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Solo Exhibition | Theatrum Botanicum: The Memory of Trees | Parc Saint Léger, France

This solo exhibition looks at the history of South Africa, from the first wave of colonization by the Dutch and the British to the apartheid regime and contemporary society. From the dual point of view of Europe and South Africa, the artist explores the links between plant ecology and the construction of national identity. Plants here assume the roles of actors, witnesses or instruments working for the organization of space, the delimitation of borders and, consequently, the establishment of territories. This botanical universe thus makes it possible to reveal or re-evaluate political, social, economic, but also spiritual narratives.

If the whole project is anchored in the context of South Africa, its scope is more general, since through these studies of botany, Uriel Orlow tells us about the migratory flows, hybridization, and the relative purity of species.

Curated by Catherine Pavlovic.


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The Battle of Coal | Sculpture Museum Glaskasten Marl

The Sculpture Museum Glaskasten Marl includes sculpture, video and sound art, which are also reflected in the exhibition. Two plants are to be newly produced for the exhibition with a special focus on the situation of the coal mining site Marl and the Ruhr area.

Denise Ritter will record noises underground and use them to create an electroacoustic sound installation. Another site-specific video work will also address the specific conditions and phenomena of coal mining. Jeremy Deller’s video work The Battle of Orgrave is a reflected re-enactment of the heated situation at the end of coal mining in England in the late 1980s. This emotionally highly charged work reflects the economic and social contradictions of Margret Thatcher’s politics, which show a clear contrast in comparison with the development in Germany. Steve McQueen has created a video that also causes a strong physical presence in the viewer: The mining journey of black African miners in 3. 000m depth is set in its tormenting physical urgency in the picture. Coleen Alborough has created a relief-like installation that conveys an imaginative picture of South African coal mining in small scale, which also allows a comparison to the situation of the now-ending coal mining in Germany. This work is supplemented with an abstract black and white video. The more or less conventional, metal worker sculptures from the collection of Werner Bibl form the plastic counterpart and frame to the virtual media. which also allows a comparison to the situation of the now-ending coal mining in Germany. This work is supplemented with an abstract black and white video. The more or less conventional, metal worker sculptures from the collection of Werner Bibl form the plastic counterpart and frame to the virtual media. which also allows a comparison to the situation of the now-ending coal mining in Germany. This work is supplemented with an abstract black and white video. The more or less conventional, metal worker sculptures from the collection of Werner Bibl form the plastic counterpart and frame to the virtual media.


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Theatrum Botanicum | Kunsthalle Sankt Gallen

In his research-based and process-oriented artistic practice Uriel Orlow is concerned with spatial manifestations of memory and blind spots in history. At Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen Orlow is presenting his ongoing research project Theatrum Botanicum (2015–2017). The large-scale work series sees the botanical world as a stage for politics. From the viewpoints of South Africa and Europe the project shows plants as witnesses and actors in history, as dynamic agents which combine nature and humanity, rural and cosmopolitan medicine, tradition and modernity — through various geographies, histories and knowledge systems. Videos, sound works, photographs and installations illuminate botanical nationalism and other legacies of colonialism, plant migration and invasion, bio-piracy, flower diplomacy under apartheid, the role of the classification and naming of plants along with the garden planted by Mandela and his fellow inmates in Robben Island prison.


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Imbizo ka Mafavuke / Mafavuke’s Tribunal | The Edge, University of Bath

Imbizo Ka Mafavuke / Mafavuke’sTribunal, (2017) is an experimental documentary set at the edge of a nature reserve in Johannesburg. A kind of Brechtian ‘Lehrstück’, the film shows the preparations for a people’s tribunal where traditional healers, activists and lawyers come together to discuss indigenous knowledge and bio-prospecting. The protagonists in the film slip into different roles and make use of real-world cases involving multinational pharmaceuticals scouting in indigenous communities for the next wonder drug. Ghosts of colonial explorers, botanists and judges observe the proceedings.

Imbizo Ka Mafavuke / Mafavuke’s Tribunal is part of Orlow’s major new body of work and ongoing research called Theatrum Botanicum, which looks to the botanical world as a stage for politics at large through film, photography, installation and sound.

Orlow’s film installation at The Andrew Brownsword Galleries also includes film Muthi, and sound work What Plants Were Called Before They Had a Name (2016).

Muthi (2016-17), 17’00” takes us to South Africa where the artist documents the infrastructure around traditional herbal practices in Johannesburg, the Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. Muthi is a comment on value and practice, whilst touching on the wider issues of the loss of indigenous knowledge and tradition, in the presence of modernity.

Orlow’s sound installation What Plants Were Called Before They Had a Name (2016) re-creates an oral dictionary of plant names in a dozen South African languages, not only restituting audibility but also spirituality.


