The Senses of Plants

02/03/2024 - 02/06/2024, Villa Merkel, Esslingen am Neckar (DE). 
Opening 2 March 17:00 

Photos by Frank Kleinbach

The thematic group exhibition "The Senses of Plants" presents research-based, non-anthropocentric perspectives on the senses, capabilities, and intelligence of plants from the viewpoint of international young artists under the artistic direction of Julia Katharina Thiemann at Villa Merkel in Esslingen am Neckar. In the diverse artistic works of Anais-karenin, Suzette Bousema, María Castellanos and Alberto Valverdes, Patricia Domínguez, Špela Petrič, Miriam Simun, Saša Spačal, Anton Vidokle, Zheng Bo, and others, alternative forms of companionship with plants and trees are aesthetically presented in the space, conveying ecological, philosophical, and, last but not least, societal and political issues.

While plants and trees are often perceived as silent, soulless, and motionless in a semi-living, object-like state, scientific research has shown that plants possess more and different senses than humans. Plants communicate with each other and with others, have memories, and make decisions. The speculative nature of the gathered artistic works here raises questions about the consequences of this for our thinking and actions.

Leading theorists such as philosopher Prof. Dr. Michael Marder or plant neurobiologist Prof. Dr. Stefano Mancuso shape a new understanding of plant thinking, challenging previously widespread ontological thought structures. If we take plants as living, feeling, communicating, and thinking cohabitants of this planet seriously, new questions arise. We are not only dependent on plants for oxygen and food supply, but we could also learn from them. Do plants, therefore, need their own rights for us to survive together?

In the current ecological and social crises of the post-Anthropocene, the artists attempt to redefine our relationship with plants and our environment by placing alternative, speculative approaches in the realm of art. In this context, plants are the focus of artistic explorations, challenging our self-image and worldview with humor and depth.

"The Senses of Plants" opens up new aesthetic perspectives on our coexistence with plants through the lens of art, incorporating insights from various sciences and indigenous knowledge. Could not only respectful ways of species-crossing coexistence, but also new human-plant hybrids be conceivable and livable?

A comprehensive catalog with numerous illustrations of the artistic works and in-depth texts by international authors from various disciplines accompanies the exhibition conceived and curated by Julia Katharina Thiemann. A broad range of performance, events, and educational programs complements the aesthetic exploration.