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The 73 photographic plates in Robert Voit’s The Alphabet of New Plants each frame a different floral detail, from bursting blooms to twisting branches. But all is not as it seems, as on closer inspection those petals are frayed fabric, the stems stiff plastic. Voit’s series is inspired by another German photographer’s work — Karl Blossfeldt’s 1928 The Alphabet of Plants — and considers the uncanny nature of our fake plants.
“In hundreds of photographs of plants that have not been retouched or artificially manipulated, Mr. Robert Voit from Munich has provided proof of the peculiar yearnings for a form created equally by the human spirit and by the natural processes of vegetal growth,” writes author and curator Christoph Schaden in an introduction to The Alphabet of New Plants, which was recently published in English and German by Hatje Cantz.
The black-and-white photographs of the plastic plants follow Voit’s New Trees series. Since 2003, he’s captured large-format images of cell phone towers around the world disguised as trees, such as a faux cactus in the desert of Arizona, or an oversized palm tree-shaped mast dwarfing the real palm trees in Las Vegas. Like the New Trees, the New Plants have a playful absurdity, showing the viewer at once something that’s beautiful for the natural forms they borrow, but cheapened by the rough, human-made edges. As simulacra, the plants only pass for the real thing at a glance, and often seem to be imaginary flora entirely, yet they still show the diversity of nature in this reflection, with cacti, succulents, lotus flowers, pine branches, and other forms among the mass-produced replicas.
Blossfeldt himself was more interested in recording these shapes and patterns than creating a straightforward scientific text, the unusual details he documented catching the attention of Surrealist artists and fans like Walter Benjamin and Georges Bataille. Using a handmade camera, Blossfeldt magnified the symmetry of a single blossom or the curl of a tendril into something monumental. The cover of New Plants has a winding Blossfeldt tribute, albeit with a synthetic fuzz coating this tendril.
Steffen Siegel of Folkwang Universität der Künste writes in his essay: “A doubled play with mimicry unfolds in Voit’s twofold appropriation — on the one hand, photographic style from Blossfeldt and, on the other, an entire world of artificial flowers — and does so with an effect that is as curious as it is remarkable.” It’s also slightly dystopic, methodically presenting the 21st-century decorative plant as an alien substitute for nature.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…