The Showroom in London, presents a major new commission by Swiss artist Uriel Orlow, which looks to the botanical world as a stage for politics at large through film, photography, installation and sound.
Working from the dual vantage points of South Africa and Europe, the project considers plants as both witnesses and actors in history, and as dynamic agents – linking nature and humans, rural and cosmopolitan medicine, tradition and modernity – across different geographies, histories and systems of knowledge, with a variety of curative, spiritual and economic powers.
Central to this will be Orlow’s two-screen film ‘The Crown Against Mafavuke’, based on a South African trial from 1940. Filmed at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria, and at rural and urban sites across South Africa, the film installation touches on larger issues around indigenous knowledge and alternative medicine in post-colonial contexts.
Additional works will be displayed in an accompanying modular structure – a conceptual herbarium. Soundworks, photographs, a slide projection and video highlight botanical nationalism and other legacies of colonialism, plant migration and invasion, flower diplomacy during Apartheid, the garden planted by
Nelson Mandela and his fellow inmates on Robben Island prison as well as the role of classification and naming of plants. Through the work of other artists, this becomes a multi-vocal archive opening up dialogues between South Africa and other parts of the continent.
Born in 1976, Orlow lives and works in London and Zurich. He makes multi-media installations that focus on micro-histories and explore blind spots and forms of haunting. This is his first solo presentation at a London public gallery.
The project also features additional works by Subtle Agency, David Goldblatt, Kapwani Kiwanga, Cedric Nunn, Cooking Sectionsa and Philippe Zourgane.