On the intertwined relationship between the plant world, botany and colonialism

Project description

In the history of colonialism, commercial trade with plants played an important role. Their transportation from and to the colonies were a source of enormous financial gain. Nations profited from the monopolisation of trade with certain tropical medicinal plants and herbs. The colonies also provided fertile ground for plants which couldn’t thrive in Europe. As part of a research and exhibition project titled “Floraphilia” in Cologne, the Academy of the Arts plans to investigate the significance of plants in world politics and social processes. In order to artistically and scientifically examine the topic and present it to the public, the project coordinators have teamed up with numerous partner institutions including botanical gardens in Wuppertal and Berlin.
The first of three planned exhibitions will take place in Cologne and the botanical garden in Wuppertal. The show in Cologne begins with the invasive neophyte Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), an ornamental plant which was imported to Europe in the 19th century and which experts are now trying to eradicate in many places. This segment of the exhibition features positions by such artists as Maria Theresa Alves, Alberto Baraya and Otobong Nkanga who examine global trade, environmental issues and colonial history. A commissioned work by artist Karolina Grzywnowicz will highlight the depiction of plants on bank notes. The exhibition in Cracow and at the botanical garden in Berlin will present selected works already shown in Cologne and Wuppertal, accompanied by locally relevant topics and contributions. In Berlin, for example, the history of the Botanical Central Bureau for the German Colonies will play a central role. The exhibition in Cologne kicks off with a symposium and will be supplemented by various discussion formats, films and performances.

Artistic director: Aneta Rostkowska
Artists: Maria Theresa Alves (BR), Alberto Baraya (CO), Karolina Grzywnowicz (PL), Dagna Jakubowska (PL), Candice Lin (US), Uriel Orlow (IL), Judith Westerveld (NL)


symposium, performances, talks, discussions
diverse venues in Cologne, Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Cracow:
1 Sep. 2018 – 30 Nov. 2019


Akademie der Künste der Welt

Im Mediapark 7
50670 Köln

www.academycologne.org (external link, opens in a new window)