Recently, the ROM Green Plant Herbarium accessioned a copy of the artwork STRATA into its collection. This might seem unusual, since our herbarium is the depository for over half a million scientific specimens of green plants, from algae through mosses and liverworts to all the different kinds of “plants with plumbing.” Nevertheless, STRATA is intended to resemble a group of herbarium specimens in the way it was produced and in its format. In this, STRATA resembles some of the other botanical artifacts in the herbarium, such as the scrapbook herbaria of historical value that the ROM is fortunate to possess, thus making it an appropriate addition to the collection.
Botany, like biology in general, is a human activity. People have been concerned with plants ever since they first began gathering them for food, medicine, and to make tools. Since the earliest times people have attempted to systematize their knowledge of plants and their properties, in the form of orally transmitted traditional knowledge, and in writing about them, illustrating them as an aid to recognition, and preserving them for study and reference.
Over the past several centuries, a tradition that began in Europe has come to embrace plants from all over the world, not only as they exist right now, but also as we believe they have evolved over the course of the earth’s history. One of the manifestations of the development of this tradition has been the changing way in which plants have been classified, at one time, for convenience in identification, according to the numbers of the male and female parts of their flowers and now, according to their genealogical relationships that are inferred from DNA sequence data.
In this way, STRATA as “…an exploration of the instability of how these objects are classified as their interpretations shift and change over time” can be seen as a metaphor for the way that botanical classification of herbarium specimens has changed over the past several centuries.
About STRATA, Artist's statement by Dana Munro
STRATA is a publication produced in an edition of 200 as part of the exhibition Gefährdung im Paradies (Danger in Paradise) by Dana Munro, and exhibited at the Palmengarten, Frankfurt am Main between the 25 October and the 18 November 2012.
As part of the exhibition a large press akin to a traditional plant press was constructed by Dana Munro and Clémentine Coupau to compress materials and content from a selection of international artists/writers for the three week duration of the exhibition. Following the exhibition the press was dismantled and the output assembled in an edition of 200 - each unique.
The plant press was an attempt to present a physical representation of what a publication is in its most basic form - a structure which in essence compresses ideas together.
The contributors are Patricia Lennox-Boyd, Ailsa Cavers, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, David Cunningham, Gerald Domenig, Susan Howe, Steve Kado, Louis Pierre-Lacouture, Laure Prouvost, Nora Schultz, and Adrian Williams.
Each art work presents an idea and each is unique. STRATA is a container for these ideas and the process of its inclusion in herbaria archives is part of that container. The real consequences of this containment can only be appreciated following reflection and over time.
STRATA creates links between herbaria collections and artists' works through an exploration of the instability of how these objects are classified as their interpretations shift and change over time. Its pages adhere to the standard herbarium layout for green plant specimens, and it seeks to replicate the botanical preparation criteria for the processing and accessioning of herbarium plant archives. The circulation and induction of artists’ works into this field of knowledge allows for further forms of interpretation.
STRATA aims to be archived in herbaria around the world with each archiving one edition - current locations include Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Scotland. Digitisation accelerates the categorisation and evaluation of botanical herbaria specimens by increasing their access to specialists and generalists world wide. As herbaria are expanded and exposed to a broader cultural context and categorisations challenged, re-evaluated and refined, where will STRATA feature in the archive? Will it be re-evaluated and re-situated? STRATA in the herbaria intends to provoke, inspire and celebrate the hybrid nature of things.
STRATA : ISBN 978-3-00-043051-0