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Friday, 31.03.2017
16:30h -
Friday, 05.05.2017


2017 / 201704 / 201705 / Ausstellung
Uriel Orlow personal exhibition
Geraniums Are Never Red

Uriel Orlow

Corner College, 01 April - 6 May 2017

Opening on Saturday, 01 April, 16:30h

17:00h Discussion between Uriel Orlow and TJ Demos

You can find here and read an interview with Uriel Orlow by Dimitrina Sevova in the context of the exhibition (also printable as PDF 3.65MB)

Opening Hours / Öffnungszeiten
Wed/Fri 15:00h – 18:00h
Thu 16:00h – 19:00h
or by appointment (+41-79-792 77 44)
Additionally open on Saturday, 6 May, from 14:00h to 18:00h

[English below]

In seiner Ausstellung im Corner College betrachtet Uriel Orlow die botanische Welt als Bühne für Geschichte und Politik im Allgemeinen. Die gezeigten Arbeiten wurden in den letzten zwei Jahren entwickelt und befassen sich mit dem Vermächtnis der botanischen Forschungsexpeditionen, Pflanzenmigration, Blumendiplomatie und botanischem Nationalismus aus dem doppelten Blickwinkel Südafrikas und Europas.

Die in der Ausstellung gezeigten Arbeiten sind Teil von Uriel Orlows laufendem Rechercheprojekt Theatrum Botanicum. Das Projekt sieht Pflanzen nicht einzig als passive Objekte der Natur, des ästhetischen Genusses, der Klassifizierung, der Bewirtschaftung oder des Naturschutzes; sondern sowohl als Zeugen als auch als Akteure der Geschichte, als dynamische Agenten, die Natur und Menschen, Tradition und Modernität verbinden, und das über unterschiedliche Geographien, Geschichten und Wissenssystemen hinweg, mit heilenden, spirituellen und ökonomischen Kräften.

[Deutsch oben]

In his exhibition at Corner College Uriel Orlow looks to the botanical world as a stage of history and politics at large. The work in the exhibition was developed over the last two years and engages with the legacies of botanical exploration, plant migration, flower diplomacy and botanical nationalism from the dual vantage points of South Africa and Europe.


European colonialism in South Africa – as elsewhere – was both preceded and accompanied by expeditions that aimed at charting the territory and classifying its natural resources, in turn paving the way for occupation and exploitation. 'Newly' discovered plants were often named after the botanist who first described them and eventually classified according to the Linnaean system and its particular European rationality.

What Plants Were Called Before They Had a Name (2016-17) is an audio plant dictionary created from nine indigenous South African languages. Conceived as a surround sound installation, the work serves as an aural repository of local knowledge that was originally passed from generation to generation through oral tradition but was displaced by European writing and nomenclature, which it now confronts in the exhibition space.

Geraniums are never Red (2016-17) revisits the bright red geraniums that trail from the balconies of Swiss chalets and clamber up palm trees in California. Botanically speaking they aren’t geraniums at all–nor are they Swiss or Californian. They are in fact pelargoniums. They were first brought to Europe – and misidentified – after 1652, when the Dutch East India Company established a permanent settlement and a Company Garden at the Cape and started to explore the surrounding flora to bring back new botanical treasures, which apart from pelargoniums included proteas, ericas and many other mainstays of European gardens. By the time the confusion between the two species was resolved, ‘African geraniums’ had been around for 150 years and British commercial growers and gardeners were reluctant to give up the familiar name.

In 1963, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Kirstenbosch, the national botanical garden of South Africa in Cape Town a series of films were commissioned to document the jubilee celebrations and their ‘national’ dances, pantomimes revisiting the colonial conquest, the visit of international botanists and the history of the botanical garden itself. The films’ cast of botanists and visitors are mostly white and when we see Africans they are engaged in menial labour.

These films have not been seen since 1963 and were found by the artist in boxes in the cellar of the library of the botanical garden. The Fairest Heritage (2016-7) is an attempt to watch these documents today and speak back to the archive. Orlow collaborated with the actor Lindiwe Matshikiza who inhabits and confronts the found footage and its politics of representation, sending up the botanical nationalism and flower-diplomacy of apartheid era South Africa.

