Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Wardian Case

"I came here with a similar interest, to discuss and try to build an entirely sealed terrarium that wouldn't ever be opened again."

- Bry84 England, Wed, Nov 24, 04 at 17:13

The direct forerunner of the modern terrarium, the Wardian Case, was invented by Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in 1829. When he realized simultaneously that the ferns in his garden were being poisoned by London's air pollution (heavy in coal smoke and sulfur) but that their spores were actually germinating in bottles where he kept cocooning moths with a bit of soil, he had a closely-fitted glazed wood case built and found that ferns grown in it thrived. Botanists and nurserymen alike were thrilled by the possibilities sprung from this invention; whereas foreign plants could only ever have traveled as seeds before, now tender young plants the world over could traverse an exhaustive sea journey safely within their glazed cases.

I am continuing with a line of thought concerning humans, their natural environment, and the desire to capture and control it. Vivarium seem to be the pinnacle of the human obsession not just to manipulate and control, but to actually posses the natural environment.

Perusing current blogs and online forums, it is apparent that the current trend in vivarium experimentation is concerned with containing a miniature ecosystem wholly within a sealed vessel, as the quote suggests, never to be opened again. I find it interesting that while one of the lofty goals of terrarium and vivarium enthusiasts is to study and recreate self-sustaining ecosystems, most admit that it is veritably impossible. Is it because of the complexity and ingenuity of the planet's interconnected ecosystems? Or is it because with the inception of the original vivarium, a bunch of money hungry Victorian botanists shuffled foreign plant species all over the world like trading cards?


Paul Thulin has read your blog up to this point/entry. Your blog is currently up to date and complete.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Revisitation of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison:


Robert ParkeHarrison studied photography at the Kansas City Art Institute and the University of New Mexico. Shana ParkeHarrison earned her degree in painting from William Woods College, going on to study dance history and metalsmithing at the University of New Mexico. In 1999 Robert ParkeHarrison was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. The ParkeHarrisons' collaboration has developed over the past sixteen years and in 2000 they publicly acknowledged co-authorship of their images.

Abandoning the tightly closed narrative format of their earlier photographic works, the ParkeHarrisons continue to pursue, with the same absorbing psychological and sensory effect, the ever-bleakening relationship linking humans, technology, and nature. This time the works feature an ambiguous narrative that offers equally compelling insight into the dilemma posed by science and technology's failed promise to fix our problems, provide explanations, and furnish certainty pertaining to the human condition. The ParkeHarrisons also explore the epic landscape as a metaphor for the state of mankind, particularly alluding to recent natural disasters and their aftermath.

Restoration: Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison Offers Mid-Career Survey

Jack Shainman Gallery

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Garden

A slightly ineloquent excerpt from The Meaning of Gardens;

"Garden as Idea"

"The Garden has long served as a way of thinking about nature and about culture and how each influences the other. The garden has been viewed philosophically as the balancing point between human control on one hand and wild nature on the other. The garden has represented safety from the threat of wild nature or escape from barbarian outsiders. The garden has been nature-under-control, an idealization of what society believed that nature should be and should look like."

The Meaning of Gardens

Edited by Mark Francis and Randolph T. Hester

"Gardens reveal the relationship between culture and nature, yet in the vast library of garden literature few books focus on what the garden means - on the ecology of garden as idea, place, and action. The Meaning of Gardens maps out how the garden is perceived, designed, used, and valued. Essays from a variety of disciplines are organized around six metaphors special to our time - the garden muses of Faith, Power, Ordering, Cultural Expression, Personal Expression, and Healing. Each muse suggests specific inspirations for garden and landscape design."

In an attempt to find a coherent line for my work to follow, I am examining the Garden: it's origins and role as a social or cultural construction; bearing in mind the need of a culture to exert control over its environment and the psychological implications of a plot of nature, contained.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pertti Kekarainen

Finnish photographer, born 1965

(Of the TILA series) In formal terms, Pertti Kekarainen's works are characterized by the multi-interpretative nature of space. He combines his photographs with local elements of colour that sometimes appear to conform to the space presented in the piece and are sometimes contrary to it. These features create tension and a slightly surreal atmosphere.

(Of the DESTINY series) Pertti Kekarainen’s photographs are intensely silent, if not well-nigh mute. His work is best interpreted separate from the history of photography, for Kekarainen primarily employs the pictorial devices of another medium: contemporary painting.

Kekarainen shrouds his photographs in strange veils, creating transition zones, or semi-transparent membranes, which he punctures with spy holes. Lurking somewhere behind the veil – or what appears to be the surface of the ‘painting’ – is reality itself, a disconcertingly ordinary and characterless place.

"Photographs from the series TILA"

Galerie Robert Drees

Spring Semester 2009