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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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Geometries | Locus / Agricultural University of Athens

A walk through the grounds will be both a visual and discursive feast as in parallel with the exhibition framework a parallel program activating different layers and sites of academic life will sow and reap knowledge throughout the exhibitions’ three-month cycle. Soil, food, seeds, eco-systems will be some of the vital bi-products of research into the primary materials on hand. Academic knowledge, technological methodologies, agricultural practices will be understood through the prism of contemporary art for the artists who have been invited to contemplate and create new landscapes in the University’s environment.
Curated by locus athens (Maria-Thalia Carras and Olga Hatzidaki)
Featuring works by AREA (Architecture Research Athens), Paky Vlassopoulou, Marios Desillas & Georgia Ntousikou / Soil School, Céline Condorelli, Cevdet Erek, Faye Zika, Athina Ioannou, Kassandras, Troō Food Liberation, Giannis Manetas, Natassa Biza, Marjetica Potrč & Valentina Karga, To Peliti, Didem Pekün, Javier Rodriguez/Standart Thinking, Thanasis Totsikas, κ.ά.

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What Happens to People and What Happens to the Land is the Same Thing | Le Narcisssio, Nice

Curated by Chiara Nuzzi, the project What Happens to People and What Happens to the Land is the Same Thing explores the role of art in ecological emergence, investigating its intersections with environmental commitment, political ecology and indigenous knowledge in relation to our modernity. In this frame, the works by several artists develop different cosmologies in light of the specific topic of reconciliation, an approach facing a de-colonial sensibility in the contemporary engagement with art.

The project is thus divided in three different chapters covering in turn an evening of lectures and screening program where selected video works will establish new powerful relations and crucial questions, followed by a video exhibition, and concluded by a collective sound walk in a botanical garden on the French Riviera.

Curated by Chiara Nuzzi, screening works by Ursula Biemann & Paulo Tavares, the Karrabing Film Collective and Uriel Orlow.


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Healing | Czech Centre, Berlin

The exhibition Healing (Healing in the active and passive sense of the word) is based on the fact that personal health and a healthy way of life in today’s society (above all, but not only in the western world) is such a highly valued asset. that the pursuit of health sometimes seems almost cultic. The definition of “being healthy” is different in different cultures, and the healing methods and procedures are different.

Medicine, healing and therapy will be addressed, taking into account the existence of certain tensions and paradoxes: be they interfaces between rationality and belief, between science and magic, between healing applications and rituals, or between natural and artificial substances or aids. In today’s globalized world, it is often not easy to draw a clear line between what is modern and progressive (qualities that we can associate with the development of technologies, science, chemistry, etc.) and what is in essence originated in a long tradition (which in turn is based on inherited knowledge, natural sources, but also on collective rituals and non-rational beliefs).

From the perspective of contemporary art, the exhibition as a whole intends to present various current perspectives on the topic of healing and health, thus placing the complex of issues in broader social, political and economic contexts. The fact that the exhibition builds on the tension between rational and irrational aspects of healing is a consequence of her concern to point out the close connection between these opposing aspects, which in the final analysis can not be separated.

The exhibition is organized by the Jindřich-Chalupecký-Gesellschaft and presents mainly young Czech artists in an international context, among them also selected winners and finalists of the Jindřich-Chalupecký Prize.

Curated by Tereza Jindrová

Exhibiting artists: Jana Doležalová, Marco Donnarumma, Romana Drdova, Jakub Jansa, Barbora Kleinhamplová, Martin Kohout, Uriel Orlov, Johana Střížková, Miroslava Večeřová & Pavel Příkaský


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There Will Come Soft Rains | Basis-Frankfurt

Group exhibition curated by Stefan Vicedom and Bernard Vienat with works by: Marcela Armas, Hicham Berrada, Carolina Caycedo, Julian Charrière, Andreas Greiner & Tyler Friedman, Galina Loonova, Uriel Orlow, Mario Pfeifer , Superflex, Jeronimo Voss, Pinar Yoldas

For modern people, the experience of certain scenarios often proves to be an effective medium for opening new perspectives on themselves and their present. Following on from this, the exhibition explores a special context of experience by initiating a fictional journey through time. A group of international artists enter the year 2318, where they encounter a new world without human species. Fundamental questions on dealing with our environment, the relationship between art and science as well as the late capitalist self-understanding of the human being form recurring moments of the artistic argument within the exhibition.


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Fragments as a Tool | Le Narcissio, Nice

Fragments as a Tool – Memory and Archeology in Contemporary art

This event, curated by Lorenzo Bruni, is a cross-reading about one of the latest trends in contemporary art: the use of archives and the archaeological method adopted by artists to reflect not on the identity of a society of the past, but on our present.

Films by artists Maria Thereza Alves, Rossella Biscotti, Uriel Orlow, and Ulla Von Brandenburg will be screened in order to create a moment of encounter, informal debate, and reflection upon this theme.


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