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Contemporary Arts Center
Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center
for Contemporary Art
44 E. 6th Street,
Cincinnati, OH 45202

513 345 8400

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Ecologies of Elsewhere

Plants as sites of healing and change

Started
10 February
2023

Ended
06 August
2023

Exhibition Highlights

Exhibition Details

The long-term and ongoing effects of slavery, colonialism, and environmental harm are intertwined. Histories of botany and medicine are closely connected as enslaved Africans brought botanical and medicinal matter and epistemologies to the Americas during the Atlantic Slave trade. Torkwase Dyson takes on the ongoing legacies of plantation economies by drawing connections between ecology, infrastructure, and environmental racism. With the forced movement of people came the movement of seeds, plants, and crops. Similarly, Kapwani Kiwanga explores how rice grains traveled with enslaved people–in clothing or braided into hair–from West Africa to the Americas as a form of survival. Rashid Johnson’s use of shea butter and black soap symbolizes the medical and healing qualities of plants. Sammy Baloji takes on the large western conglomerates in the destruction of African environments and ecologies. From the struggle for land ownership to healing foraging practices and the fraught histories of food production, MADEYOULOOK, Las Nietas de Nonó, Emily Hanako Momohara, and Ilze Wolff are attentive to colonial garden inheritances, the over-industrialization of food, and immigrant labor practices. Others, such as Firelei Báez and Lisandro Suriel, address the spiritual, diasporic, and symbolic images of place and plant life such as cotton.

Ecologies of Elsewhere sheds light on knowledge formations informed by ancestral connections to plants or queer erotic desire and magic realism. Recognizing the materiality, spiritual, and historic importance of plant life, Zheng Bo, Eric Gyamfi, Lorena Molina, and Abel Rodríguez, delve into plant matters, interactions, and intimate conversations with what the land and water conjure. Plants and flowers are deeply performative, sensual, and ceremonial as Michaela Yearwood-Dan and Rachel Youn show. What happens when we understand plants as witnesses, historical agents, multispecies narrators, and storytellers? As we grapple with the possibilities of another world, Ecologies of Elsewhere offers a space for contemplation and sensuous ecological awareness.

This exhibition contains mature content.

Featured Artists:

Sammy Baloji
Firelei Báez
Zheng Bo
Torkwase Dyson
Eric Gyamfi
Emily Hanako Momohara
Rashid Johnson
Kapwani Kiwanga
Las Nietas de Nonó
MADEYOULOOK
Lorena Molina
Abel Rodríguez
Lisandro Suriel
Ilze Wolff
Michaela Yearwood-Dan
Rachel Youn

This exhibition is generously sponsored by James A. Miller and Lauren Chesley Miller, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, and the Robert Lehman Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Rosemary and Mark Schlachter, Peter Quinnan and Mark Boire, emersion DESIGN and James Y. Cheng, Linda and James Miller, Steven W. Jemison and Phyllis McCallum, Elizabeth Solway, and the members of the WOMXN.

Annual exhibition support is provided by Gale and Dave Beckett, Belflex and Jason McCaw, Barbara Weston Sasser and Carol Weston Roberts, Ronnie and John Shore, Helen and Brian Heekin, Barbara Myers and the generous contributors to the CAC Exhibition Fund. General operating support for the CAC is provided by ArtsWave, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, P&G Fund, and the Johnson Foundation.

Curated by

Dr. Chandra Frank, an independent curator and Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati, and Dr. Portia Malatjie, Senior Lecturer in Visual Cultures at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art and Adjunct Curator of Africa and African Diaspora at Tate Modern, London.

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