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Big Botany Explores Humanity’s Sometimes Dysfunctional Relationship with the Plant World

An exhibition at the Spencer Museum of Art addresses climate change and the critical role plants play for life on Earth.

Kahn & Selesnick, “King of Weeds” (2013), Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 2014.0338

The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas introduces Big Botany: Conversations with the Plant World, an interdisciplinary exhibition that explores the integral relationships between humans and plants through work by more than 50 historical and contemporary artists.

Through several interconnected themes, Big Botany cultivates viewers’ empathy for plants by blending science and art. The exhibition illustrates scientific studies of plants, including herbaria; the challenges of sustaining plant diversity; and considerations of a future plant world, including biomechanical plant hybrids, and a post-human existence where plants grow freely. These themes address our tendency to disregard plants as a static backdrop rather than as their own autonomous and dynamic world.

Big Botany features site-specific works of art commissioned exclusively for the exhibition. Austrian artist Mathias Kessler presents an updated version of his installation After Nature, a project in which plants’ stress symptoms are communicated through sound. English artist-collaborators Ackroyd & Harvey use photosynthesis to bring portraits to life with installations made from sprouted grass. American artist Sandy Winters’s immersive mixed-media murals depict imagined plant-bot hybrids.

Kicking off the exhibition is the Big Botany research symposium, beginning with the keynote lecture “What a Plant Knows” by Dr. Daniel Chamovitz (Tel Aviv University) on March 27.

Art historian Giovanni Aloi (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) and philosopher Timothy Morton (Rice University) will give lectures on April 11 and May 2, respectively. All lectures will be livestreamed through the Museum’s YouTube channel.

Press inquiries
Elizabeth Kanost
[email protected]

Big Botany: Conversations with the Plant World continues at the Spencer Museum of Art (1301 Mississippi St, Lawrence, Kansas) through July 15, 2018.