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Research project ‘Naming, possessing Critique of taxonomic practice’ by Agustín Ortiz Herrera, Barcelona Producció 2019–2020

Photo: Agustín Ortiz Herrera

Naming nature and taxonomizing it effectively was a priority for the emerging modern science emanating from the Age of Enlightenment. In its global epistemological conception, plant species from colonial explorations were catalogued in honour of white men of Western culture. At the same time, the cultivation of many of these plants was introduced into the streets and gardens of European cities, while the first botanical institutions were created.

As part of Agustín Ortiz Herrera's project ‘Naming, possessing Critique of taxonomic practice’, awarded the research grant Barcelona Producció 2019-2020 from La Capella (and one of the three projects mentored by Latitudes), and organised in collaboration with Hangar's Fictions of Dis-order program, Ortiz Herrera presents a series of guided tours and reading sessions where queer strategies will be questioning the narratives agreed upon by the modern scientific construct, introducing a decolonial narrative, and thus unveiling the secrets of plant species such as Sparrmannia, Washingtonia or Tulbaghia.


‘The colonial garden. Deconstructing the narratives of modern taxonomy’

Activity: Urban Route around the streets of Poblenou
Date: Friday 23 October 2020, 6–7:30 pm
Ortiz Herrera invites us to join him on a tour that aims to bring to light forgotten episodes in the development of botanical knowledge during the modern project while experimenting with queer/cuir confrontation strategies.
Meeting place to be confirmed. Participants will be notified.
Capacity: 20 people. 
Booking essential: [email protected]

Activity: Guided tour of the Barcelona Botanical Gardens
Date: Saturday 24 October 2020,11.30–13:30 am
During this second dérive, historical events will be explained using a methodology of situated knowledge that exposes the scale of the strategy of the cabinet of curiosities in botanical gardens.
Meeting place to be confirmed. Participants will be notified.
Capacity: 20 people. 
Booking essential: [email protected]

Activity: Modern Nature: a tribute to Derek Jarman
Date: Thursday 5 November 2020, 6–8 pm
Location: Hangar (Sala Ricson)
Reading group and discussion around Derek Jarman’s book Modern Nature. We will also be talking about Jarman’s film The Garden (1990) and his design for his garden at Prospect Cottage in the south-east of England.
Capacity: 40 people. 
Booking essential: https://forms.gle/4MQQXy72SwBxpV6V7
Organised by Hangar. With the support of Caja Negra Editorial.

Agustín Ortiz Herrera (Barcelona, 1970) works between moving image and performance. He studied Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona (1998), film-making in New York (2003) and obtained an MA in Fine Arts at the Konstfack College of Arts, Stockholm (2016). Recent exhibitions include Oblivion at K.R.O.P.P., Uppsala Konsert & Kongress, Uppsala (2019), Konst tar plats at Österbybruk, Sweden (2018), Potenciación a largo plazo at Paratext 24, Hangar, Barcelona (2017) and El umbral de primavera, Madrid (2018). He is currently resident at Hangar – Visual Arts Production and Research Centre in Barcelona.

Co-produced in the context of 
the “Fictions of Dis-order” programme of Hangar's  Research and Transfer of Knowledges activities.


Agustín Ortiz Herrera, Laboratori de Natura, Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona, Video Still, 2020.


Agustín Ortiz Herrera
To Name, To Own. Critique of Taxonomic Practice
Research Project
Barcelona Producció 2019–2020

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Agustín Ortiz Herrera’s research project To Name, To Own. Critique of Taxonomic Practice focuses on taxonomy and the modern classification system for natural species developed by Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778). Linnaeus’s most notable contribution to science was his invention of a system of binomial nomenclature for naming organisms. For example, the two-term name Homo sapiens describes the only living species of the genus Homo: humans. This convention became universally accepted and the nested hierarchy became quickly consolidated as the dominant cognitive basis of the Western worldview of nature.1 Linnaeus’s 1735 volume Systema Naturae not only classified the natural world, it also gendered it and thereby conditioned an understanding of natural history as a highly patriarchal structure. This condition has transcended science and come to dominate other fields of culture and knowledge.2

