The Hothouse Archives: Plants, Pods and Panama Red.

poster of The Hothouse Archives

Presented by SVA BFA Fine Arts and the University of Graz, Austria, this conference brings together artists, architects, art historians, gardeners, scientists, philosophers and cultural critics to discuss the role of plant life in contemporary culture. Organized by BFA Fine Arts Chair Suzanne Anker and Chair of Art History at Univeristy of Graz, Sabine FlachRSVP here.

“Is it possible to be a revolutionary and like flowers?” asks the artist Camille Henrot in one of her recent artworks. Continuing in that vein of wonder about the revolutionary power of plants, Taryn Simon has applied floral bouquets as a form of institutional critique. Both artists’ works are examples of the political and cultural implications of plants. They are signifiers for the recurring representation of plants in contemporary arts and culture.

The symbolic meaning of plants, their relevance for religion and the metaphorical provocations in the order of knowledge, culture and political power underline the role of plants as something more than passive objects. The symbolic meaning of plants changes over time, according to cultural developments. In the origins of Western thought in particular, nature has been represented as both the embodiment of good and the epitome of evil. In Ovid’s telling of humanity’s golden age, the earth is an abundant source of nourishment and pleasure, while in Christianity, a snake tempts Eve into eating a forbidden apple which precipitates the fall of mankind from the Garden of Eden.

Such signification of plants and nature became intensified during the Industrial Revolution. In general, religious implications were discarded to favor images of plants and animals as savage entities. For example, the jungle in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness becomes a character of its own that expresses dark and fierce forces in opposition to the concepts of light and order in European sensibilities. Human nature was characterized as a civilizing force while fauna and flora were seen as the wild and degenerative.

In the current climate, plants are undergoing radical changes due to environmental alterations and laboratory practices. From genetic selections to indoor farming, from foodstuffs and medicinal uses, plants are being re-evaluated as living entities. As sentient creatures they protect their own and engage in masquerading their identities. It has been noted that they are more like animals, only slower. They are sources of nourishment and wonder while at the same time contain healing powers and even psychoactive properties.


Program

Friday, November 16, 2018

5:00pm – 5:45pm
Conference Registration (Bio Lab open for Tours)

6:00pm – 6:30pm
Introduction
Suzanne Anker & Sabine Flach

6:30pm – 7:30pm Keynote
Lynne van Rhijn: Herman de Vries: Shaman of Science
Moderator: Frank Gillette

7:30pm – 8:30pm
Reception: Wine and cheese (Bio Lab open for Tours)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

9:00am – 10:00am
Conference Registration and Continental Breakfast (Bio Lab open for Tours)

10:00am – 11:30am  
Panel I: Weeds and the Unrequited
Elaine Ayers: Storehouse of Nature: Nineteenth Century Exotic Flora and the Disappointment of the Tropics
EPA: The Emergent Plantocene: Weedy Vegetal Agency, Radical Embodiment, and Ruderalism X Action(ism)
Ellie Irons: The Next Epoch Seed Library
Moderator: Eva Klein

11:30am – 12:30pm
Keynote
Melodie Yasher: Greenhouse on Mars
Moderator: Suzanne Anker

1:00pm – 2:00pm
Lunch (Bio Lab open for Tours)

2:00pm – 3:30pm
Panel II: Submergence
Eva Klein: Winterwald: Concealed political fields in the depths of the forest.
Jonathan Cane: Kikuyu Grass: Decolonial Readings of the Lawn in Southern Africa
Natasha Christopher: Welkom to Johannesburg: A Tale of Two South African Cities
Moderator: Kristopher Holland

3:30pm – 4:00pm
Coffee Break (Bio Lab open for Tours)

4:00pm – 5:30pm
Panel III: Out of the Garden
Kristopher Holland: Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Botanique: Philosophy as the Pedagogy of Romanticism & Counter-Enlightenment
Noel Anderson: The Lady’s Knife: George Washington Carver Recovers the Mother Within
Sabine Flach: Unfortunately the plants did not speak Greek: Plants, Politics, Poetics
Moderator: Mark Harris

5:30pm – 6:30pm
Psychedelic Pandemonium
Frank Gillette in conversation with Sabine Flach

6:30pm – 7:00pm
Wine and Conversation

Sunday, November 18, 2018

9:00am – 10:00am
Continental Breakfast (Bio Lab open for Tours)

10:00am – 11:30pm
Panel IV: The Social Order of Plants
Karoline Walter: The Potential of Ruderal Societies and Perfectly Provisional Areas in the Works of Lois Weinberger
Teresa Castro: Queer Botanics: From Anthropomorphic Expressiveness to Plants as Queer Players in Twentieth-Century Visual Culture.
Mark Harris: Songs the Plants Taught Us: A “Bad Music” Seminar
Moderator: Sabine Flach

11:30pm – 12:30pm
Keynote 
Giovanni Aloi: Sorely Visible: Plants, Roots, and National Identity
Moderator: Suzanne Anker

12:30pm – 1:30pm
Lunch and (Bio Lab open for Tours)

1:30pm – 3:30pm
Panel V: Flora
Suzanne Anker: The Blue Rose
Mathias Kessler: After Nature, Coding and Reading Plant Life
Anne Percoco: Parallel Botany: The Study of Imaginary Plants
Carolyn Angleton: Propagating Desire
Heide Hatry: Not a Rose
Moderator: Suzanne Anker

3:30pm – 4:00pm
Closing Remarks
Suzanne Anker & Sabine Flach