nature reserves 🌾


"Nature is a language, can't you read?" The Smiths, 'Ask', 1986

categorising, labelling, and the violence of human imposition of meaning on the natural world are some of the themes tackled in a conceptually rich exhibition curated by Tom Jeffreys at GV Art. in striving to discover the world around us, the significance of how we give meaning and identity to the knowledge gained is often overlooked. Nature Reserves examines the archive and catalogue, and their implications as human endeavours, through the works of 12 contemporary artists complemented by archival materials from museums and universities

labelled tags from the Grant Museum's first collection from 1828 identifying long lost objects now possess a significance of their own. opposite sit jars of an unlabelled honey-coloured liquid called kombucha: a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. the first culture of this installation entitled Microbial Familiars by Hestia Peppe was fed on birch sap and now, beyond its function as a vinegary health drink, it is a catalogue of past information itself, reserved by nature

Laura Culham's painstaking paper sculptures of weeds (main image) lie in delicate boxes on a table, also unlabelled. they are so accurate they almost look like real plants, painted in white house paint. her work serves to remind us that despite intense analysis there are some parts of nature that remain unknown. it is in this third sense that the exhibition achieves its goal: nature holds back, reserving information out of our reach

Nature Reserves questions whether by imposing names on the natural world we have ourselves created the divide between humanity and nature – but perhaps categorising and naming, while argued to be a violent imposition on a ‘voiceless’ party, is in fact a pure extension of the natural order of things. there is a logic and a rationality inherent in the natural world that is reflected in the way humans have evolved to think: cause precedes effect, related organisms share similar properties, and hierarchies of function exist even without the imposition of a label. as the physicist and philosopher Paul Davies argues, human rational thinking is generated by and dependent upon in the existence of a rational natural world. with this in mind, labeling and categorizing no longer seems ‘violent’ but rather a natural extension of physical categories into our linguistic and conceptual worlds

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GV Art, 49 Chiltern Street London W1U 6LY