Exotics were the pride of European gardeners for a long time. But new species were not just brought to Europe to satisfy horticultural demand and other colonial economic interests. Some plants also arrived as stowaways; seeds in animal feed or other shipments. The consequences of newly introduced species were not always predictable and in recent decades botanists have highlighted the threat of some of these new-arrivals to local biodiversity. A number of national organisations deal with the problem of invasive neophytes producing information campaigns and so-called blacklists of exotics that are illegal and need to be eradicated. The management of ‘invasive aliens’ and the language accompanying it produces new forms of botanical nationalism that inadvertently mirror public discourse on human migration. The series of posters Blacklisted (Was wir durch die Blume sagen) re-mixes information gathered from the Zurich office for the control of neophytes and uses quotes from literature and websites across Switzerland.


The work in this exhibition is part of Uriel Orlow's ongoing research entitled Theatrum Botanicum. The project considers plants not solely as passive objects of nature, aesthetic pleasure, classification, cultivation or conservation; but as both witnesses and actors in history and as dynamic agents linking nature and humans, tradition and modernity– across different geographies, histories and systems of knowledge, with curative, spiritual and economic powers.

Mit der freundlichen Unterstützung der Stiftung Erna und Curt Burgauer, der Georges und Jenny Bloch Stiftung, und der Ernst Göhner Stiftung.

Posted by Corner College Collective

Monday, 24.04.2017


2017 / 201704
Talk by Melanie Boehi: Multispecies histories of South African colonial formations
followed by a discussion between her and Uriel Orlow

Melanie Boehi, Uriel Orlow

“String figures are like stories; they propose and enact patterns for participants to inhabit, somehow, on a vulnerable and wounded earth.” Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble, 2016, p. 10/String design installed in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden’s annual section to prevent geese from eating young seedlings. Photograph by Melanie Boehi, December 2016.

This talk is concerned with histories of South African colonial formations featuring gardens and plants. It is grounded in empirical research of multispecies histories in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

Plants have featured prominently in imaginations and conceptualisations of South Africa throughout the colonial, apartheid and post-apartheid era. In the late 19th century, white settlers appropriated the indigenous flora as a marker of identity. The settler elite regarded the cultivation of scientific and aesthetic appreciation of the vegetation as a tool for promoting civilisation and patriotism. This occurred within the larger discourse of nature conservation, which served as a legitimisation of white land appropriation, forced removals and prohibition of subsistence land use by Africans and slave-descendants.

In 1913, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden was established in Cape Town. Subsequently, Kirstenbosch evolved as the centre of a network of regional botanical gardens spread throughout the country. In 2004, UNESCO listed Kirstenbosch as a natural World Heritage Site and it currently attracts over one million visitors per year. Through plant collecting, design and what I term “monumental gardening”, Kirstenbosch gave rise to South African colonial and imperial formations. These activities expressed the aspirations of the Cape colonial elite and evolved in the context of both rising South African settler nationalism and British imperialism. In 1948, the Nationalist Party came to power and apartheid became the official state policy. Parallel to the rise of local and international criticism of apartheid, the South African state began to use Kirstenbosch as a stage for political spectacles, deploying botanists as well as plants themselves as ambassadors in what I call “floral diplomacy”. Standing in a genealogy of empire exhibitions and flower shows, plants from Kirstenbosch were displayed internationally. The state also invited international botanists to South Africa in an attempt to impose a positive image of South Africa to them. The apartheid state deployed flowers and gardens because they were widely regarded as beautiful and apolitical – an understanding that needed to be continuously reproduced and in the late 1980s was challenged by activists and artists opposed to apartheid. The South African National Botanical Gardens have continued to thrive in the post-apartheid era. They have been reframed as tourism destinations and sites of post-apartheid nation building. However, they have been continuing to reproduce “colonial presents” (D. Gregory, The Colonial Present, 2004) and “occluded histories of empire” (A.-L. Stoler, Duress, 2016).

