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Seeing Green : The Climbing Other

Chapter in book
Authors Dawn Sanders
Published in Why Look At Plants: The Botanical Emergence in Contemporary Art
Pages 195-197
ISBN 978-90-04-37525-3
Publisher Brill
Place of publication Rotterdam: Netherlands
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies
Pages 195-197
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.1163/97890043752...
https://gup.ub.gu.se/file/207667
Keywords Climbing Plants, Experience, House Plant.
Subject categories Biological Sciences, Arts

Abstract

Berger’s work (1980, 2009) provokes us to adjust our frames of attention both within, and beyond, an anthropocentric lens. In this chapter two climbing plants: Monstera deliciosa (The Swiss Cheeseplant) naturally found in South-American rainforests and Hedera helix (Common Ivy), which occurs across Europe, are used as focal points from which to consider ‘plant blindness’ (Wandersee and Schussler, 1999,2001). As Berger has noted, ‘our customary visible order is not the only one: it coexists with other orders’ (Berger, 2009, p.10). Time-lapse photography has enabled the private lives of plants, and plant movement, to become more visible to humans (Attenborough, 1995) and yet we still appear to render plants, and their movements, invisible. No less so than in and around our homes. Schiebinger affirms the act of naming ‘as a deeply social process’ (2004, p.195) and speaks of the ‘linguistic imperialism’ of binomial names developed by the Swedish botanist, Linnaeus. However, an even greater act of imperialistic enclosure is embodied in the aforementioned climbing plants; one has a long-history of life in captivity as a ‘house-plant’; the other is commonly viewed on an antagonistic continuum between an ‘attractive’ plant, which can make shady walls interesting and a self-clinging, rapid-growing ‘nuisance’ on homes and walls (RHS, 2016). Climbing was one of the plant movements that fascinated Charles Darwin. In his desire to study this aspect of ‘plantness’ (Darley, 1990) he used the walls of his own home as an experimental plane upon which to watch the ‘twitchers, twiners, climbers and scramblers’ (Browne, 2003, p.417). In so doing he became increasingly intimate with the diverse strategies plants employ to sense structures that can aid their clamber away from the dark towards the light. And yet these complex morphologies and behaviours are often reduced to simple everyday categorisations, as in the case of Hedera helix (Common Ivy) or creating a functional need (a plant support) in their care, as in the case of Monstera deliciosa (The Swiss Cheese Plant). Berger suggests, in The Field, that our observance of a ‘first event’ can lead us to observe other events, which result in us being ‘within the experience’ (Berger, 1980 p.196-197), thus Darwin, through his lengthy observations of climbing plants became familiar with the subtle nuances of plant movement and came to understand the ‘quietly complicated lives of plants’ (Browne, 2003, p.163).

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