the Pitcairn Museum of Contemporary Art
Dear Anne Jaap De Rapper,
On the 25th of April, I had my first encounter with From Slumber and have returned around six times since then. The last visit was today, the 9th of May. Over the course of two weeks, I observed the gradual growth your work went through. In this letter, I would like to share with you my reflections on each visit.
On the 25th of April, artificially placed wooden floors of Pitcairn space began to tremble. Dozens of seeds started to climb up in search of sunlight. The space of Pitcairn was yet to be interrupted. Three days later, I recall it being a beautiful, sunny day, in stark contrast to the Dutch weather, I decided to return to Pitcairn. Hoping the sprouting process has begun and with my limited botanical knowledge, I will be able to identify what kind of flora you have picked to exhibit. However, baby sprouts did not uncover their merit that day, piquing an incredible amount of curiosity I have experienced in biology classes years ago. Followed by eagerness, three days later I was standing in front of Pitcairn. At this point impersonating a botanist in order to interpret the state of the flora.
Consequently, the perception of From Slumber shifted. From treating the work as a land-art-appearance installation to focusing on the conditions the organic elements were placed in. How often did you water the flora, does Pitcairn have a ventilation system, and can bees enter the space? When the exhibition is over, what will happen to the plants?
In 2018 Ikea initiated odd advertising against bullying in high schools, conducting an experiment with two identical plants. For a period of 30 days, one plant was given affectionate compliments, while the other was verbally bullied. In the end, the plant that was emotionally neglected shrank in size and lost its green pigment whereas the plant that had been complemented flourished. Although the experiment has gotten some controversies about its validity, my last visits to Pitcairn were dedicated to soothing whispers. Thus, for the fourth round, I brought Jonas Mekas’ poem book and recited How Sweet the Smell of Spring (1948, translated by Adolfas Mekas) to the growing sprouts. Perhaps you read it before, nevertheless, I will share a part of it:
“In the air a cool dampness, the smell of frost and wind,
but soon the water in the ditches will drain, the pastures will dry,
and by the rivers, in the ditches, in wet bogs
will spring up clusters of yellow marsh marigolds.” 1
Regardless, on the fifth visit, the process of reading poetry to already-thriving sprouts was repeated. As though wanting the plants to emancipate while absorbing the poetry of Mekas. Blindly believing Ikea’s experiment was not an advertising hoax and by repeating it onto your work, From Slumber will thrive within the environment of neat gallery space.
Today, however, as the longest sprouts began to bang on the ceiling, it brought back memories of watching Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s work on display at the 2019 Venice Biennale. The industrial robot relentlessly was sweeping blood-like substance from the flooring of what seemed to be a glass prison. As if the unusual or seldom observed creature was caged for the purpose of demonstration. I remember reflecting on whether it is innate in humans to have a tendency for exhibiting something atypical. To place out-of-ordinary objects on pedestals for the satisfaction of spectators. I wonder, what was your intention?
In such a manner, today’s visit was profoundly different from previous ones. Thinking about Yuan and Yu’s work, Pitcairn appeared as a tiny cage bringing a particle of nature to the eyes of the city dwellers. I stood inconspicuously beside Pitcairn, catching the gaze of passers-by. Did they witness nature’s subtle work taking place in a bustling street?
Finally, yet importantly, numerous visits to observe the untamed transformation of From Slumber allowed me as a silent spectator and on the other hand as a personification of a botanist, to contribute in a small, peculiar manner to its appearance. Establishing a relationship that started from curiosity and evolved into empathy for the little sprouts you have placed in the gallery space. Thank you.
In the end, I am not able to tell if From Slumber flourishment was altered by the conditions in which it was placed, by the poems read to it, or from the eyes of the passers-by.
1 Mekas, Jonas. Idylls of Semeniskiai. Hallelujah Editions, 2007.
Gedempte Zuiderdiep 132
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