The title derives from the book of the same name written by Luther Burbank, a nineteenth-century American botanist renowned for watching plants and conducted numerous botanical experiments. Significantly, he used his knowledge to teach plants, as it were, as he considered them to be learning organisms that could be optimized and enhanced for human use. Although more than a century separates Burbank and artist Uriel Orlow, there are considerable overlaps between them, regarding the relationship between plants and humans, and the communication between them. However, there is one fundamental difference as regards their visions: Burbank specifically wanted to shape, cultivate, and enhance plants; while also interested in human influence on plants, Orlow does not himself exercise it, instead providing space for the plants themselves to tell the story. In media such as film, photography, and installations he uses archive and documentary material, the city, architecture and real people, to tempt the stories out of trees, flowers, herbs, and seeds—stories that are deeply bound up with humans, our past, our place in the world today—in short: our lives.
Published on the occasion of the exhibition eponymous exhibition at Kunsthalle Mainz in 2019-2020.
Uriel Orlow is known for his modular, multi-media installations that take specific locations and events as starting points and combine archival research with evocative visuals and sound. Orlow explores the spatial and pictorial conditions of history and memory, focusing on blind spots of representation and forms of haunting. Working across video, photography, drawing and sound Orlow brings different image-regimes and narrative modes into correspondence.