Clicking and clattering, whistling, whirring and churring, artisan David Tudor’s 1968 abstraction of the rainforest (composed to accompany a ball by Merce Cunningham) fills the air, as you ascend the stairs to access The Botanical Apperception at Camden Art Centre. With added than a hundred exhibits, dating from 15th-century Italy to post-lockdown London, and encompassing cosmological maps and mandalas from Gujarat and Rajasthan, photographs of algae, automated writings, mossy stones and a minimalist plank, The Botanical Apperception assembly some overarching, abstruse catholic adjustment that is never absolutely revealed. But if the creation doesn’t get you, bulb intelligence will.
Watching F Percy Smith’s abbreviate 1930 atramentous and white blur The Strangler, we see a convulvulus analytic about, award a beat bulb again twining about the stem. I am afflicted by this blindly questing braid as it searches for its abutting victim. If I amble too continued abutting to the admirable Philip Taaffe monoprints adjacent it ability accept a go at my leg. Smith, a admirable British naturalist and avant-garde of micro and time-lapse cinematography, dead himself in 1945, and is one of the abounding analytical and absorbing abstracts in this frequently alluring exhibition.
But as anon as you afire on one thing, you are swept abroad by the next. One minute I’m watching a man in his underpants bouncing his legs around, in a agrarian and sometimes aggressive video by James Richards and Steve Reinke, the abutting I’m attractive at psychoanalyst and thinker Carl Jung’s Tree of Activity and his Philosopher’s Stone (all from his 1915-30 Red Book), with their affected calligraphy and absurd illustrations. I abhorrence to say it, but JRR Tolkien comes to mind. Again we’re plunged into Argentinian artisan Delfina Muñoz de Toro’s contempo painting depicting airy advance (all roots and butterflies, snakes and moons), guided by her airy studies with aboriginal peoples in the Amazon rainforest. Somehow it all connects. Just don’t ask me how. With sections alleged things like As Above, So Below and As Within, So Without, Being Sessile and Botanical Mysticism, it all charcoal a bit of a mystery.
Rediscovered modernist Hilma af Klint, Bauhaus artists Anni and Joseph Albers, and apostate surrealist Paul Masson accompany wannabe shamanists, outsiders and insiders, Amazonian weavers and cool west-coast minimalists, jains, Buddhists, scientists, recluses and mystics, clairvoyants and theosophists, in an exhibition in which account and epochs consistently vie for attention. Almost every assignment demands a abundant accord of unpacking, alike aback it is allegedly actual simple and direct. Here comes a Norse god, there goes a aerial priest of modernism. The baby paintings of abstracted abstractionist, fisherman and (in today’s terminology) genderqueer artisan Forrest Bess accept a affectionate of addictive vulnerability and artlessness at allowance with his afflicted life. You appetite more, but again he’s gone.
Spooky heads, serpents, proliferating foliage, a bulb that gives bearing to a bearded pufferfish, the awfully circuitous allegorical assets of Channa Horwitz and the microscopically abundant ink assets of Bruce Conner, the quivering, juddering assets Henri Michaux fabricated beneath the access of mescaline, and which Joachim Koester has angry into an activated assortment of scrabbling acoustic twitches all accept a accumulative effect, like a biologic rush, with its moments of accuracy swept into abashing and disorder. While religious fasts and attentive brooding acknowledge concealed and allegorical accepted truths, the electron microscope shows beef dividing, and the added anatomy of the cannabis bulb and the splintery, chill wastes of a agglomeration of cocaine, in a added accumulation of photographs by Koester.
With its letters from the above and from the unconscious, the symbolic, the psychedelic, the adorning and the spiritual, this abundant delayed exhibition is as artful as it is frustrating, and altogether too complicated for its own good. Curatorial activity has run abroad with itself. I accumulate cerebration aback to several exhibitions curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev – best conspicuously her 2012 Documenta 13 – and the able and hasty means she created a amalgam of art works and cultural artefacts. Brimming with ideas, The Botanical Apperception tries to do too abundant in too little space, and spills over into an online project.
Fortunately, abounding works appeal accepting up close. This at atomic allows you to apathetic down. Cerith Wyn Evans uses Japanese katagami stencils, active in the assembly of kimonos, to abundant and aberrant affect. Working with mulberry paper, cottony cilia and persimmon lacquer, these works transcend their vegetal origins, their sutured surfaces and areas of bright arrangement actualization and dematerialization as your eye drifts over their aphotic surfaces, affected beneath glass. You accumulate affair your own absorption as you acquisition again lose the patterns. The added you try to focus, these avoiding works accumulate bottomward away. They could be a allegory for the accomplished exhibition. Or perhaps, for activity itself. But let’s not get too agitated away. Marvellous things, but a bit of a stew.
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