A few years ago German artist Diana Scherer developed several natural sculptures that she dubbed "Nurture Studies". The latter consisted in a series of flowers forced to grow from seed over a six-month period in pots and containers characterized by different shapes and silhouettes.
At the end of the process she removed the vases that, acting like restraining corsets, had sculpted the earth over the course of the months, and left the roots exposed. Scherer than passed to visually document this display of strength (the roots growing, twisting, almost struggling to break free from the vase) and fragility (the roots are usually concealed, but in this case they are left exposed and they are therefore vulnerable) taking pictures of each flower.
For her latest project, "Interwoven", Scherer was once again inspired by the dynamics of belowground plant parts and by the elements that were the starting point behind "Nurture Studies" - soil, seeds, roots and their hidden, underground processes.
Charles and Francis Darwin performed several experiments about plant biology that they recorded in the volume The Power of Movements in Plants. According to the Darwins, while plants may not move from the spot where they are rooted, they are not passive organisms. One of their most controversial proposition was the "root-brain" hypothesis, that is that roots behaved as do lower animals with their apex seated at the anterior pole of the plant body where it acts as a brain-like organ.
Scherer transformed the root system - Charles and Francis Darwin's brain of the plant - into an intricate tapestry. The rugs, tapestry pieces, and prototypes of the experiments Scherer developed are visually striking. The best pieces are definitely her exercises in root system domestication that led her to develop a series of soil tiles or textile swatches decorated with what may be defined as architectural patterns.
These natural tiles or geotextile swatches are proof of the collective desire of man to control nature, and they are made by the artist using subterranean templates as moulds. During the growth process the roots conform to the patterns and the root material weaves or braids itself. For this research, Diana Scherer collaborated with biologists and ecologists from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
"Charles Darwin was the first to watch the behaviour of plant roots. In his book The Power of Movements of Plants, he describes how roots do not passively grow down, but move and observe," Scherer states on her site. "A root navigates, knows what’s up and down, observes gravity and localizes moisture and chemicals. Darwin discovered that plants are a lot more intelligent than everybody thought. For contemporary botanists, this buried matter is still a wondrous land. There is a global investigation to discover this hidden world. I also want to explore it and apply the ‘intelligence’ of plants in my work."
"Interwoven" and "Nurture Studies" are currently on display in the Serre at Hôtel Droog (Staalstraat 7B, 10JJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands, until 9th December 2016).
Image credits for this post
"Interwoven" and "Nurture Studies" exhibition by Diana Scherer. Images: Photography by Ruud Splinter or Diana Scherer.