Ortiz has carried out his research in botanical collections, academic centres, and libraries specialising in Linnaeus’s scientific work located in Uppsala, Sweden (where Linnaeus ultimately became rector of the city’s university) and London (where the world’s oldest active biological society, The Linnean Society of London, was established in 1788).3 Honouring the Society’s motto “Naturae Discere Mores” (To Learn the Ways of Nature), Ortiz furthermore connects Linnaeus’s legacy with two key nodes of research in Spain: the Gabinet Salvador at the Botanical Institute of Barcelona and the former Museum of Zoology in Barcelona’s Ciutadella Park.4 In doing so he aims to bring taxonomic paradigms into the present and to critique them against recent and emerging post-human, queer, feminist and decolonial theories.5

Taking up Teresa Castro’s call for “queering nature” and “queering botanics”, Ortiz’s research refuses the anthropocentric and dualistic conception that has separated humans from non-humans in order to go beyond the constraints of Western exceptionalism and its colonising grip.6 Castro has identified a “plant turn” in current fields of knowledge and creation, where philosophers including Emanuele Coccia are inviting us to think about and with vegetation or fungi and to consider herbivorous or fungal relations and non-hierarchical modes of being. Such an approach chimes with the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s call for “decolonising thought” and to contest the hierarchical relationships between “our” thoughts and those of others.7

Another important point of Ortiz’s research has been foregrounding the scientific work of Lynn Margulis (1938–2011), the unorthodox scientist whose theories around evolution and symbiosis were often mocked and ignored by the male establishment for appearing to contradict Charles Darwin’s dogma of natural selection. As a proponent of the endosymbiotic theory, Margulis posited that simple life forms merged, forming cell organelles, like mitochondria. Life, she believed, is a symbiotic and cooperative union that allows those who associate to succeed, a theory that later has been widely accepted and substantiated.

Ortiz’s research introduces queer epistemologies through a series of gatherings, an urban walking tour and a collective reading. The first will be a two-hour guided tour around Poblenou to identify and discuss plant taxonomy and its colonial provenance. A similar tour will take place the following day in Montjuïc’s Botanical Garden, where Agustín will lead a discussion within the framework of a man-made “natural” environment.

A third activity, developed in collaboration with Hangar – Visual Arts Production and Research Centre in Barcelona as part of its Fictions of Dis-order programme, will consist of a collective reading of Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature. Published in 1991, this biography is a diary of the British film-maker, artist and activist on his late years at Prospect Cottage, on the arid Kent coast in south-east England. Jarman purchased this fisherman’s house in Dungeness in 1986 shortly after being diagnosed as HIV positive, with the aim of withdrawing in the years before his death (in 1994). The now-iconic black timber cottage with yolk yellow window frames is overlooked by the imposing Dungeness nuclear power station and surrounded by a vast shingle beach and a noteworthy garden, the boundaries of which he described as the horizon.

— Latitudes


1 Linnaeus was the first to use it consistently throughout his book, although the system now known as binomial nomenclature was partially developed by the brothers Gaspard and Johann Bauhin 200 years earlier.

2 Linnaeus published 12 editions of Systema Naturae during his lifetime. The 10th edition from 1758 is considered the starting point of zoological nomenclature.

3 Sir James Edward Smith purchased Linnaeus’s botanical, zoological and library collections for 1,000 guineas to found The Linnean Society of London in 1788. It was at a meeting of the Society in 1858 that papers from Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace outlining the theory of evolution by natural selection were first presented. https://www.linnean.org

4 The Salvador family were a dynasty of apothecaries and naturalists from Barcelona that between the 17th and 19th centuries collected over 14,000 specimens. The Gabinet Salvador is the most important example of a Cabinet of Curiosities or wunderkammer in the country, a presentation format which predates the invention of the modern museum and the separation between the sciences and the humanities. https://museuciencies.cat/es/area-cientifica/colecciones/coleccion-salvador/

5 With its origins in the 17th century, the Gabinet Salvador includes the oldest known herbarium in Spain, as well as books, documents, collections of molluscs, fossils, and stuffed animals. The Zoology Museum of Barcelona was located in the Modernista building known as the ‘Castle of the Three Dragons’ between 1920 and 2010 when it was relocated and changed its name to Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona (Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona, aka the ‘Museu Blau’).

