Marginal (2011) - large scale wall drawing installation

Marginal

The white and uninterrupted expanses of the gallery—most suited to displaying art—lay blank and abandoned. In the interstitial spaces, a pattern undulates as if it were a curtain from an earlier time, touching through to this moment, blurred around the edges, anchored to our time by the joints and folds of the space and the modern infrastructure.

Outlets, alarms, switches and safety equipment pierce though where they would not have existed in the days of Christopher Dresser, the Victorian botanist and decorative designer who created this wall pattern. The pattern and designer peer through from the last time the worlds of art and science touched and intertwined—the idealized graphic forms of the pattern playing out early suspicions about the biological patterns that underlay our world.

The Victorian pattern leaks through to our own time sharpening and blurring, becoming most focused in the form of small plants—the Mouse Ear Cress, Arabidopsis thaliana. In 2004 it was the first plant to have its genome sequenced, thus making it the genetic basis—the archetypal pattern—for our understanding of the plant world. Each drawn plant, in all its peculiarity, is an archetype manifested in time and space, an ideal played out with all the contingencies of the here and now. The plant populations around each interstitial object—an outlet for example—are drawn from live specimens, which are adapted to particular wild habitats and manifest particular characteristics.

Arabidopsis is a curiously weedy and embattled model for understanding the plant world. It is a plant that grows on the edges of rocks, in dry, compacted, rocky, and poor soils. It grows where nothing else will. The moment conditions become favorable—it disappears.

Natalie Settles
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Pittsburgh, PA US

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