10am and 4pm. On Friday, you can view it between 10am and 7pm. Finally, on Saturday and Sunday, the exhibition is open between 12am and 4pm.

The Meaning Behind It

The whole point of the Planetary Gardening exhibition is to show the role artists have in the different ecological spheres, how they’ve tended to them, and by which means. It examines the way they engaged with material properties and with different representations of either unnatural landscapes, or botanical specimens.

The Planetary Gardening exhibition goes back to the first practices of cultivating plants and domesticating animals by humans, regardless of whether the ultimate goal was consumption, aesthetics, or trade. These practices have shaped our planet, especially more recently. For instance, the compulsion to cultivate has expanded and accelerated. It has become more complex and now everyone started doing it. This led to what Félix Guattari, French psychotherapist, called “collective existential mutations”. These mutations are a threat to three different ecological spheres, the environment, human subjectivity, and social relations.

Laura McLean, one of the curators of this exhibition describes it as follows:

“a journey exploring the symbiotic relationship between the cultural and the chemical, the organic and the technological, and the agency of human and non-human actors, to nurture new subjectivities attentive to the tending of the earth.”

What Can You See There?

The first thing you should know about the works showcased at the Planetary Gardening exhibition is that they use different types of photographic mediums. They include videos, C-prints, pigment prints, and rayograms. This is what makes for such an interesting and compelling display. The works are extremely different, yet manage to form a cohesive whole. Once again, this is another thing that makes them so attractive. Each artist poured his or her individuality into their work, all the while keeping in mind the overall theme of the exhibition.

There are many gorgeous works of art that you can see by attending the Planetary Gardening exhibition. We’re going to talk about a few of them here, just to give you an idea of what to expect and to motivate you to go see the works for yourself.

1. Millennium Seed Bank Research Seedlings and Lochner-Stuppy Test Garden 1, 3 and 4

This is a set of images by artist Dornith Doherty. They’re reminiscent of the desire of people in the 18th century to classify the world around them. Doherty’s purpose is to capture the transience of the form and structure of the seeds she pictorialized. Instead of having the forms float on a glass slide, as it is customary, the artist illustrates them surrounded by rich tones of blue. The tones are evocative of the richness we encounter in the plant world. This is not the only work that Doherty has created for this specific exhibition. The other one, Finite, resembles the first, but it has a more circular format which emphasizes its dynamic kineticism.

Dornith Doherty teaches at the University of North Texas. She has been exhibiting her work in many different institutions, such as the Museum of Photography in Argentina, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, or the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Dornith Doherty's artwork

Millennium Seed Bank Research Seedlings and Lochner-Stuppy Test Garden No.1 by Dornith Doherty.

2. Fukushima Daisy

Perhaps the most compelling work out of the entire collection, the one by Sān huǐ táng is a mere image of a daisy. When you first look at it, it can appear inoffensive, especially due to the fact that it’s quite small. However, when you become aware of the context behind it, you realize how powerful it actually is. The artist has changed the shape of the daisy in order to illustrate genetically malformed flora. Its prettiness is evocative of the disturbing truth behind it.

@san_kaido is a Japanese artist whose Twitter account is a place where the user gathers information related to issues of nuclear power plants and radioactivity.

3. Chernobyl Herbarium

Another work that is both hauntingly beautiful and harshly disturbing is Chernobyl Herbarium by Anaïs Tondeur. This is a collection of 30 rayograms that impress the viewer both due to their aesthetics and their theme. The way in which the curators decided to arrange them is also relevant. They manage to tell a story, yet also be individual and powerful works of art by themselves. The fact that the rayograms have a sepia tone reminiscent of early photography is not just an aesthetic trick. The tones were created by putting the impact radioactive herbarium specimens have on paper.

Anaïs Tondeur graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and has been exhibiting her work at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, the Jerwood gallery in London, and the Royal Society, also in London.

4. Waste Plant

Merilyn Fairskye has created a truly intimidating image. Its purpose is to show how much impact humans and their activities have on the world around us, more precisely on the natural world. The image doesn’t hold back and it’s purposefully invasive. That’s because it wants to make a point regarding how invasive humans can be when it comes to nature.

Merilyn Fairskye is a well-known artist who has managed to exhibit her work at various museums, such as the MOMA and Tate Modern, and also in film festivals like Oberhausen Short Film Festival and the Sydney Film Festival.

5. Resuscitation Garden

A more hopeful work, the one by Janet Laurence combines both sounds and images. It explores the ways in which science can help nature in the future. The fact that the images are barely visible and the sounds are almost entirely opaque provides the audience with a different kind of experience, which is the whole point of the Planetary Gardening exhibition.

Janet Laurence is an Australian artist who has received fellowships such as the Australia Council, the Churchill, and Rockefeller. She has had exhibitions all over the world.

6. Indirect Flight

Indirect Flight is yet another captivating work of art, this time by Joe Hamilton. It shows an aerial view of a landscape made out of different kinds of human infiltrations into the surface of the earth. As such, its purpose is mostly didactic. However, it also serves as a warning sign for people who are not aware or choose to close their eyes in the face of the reality that human activities on the earth represents.

Joe Hamilton is an artist who has had his work on exhibit at the New Museum in New York, in Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in Germany, at the London Art Fair, and so on.

7. The Gardener/Botanical Prints

The last work we would like to mention is another set of images that make a powerful point. The artist, Suzanne Treister, created 20 rayograms. They can be viewed either as a collection that tells a story, or as 20 stand-alone works that each have their own meaning and impact. As was the case with the work of Dornith Doherty, this one too is reminiscent of how people in the past wanted to classify and categorize every single thing related to the natural world.

Suzanne Treister is a pioneer in the new media field. She has had exhibitions at Centre Pompidou in Paris, at SMBA in Amsterdam, and in many other renowned places.

part of Suzanne Treister's artwork

Artwork by Suzanne Treister.

Final Thoughts

The Planetary Gardening exhibition is a truly breathtaking enterprise and one that is worth visiting while you have the chance. It isn’t just visually appealing, but it’s also extremely informative. Especially for people who are interested in the human component of the natural world. Moreover, it provides viewers with multiple warning signs as to the consequences of human activities on the earth. This is particularly important if we consider the fact that raising awareness is the first step towards meaningful and impactful change.

Image Source: 1,2,3

Bonnie Enos

I spend my time in my garden trying to create the greatest outdoor space possible. My garden is my happy place and where you will always find me on a nice day. I take my experience and share it here for you to read!

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