The ecological battle between horticulture and the living dead rages on in a group show in Amsterdam
Curated by London-based artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas, the group show Plants vs Zombies at Amsterdam gallery, Boezelaer|Nispen, brings together work by contemporary artists Megan Broadmeadow, Harm van den Dorpel, Joey Holder, Katja Novitskova and XYMEMORY/Marlie Mul. The multi-disciplinary show explores the idea that in order to understand technology as part of our evolutionary continuum, we must first recognise our own place as humans in the world. Bringing together pieces as 'an ecological confrontation with nature', its accompanying text talks of an organism with colour-camouflaging abilities:
'Although mostly colour-blind, they are able to change the colour of their skin. They have chromatophores which are elastic sacs containing different pigments. Bands of muscle radiate from each chromatophore and are controlled by neurons from the motor centres in their brain. This allows them to change their colour at will to match their background for camouflage. They eat by deriving some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming animals or Protozoans, typically insects and other Anthropods. First they will inject a neurotoxin into the animal’s brain that kills off its ability to control its own movement but doesn’t paralyze it entirely. Then they produce compounds that affect the victim’s brain and manipulate their behaviour.'
Dazed Digital: What's the story behind the title?
Christopher Kulendran Thomas: Well some friends of mine have a supersmart 3-year-old daughter named Eleanor who taught me how to play Plants vs Zombies on an iPad. It doesn’t look like a military strategy game but that’s essentially what it is. Within the deceptively simple setting of a suburban back garden, you are required to negotiate ecological interventions in an entagled confrontation between horticulture and the undead.
DD: How did this project come about? Did you detect an underlying theme across the artists that are featured in the show or was it an active process to find the artists to adhere to the theme?
Christopher Kulendran Thomas: There was no predetermined conceptual premise for this exhibition. I’ve been a big fan of all the artists in the show for a while and the ideas here came about through getting their work together to see what would happen. And perhaps what did emerge, through technology, is an ecological confrontation with nature.
DD: How does the exhibition's theme relation and affect in the wider world today?
Christopher Kulendran Thomas: Last autumn, the International Congress of Geology officially recognised the Anthropocene in the measurement of geological time. Following on from the Holocene that begins at the end of the Ice Age, the Anthropocene is the outer layer of the earth that is shaped by human activity. Once we recognise that culture has natural consequences and vice versa, the distinct categories of nature and culture defined in opposition become untenable. Philosopher Tim Morton puts forward a conception of ‘Ecology Without Nature’ in his book of that name. And if we are to understand technology as part of an evolutionary continuum, then we must rethink our own place and responsibilities in the world, networked within ecologies of both organic and inorganic, human and non-human, materiality... I’m interested in how each of them is negotiating the shift I see in the location of art from production to circulation.
DD: What's next?
Christopher Kulendran Thomas: Harm van den Dorpel will be doing a solo show in New York at the Abrons Art Centre curated by Karen Archey. Megan Broadmeadow’s solo exhibition is coming up at G39 in Cardiff. Katja Novitskova is getting ready for a solo presentation with Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler at MiArt 2013 in Milan. Joey Holder will be performing at Nottingham Contemporary on June 28th. And Marlie Mul and I have just opened solo shows around the corner from each other in Berlin - Marlie at Croy Nielsen and myself at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler. Next at Boezelaer|Nispen in Amsterdam is a painting-without-painting group show called 'Slow Is Smooth Is Fast'.
Exhibition continues until 6th April - 1-6pm, Wednesday to Saturday; Boetzelaer|Nispen, De Clercqstraat 64, 1052NJ Amsterdam