The talk is concerned with such histories of South African colonial formations. They are addressed from a multispecies perspective, which acknowledges not only humans but also other living beings, in particular plants, as historical actors and witnesses. It does so by drawing on and combining a range of methods, including historiography, multispecies ethnography, critical plant studies, plant sciences, and floriography (the reading and writing with flowers).

This event is part of the personal exhibition of Uriel Orlow at Corner College, Geraniums Are Never Red.

Posted by Corner College Collective

Saturday, 29.04.2017


2017 / 201704 / Vortrag
Guest lecture of the Postgraduate Programme in Curating CAS/ MAS ZHdK
Joshua Simon: Verschüttete Traditionen // The Great Soviet Encyclopedia: Communism and The Dividual

Joshua Simon

[English below]

Der israelische Kurator Joshua Simon untersucht in seinem Vortrag “The Great Soviet Encyclopedia: Communism and The Dividual“ ein Poster von Eliezer Lissitzky (1890-1941), das der russisch-jüdische Künstler 1929 für die Eröffnung einer Ausstellung im Gewerbemuseum Zürich gestaltet hat. Es widerspiegelt den inszenierten Enthusiasmus über die forcierte Industrialisierung der Sowjetunion und die damit einhergehende veränderte Bedeutung des Individuums. Simon sieht Parallelen zu heutigen Formen von Subjektivität, was er auch in einem aktuellen Projekt untersucht hat: Die von ihm betreute Ausstellungsreihe „The Kids Want Communism“ (2016/17) öffnet den Blick auf das utopische Potenzial des Kommunismus, gerade auch in Israel, wo die sozialistischen Staats- und Gesellschaftstraditionen durch Globalisierung und Privatisierung verschüttet wurden.

Der Vortrag findet in englischer Sprache statt. Einführung: Dorothee Richter, Leiterin des „Postgraduate Programme in Curating“ an der Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK).

Joshua Simon ist Autor, Filmemacher und Direktor des MoBY-Museums in Bat Yam. Er ist Mitbegründer von „Maayan Publishing“ in Tel Aviv, eines Magazins für Dichtung, Literatur und Ideen. Er ist Autor von „Neomaterialism“ (Sternberg Press, 2013) und Herausgeber von „Ruti Sela: For The Record“ (Archive Books, 2015). In letzter Zeit kuratierte er die Ausstellungen “Factory Fetish” in Melbourne und „Roee Rosen: Group Exhibition“ im Tel Aviv Museum. Er hat am renommierten Londoner Goldsmiths College ein Postgraduiertenstudium in „Curatorial Knowledge“ absolviert.

[Deutsch siehe oben]

The entry point for this talk is the Russian Exhibition which took place at the Museum of Applied Arts in Zurich (Marc-April 1929), and especially its poster, designed by Eliezer Lissitzky (1890-1941). The unique design of this poster by Lissitzky stands between avant garde montage and socialist realism with its inflated portraits and staged enthusiasm. These aesthetic attributes correlate with the shifting economic realities of the time with the move from the NEP to shockwork methods of the Soviet five year plan. This poster comes from a specific moment in Soviet industrialization which was accompanied by a new subjectivity as well. That moment seems to inform our moment as well.Considering this poster opens up a discussion on contemporary forms of subjectivity under current modes of production and distribution of computerized networks. In his talk, Joshua Simon will present The Kids Want Communism, a yearlong program of exhibitions marking 99 years since the October Revolution, which he initiated in collaboration with State of Concept Athens, Free/Slow University of Warsaw, Tranzit Prague, Skuc gallery in Ljubljana, the Visual Culture Research Center in Kiev, Westspace Melbourne, and MoBY-Museums of Bat Yam. The talk will outline how the communist horizon and real existing socialism can inform our understanding of the current social and cultural, political, and economic realities as we are facing the implosion of the neoliberal order.

The talk is a cooperation of Onamut and Postgraduate Programme in Curating, ZHdK and Corner College.

Posted by Corner College Collective