An Exploration of Natural Discourse, Part 1

from KSP members Erin Heath and Valerie Witte

Natural Discourse is a collaborative project between The University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley and a group of artists, writers, architects, and researchers who were invited to spend time in the Garden’s collection of plants, engage with the horticulturists, and develop new site-specific work.

KSP member/writer Hazel White and teacher/writer Denise Newman are two of the project’s participants. Working with the gardeners at the UC Botanical Garden, they composed a series of 25 signs based on the existing scientific signage to provide viewers with information that would facilitate a fresh encounter with the garden flora and site. “[Their] main goal is to foster a remembering of botanical discovery, a greeting rising between human animal consciousness and photosynthate form, crossing porous membranes of skin and bark in an anciently familiar, shared expression of biological animation.”

Each of the signs contains the following information:
1. Name of caretaker (gardener)
2. Most important collaborator (bird, wind, etc.)
3. Poetic name based on the plant’s uniqueness
4. Location in relation to the viewer and surrounding topography
5. Question posed to or by the plant

We, Erin Heath and Valerie Witte, attended the event’s opening this past summer and will be posting a series of entries related to the exhibit and our experiences of the garden. This first entry features photographs of the garden taken by Erin and text superimposed onto the photographs by Valerie. Like the Natural Discourse participants, we intend in these posts to create something new in the spirit of collaboration, incorporating the work of nature, the horticulturalist, and the artists in our interpretation of the Natural Discourse project.


Natural Discourse runs through January 20, 2013. Please check back for more work based on our experiences of this project.

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