6 Teresa Castro, The Mediated Plant, e-flux Journal #102, September 2019, https://www.e-flux.com/journal/102/283819/the-mediated-plant/

7 Emanuele Coccia, The Life of Plants: A Metaphysics of Mixture, Polity Press, 2018.

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Report from Dublin and Derry-Londonderry: research trip to Ireland, 8–14 March 2013

View of Dublin's 1816 Ha'penny Bridge nearby Temple Bar.

Invited by Dublin City Council: The Arts Office, Latitudes visited art spaces, artists' studios and galleries in Dublin and Derry-Londonderry throughout the week.

The schedule included visits to the Red Stables Studios; Temple Bar Gallery + Studios; Fire Station Artists' Studios; Green On Red Gallery; Kevin Kavanagh Gallery and Project Arts Centre - Visual Arts, as well as talks by
Latitudes to students of the MA in Visual Arts Practices (MAVIS) (8 March, 3pm), and at the recently inaugurated CCA Derry~Londonderry (9 March, 7pm) as well as participation in the seminar "Within the Public Realm" at the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane (12 March, 2–5pm), alongside curator Aisling Prior and the artist Sean Lynch.





 Latitudes was invited to Dublin in the context of the Barcelona Mayor's visit to Dublin and the renewing of the twinning agreement between the two cities. Here a coffee table at the Lord Mayor's Mansion House displays "Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape" and "Barcelona" books.


 Talking to MA in Visual Arts Practice (MAVIS) students at The Lab on 8 March. Photo: @lemuela


9 March: After +4h bus ride north, we arrive at Centre for Contemporary Art in Derry–Londonderry for a talk that evening at 7pm.

View of CCA's galleries hosting the touring exhibition The Grand Domestic Revolution GOES ON (GDR), which in Derry-Londonderry "focuses on the contemporary working conditions of caregivers—primarily mothers and grandmothers—in the domestic sphere."


 In the galleries, two of the London-based design collective Åbäke (Patrick Lacey, Benjamin Reichen, Kajsa Ståhl and Maki Suzuki), building a bed inspired by a 1970s design by Enzo Mari.
 

Collection of books on domestic spaces, DYI, cooking, gardening, self-build architecture, urban planning, etc. accompany the The Grand Domestic Revolution GOES ON (GDR) exhibition.


Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh, co-directors of CCA Derry–Londonderry, hosted a wonderful Thai pre-talk dinner.


Sunday walk around the Bloody Sunday Memorial and the Bogside area of Derry-Londonderry.


Two of the murals around Bogside.


Ernesto Che Guevara Lynch mural in Derry-Londonderry's Bogside.


With Aileen and Johan at Kinnagoe Bay in Donegal, site of 1588 shipwreck of one of the Spanish Armada ships.


11 March: Back to our temporary home in Dublin's The Red Stables in St. Anne's Park.


A windswept North Bull Island looking towards the city.

  Visitor Centre at North Bull Island.


12 March: Studio visits at Temple Bar Studios + Gallery in the heart of the city.


Temple Bar Studios + Gallery, a former shirt-factory building, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

 
Studio of artist Alan Butler, one of the 30 on site.

 
Setting up for the 2–5pm talk at The Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery organised by MAVIS, The Hugh Lane and Dublin City Council.


After the seminar, artists Sean Lynch and Michele Horrigan took us to see the 'failed' Richard Serra nearby the Guiness factory.


13 March: Visiting the sculpture workshop facilities of Fire Station Artists' Studios with Development Manager Liz Burns and Director Clodagh Kenny.

Studio of Martin Healy in Fire Station Artists' Studios and his work around perpetual motion. 


Artist Maria Mc Kinney research on wheat weaving and straw craft techniques for her project 'Garlands'.


Karl Burke "wooden drawings" photos and renderings.


