Humanity’s place in the natural order is under scrutiny as never before, held in a precarious balance between visible and invisible forces: from the microscopic threat of a virus to the monumental power of climate change. Drawing on indigenous traditions from the Amazon rainforest; alternative perspectives on Western scientific rationalism; and new thinking around plant intelligence, philosophy and cultural theory, The Botanical Mind Online investigates the significance of the plant kingdom to human life, consciousness and spirituality across cultures and through time. It positions the plant as both a universal symbol found in almost every civilisation and religion across the globe, and the most fundamental but misunderstood form of life on our planet.
This new online project has been developed in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the closure of galleries due to the pandemic. The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree was originally conceived as a trans-generational group exhibition, bringing together surrealist, modernist and contemporary works alongside historical and ethnographic artefacts, textiles and manuscripts spanning more than 500 years.
Scheduled to open on Earth Day, April 22, 2020, the exhibition has now been postponed. In the meantime, Cadmen Art Centre has launched this online programme of new artist commissions, podcasts, films, texts, images and audio, expanding on and enriching the ideas and issues informing the show.
Including new digital commissions and online works by Adam Chodzko, Tamara Henderson, Ghislaine Leung, James Richards and Steve Reinke, Joachim Koester, Stefan A. Pedersen, Gemma Anderson, Kerstin Brätsch and Adele Röder; a focus on the Yawanawá people of Amazonian Brazil, who were to travel to London to take part in the exhibition but are now self-isolating in their village; and a new podcast series drawing on some of the leading voices in the fields of science, anthropology, music, art and philosophy; the project will form an expanding archive exploring ideas of plant sentience, indigenous cosmologies, radical botany, Gaia theory, quantum biology, and the influence of psychoactive plant medicines on various cultures and counter-cultures across the globe.
The website will feature archival material and new contributions from artists, musicians, writers and thinkers including: Carl Jung, Bruce Conner, Hildegarde Von Bingen, Ithell Colquhoun, Hilma af Klint, Wolfgang Paalen, Brion Gysin, Philip Taaffe, Matt Mullican, Giorgio Griffa, Linder, Sarah Angliss, Dr Stephan Harding, Monica Gagliano, Kirk Barley, Terence McKenna, Simon Ling, Priscilla Telmon and Vincent Moon, Bernd Brabec De Mori, John Dupré, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Annie Bessant and Charles Leadbeater, Carol Bove, Andrea Büttner, Cerith Wyn Evans, Rachid Koraïchi, Daniel Rios Rodriguez, Penny Slinger, Fred Tomaselli, Delfina Muñoz de Toro, Alexander Tovborg, Lee Ufan, and others.
During this period of enforced stillness, our behaviour might be seen to resonate with plants: like them we are now fixed in one place, subject to new rhythms of time, contemplation, personal growth and transformation. Millions of years ago plants chose to forego mobility in favour of a life rooted in place, embedded in a particular context or environment. The life of a plant is one of constant, sensitive response to its environment—a process of growth, problem-solving, nourishment and transformation, played out at speeds and scales very different to our own. In this moment of global crisis and change there has perhaps never been a better moment to reflect on and learn from them.
The Botanical Mind Online is curated by Gina Buenfeld and Martin Clark. The Botanical Mind Podcast Series has been developed and produced with Matt Williams and Alannah Chance.