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Plant Echoes | Galleria Laveronica, Modica

In this exhibition, Orlow’s interest in how colonialist categorisation expunges indigenous systems of knowledge and belonging, took him to South Africa. Here, he found that not only did the British and Dutch re-name indigenous plants and try to eradicate as dangerous the use of herbal remedies, they also imported 9000 different exotic plants, many of which choked local flora. Orlow’s extraordinary new body of work uses plants as a potent lens through which to explore the socio-political, economic and spiritual ramifications of colonialisation.

Orlow focuses on the important role of medicinal herbs or ‘muthi’ in South African culture, with 60% of the population consulting a healer, who can choose from over 3000 plant species. With European pharmaceuticals exploiting the market for ’natural’ cures, a new front has opened in the contest of who owns what the land grows, has always grown. In ‘What Plants Were Called Before They Had A Name’ (2015-ongoing), male, female and collective voices recite the names of native plants in ten African languages, from isiZulu and SePedi to isiXhosa and Khoi, which had no legitimacy under a Latin taxonomy. ‘Language relates to politics,’ says Orlow, ‘and plant classification can be a form of epistemic violence’ In this sense, the surround sound audio piece acts as a restorative and moving oral dictionary.

‘Echoes’ (2017) is a series of photographs of dried brown sap stains on protective paper from botanical repositories in South African herbaria which date back to the colonial era of exploration. The tracings tell nothing of the traditional names or uses of the plants and highlight the imposition of a one-dimensional classification system that was revered as objective and unrivalled. It’s difficult to look at these frail residues, which contrast the tending delicacy of the botanists working amidst the cruel and murderous savagery of apartheid and colonialism before.

‘The Fairest Heritage’ (2016-17), poignantly intercepts a version of history. During his research, Orlow discovered a film made in 1963 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kirstenbosch, the national botanical gardens of South Africa. Only three years after the Sharpeville Massacre and a year before Mandela’s incarceration for life on Robben Island, fifty international botanists toured South Africa, in a whites-only garden party. Orlow invited an African actor, Lindiwe Matshikiza, to interact with the projected images, delivering an elegantly silent addendum to the past, when the trade in exotic flowers evaded the boycott of South African goods till the late 1980s.

In this show, Orlow continues and develops his sensitive and pertinent re-working of histories, staging old documents in new settings, giving voice to those who have been muted to reconsider how agency can be re-enforced by art.

On 31. March at 14:45 there will be a film screening followed by a conversation between Uriel Orlow and Gabi Scardi at Cinema Aurora, Modica.


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Tip of the Iceberg | Focal Point Gallery Southend

This exhibition explores the relationship between art and alternative growing practices, which are increasingly coming together in pursuit of climate action and social justice. New and recent works by local and international artists explore three key themes: the notion of the ‘commons’, i.e. our common right to the earth’s natural resources (air, water, soil, land); how plants can be considered as both witnesses and agents across history, and how local hidden economies can act as catalysts for wider change. With works by Shaun C. Badham, Becky Beasley, Kathrin Böhm, Graham Burnett, Gabriella Hirst with Warren Harper, Anna Lukala, Mary Mattingly, Uriel Orlow, Rachel Pimm, Alida Rodrigues, Zheng Bo


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Potential Agrarianisms | Kunsthalle Bratislava

Potential Agrarianisms sets out to diversify agriculture and pluralise its histories, recovering suppressed peasant pasts and activating their unrealised possibilities, destabilising urban-rural dichotomies, repairing the disconnect with the natural world and restoring caring and reciprocal relationships to the soils and plants that nourish us. Curated by Maja and Reuben Fowkes with work by Melanie Bonajo, Gerard Ortin Castellví, Anetta Mona Chişa, Annalee Davis, Ferenc Gróf with Jean-Baptiste Naudy, Oto Hudec, Marzia Migliora, MyVillages, Ilona Németh, Uriel Orlow, Prabhakar Pachpute, Alicja Rogalska.


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What the eyes cannot see | Kunsthaus Dresden

The exhibition What the eyes cannot see, the heart cannot feel is dedicated to the coexistence of humans with their natural environment. Around the world, landscapes and ecosystems have been and are still being changed by human interventions, while languages and cultural techniques have evolved in direct response to landscapes, plants and soils. Curated by Christiane Mennicke-Schwarz, Vincent Schier with work by Aline Baiana, Minia Biabiany, Kadija de Paula & Chico Togni in collaboration with FELL, Patricia Esquivias, Andreas Kempe, Antje Majewski, Silvia Noronha, Uriel Orlow, Lois Weinberger


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British Art Show 9 | Aberdeen Art Gallery

The British Art Show is a landmark touring exhibition that celebrates the vitality of recent art made in Britain. British Art Show 9 was developed at a precarious moment in Britain’s history that has brought politics of identity and nation, concerns of social, racial and environmental justice, and questions of agency to the centre of public consciousness. The artists presented in the exhibition respond in critical ways to this complex context; imagining more hopeful futures and exploring new modes of resistance.

BAS9 is curated by Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar and includes work by over 40 artists.


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Extractive Zones | Museum der Kulturen Basel

Human-environment relations are radically changing through the interventions of extractive industries and knowledge technologies. Against this background, the exhibition tests the critical dialogue between contemporary art and museum artifacts. Curated by Liliana Gómez, in cooperation with the University of Zurich, University of Kassel and the Documenta Institute.


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