Crossing the Sean O'Casey bridge to begin a gallery tour including Green on Red Gallery, Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Project Arts Space and Temple Bar Studios + Gallery, with Dublin-based critic, curator and Senior Lecturer at the School of Irish, Celtic, Folklore & Linguistics, Caioimhin MacGiolla Leith.


Group show "Material Fact" at Green On Red Gallery included works by Silvia Bächli, Paul Doran, Dennis McNulty and Gerard Byrne (photographed), one of the more well-known Irish artists.


'Detached' group show at Project Arts Centre, guest curated by The Artists' Institute director and founder Anthony Huberman, recently appointed Director of CCA Wattis in San Francisco.


Alice Channer's "Amphibians" (left) and Sunah Choi's "Abdrucke (Imprints)", 2011-13 (wall)

 

Temple Bar Studios + Gallery, hosted 'Or tears, Of Course' a solo show of British artist Ed Atkins (photos above and below).

 

Gathering plenty of material during studio visits, lunches, dinners and meetings.


14 March: Morning visit to the wondrous Natural History, a 1857 building displaying "animals from Ireland and overseas, also geological exhibits from a total collection of about 2 million scientific specimens".


 Ground floor gallery dedicated to dedicated to "Irish animals, featuring giant deer skeletons and a variety of mammals, birds and fish".




The minimal education department are doing a great job at dynamising the nicknamed "Dead Zoo" or "Museum of Museums": The 5 year old giraffe has her own twitter account @SpotticusNH and they will soon host a "night at the museum" event where a few kids will be able to sleep (or try to) in the museum galleries.


 The stunning upper gallery was "laid out in the 19th Century in a scientific arrangement showing animals by taxonomic group. This scheme demonstrated the diversity of animal life in an evolutionary sequence." Unfortunately the second and third floor balconies have been closed due to a safety review as they do not comply with current safety regulations, which impedes visitors from seeing, amongst many other things, the museum's unique collection of glass models manufactured in Dresden in the late 19th Century by the father-and-son team of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka




All photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org (except when noted otherwise in the photo caption)
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Seminario 'Sobre los distintos formatos de las prácticas curatoriales', A*Study, 9–13 Mayo 2011

Mesa trabajo A*Study. Foto: A*Desk

Entre el 9 y el 13 Mayo, Latitudes impartirá el seminario 'Prácticas curatoriales. Sobre los distintos formatos de las prácticas curatoriales'. Organizado por A*Desk, A*Study es un programa de estudios de Noviembre a Junio enfocado en la introducción y el desarrollo profesional en el ámbito del arte contemporáneo.

Durante el seminario se analizarán distintos formatos curatoriales que han tenido lugar desde los años sesenta de la mano de comisarios y artistas, aunque se
concentrará especialmente en la producción de la última década a partir casos de estudio de carácter transversal e internacional. Asimismo, se investigarán los retos y los conflictos que afrontan instituciones, artistas, comisarios y el público.


Fotograma de 'Friendly Enemies'. "David (inspired by Michelangelo)" (2005) de Serkan Özkaya.

El seminario se iniciará con la proyección del documental 'Friendly Enemies' (2010, 54', inglés), realizado por la comisaria holandesa Danila Cahen. Filmado durante la preparación, montaje e inauguración de la Bienal de Estambul en 2005, Cahen aprovecha el work-in-process de este evento para entrevistar a profesionales del arte contemporáneo sobre la relación entre el comisario y el artista y para intentar definir el rol que ambos juegan en la práctica curatorial. A través de material de archivo y entrevistas a comisarios como Saskia Bos, Charles Esche, Alex Farquharson, Vasif Kortun, Gerardo Mosquera, o artistas como Hüseyin Alptekin, Yael Bartana, Pavel Büchler, Daniel Buren, Dan Perjovschi (entre otros) se recuperan momentos importantes en la historia de las exposiciones que intentan analizar y definir la cambiante labor del comisario y su relación con el artista.



Seminario en A*Study. Fotos: Gerda Kochanska. Cortesía: A*Desk.

A*Desk
Carrer de Tagamanent, 9
08012 Barcelona

Agradecemos a Danila Cahen por dejarnos compartir su documental con fines educativos.
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