“Sewing the Empire” Linden Museum Stuttgart

Sewing the Empire

Installation by Marina Gasparini

13 July 2023- “24 February 2024

Italian artist Marina Gasparini works primarily with textile materials. Her art focuses on site-specific installations that are in dialogue with the surrounding architecture. Another focus of her work is the combination of writing and images with textiles. As artist-in-residence at the Linden Museum from May through July 2023, the artist explored selected objects from the Oceania Collection. In this presentation, she introduces the artwork she created during the residency.

Marina Gasparini’s work focused on the materiality of different objects and what things are able to reveal about the interactions between people and different species of plants and animals. Central questions were: How did colonialism, European science, and the commercialization of production, hunting, and exchange affect people and their natural environment, plants, and animals? In particular, what role did botany play in opening up a tropical plant world and making it available for European exploitation?

As a result of her artistic research, twelve artist’s books made of textile materials were created, which deal with the materiality of twelve objects from the permanent exhibition “Oceania – Continent of Islands”. Each of these Leporello or accordion books combines graphics, texts, and historical images in a very special way.

In the course of her stay, Marina also conducted two workshops in which she invited people to participate in her research. Participants learned about different plant and animal species used to make objects, as well as the history of colonial “discovery” and exploitation of the species. They then made thread drawings that were transformed into “fossils” by imprinting them on clay tablets. The line drawings made during the workshops also found their way into two additional textile accordion books.

The twelve artist’s books by Marina Gasparini – leporello books with drawings – are on view in the Linden Museum’s Oceania exhibition.

In the framework of the Taking Care project, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books description:

THE INTERWOVEN WORDS WORKSHOP

NOTEBOOK 1 & 2

LINNEAUS MADE DISTINCTION NOT ONLY OF “TIPE” BUT ALSO OF VALUE

PLANTATOIN WAS OFTEN USED AS SYNONIM FOR COLONY

The two  books contain portraits of some colonial botanists realized during  two workshops at Linden Museum.

Abstract:  “The words that had been interwoven in the very being of the beast have been unravelled and removed: and the living being, in its anatomy, its form, its habits, its birth and death, appears as though stripped naked. Natural history finds its locus in the gap that is now opened up betweenn things and words…”Michel Foucault, The Order of Things Rethinking nature as a ‘discoursive field’, according to Foucault, invites at the margins of other investigations of colonialism, to see the complex ways that plant and animals have been sorted out as ‘native’ or ‘non native’.The project of differentiation, indeed has meant forms of power to wich those practices have been linked. Scientific botany attempted to universalise the system by which we understand life After Linnaeus plant would be given a Latin name,and in the process, the local knowledge that existedabout that plant would be extracted, and the source of the knowledge erased. By supplanting the localname,to a plant that was brought to an institutionsuch as a Botanical Garden the world in which that plant existed also disappeared. Organising and naming species was the task of Botany,that as a form of classification or taxonomy became integral to ordering the wealth of the empire. Colonial expeditions involved a process of both extraction and erasure: the extraction of local knowledge, natural resources, information and labour; and an erasure of Indigenous knowledge and ecological practices. The word “colonial” is derived from the Latin “colere” for “to cultivate land” and thus already linguistically refers to the idea that areas and people who supposedly do not have any history andculture must be civilized and cultivated.

BOOK 1 THE TRANSFER OF EXOTIC PLANTS AS A TRAFFIC OF EMPIRE.

The  book number 1 is dedicated to a  comb from Salomon Islands  decorated with different materials including the stem of the orchid. The accordion book contains illustrations of orchid catalogues and the text is the obituary of a famous “orchid hunter”. Collecting exotic plants and orchids had become a colonialist obsession. There is also a picture of a wooden carving of a bonito, because it seems that the comb was an ornament for young men allowed to put it on since their first  bonito fishing.

BOOK 2 THE CAPACITY OF PLANTS TO SHOW MORE THAN ANIMALS

BOTANY AS THE PRIVILEGED SITE OF NATURAL DISCOURSE

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is  dedicated to another comb  from Caroline  Island that is made  of a so-called ‘Sago Palm” This kind of palm was ‘discovered’ by a Dutch botanist named Rumphius. Organised as a long calligram the book tells the unfortunate story of the botanist who used to include in his studies of plants and trees also their use in medicine and everyday life. Amboines’ atlas was not published until many years after Rumphius’ death because the information it contained was considered too valuable for readers. The calligram also shows some Caroline Island tattoos, the constituent signs of which have sometimes been regarded as a kind of alphabet.

BOOK 3 COLONIAL LANDSCAPE AS TO BE UNDERSTOOD AS ALWAYS LIKE A PAINTING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is inspired by a pan flute from the Admiral Islands .The wooden flute of ‘Parinari’ shows  the name of the collector who donated it to the museum. The book 3 shows a calligram whose shape recalls the weaving of the Admiral Islands where it came from. The text consists in  an article from an early 20th century Australian newspaper describing the murder of the young heiress and ‘explorer’ on the island of Saint Mathias. The text shows contempt for the savage peoples in which the young and naive would-be scientist and botanist unfortunately came across

BOOK 4 TRANSPLANTATION AND SUPPLANTATION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book is about a round fishhook from Yap, Caroline made of tortoiseshell. The shape of the hook is very important in the incidental fishing of sea turtles and for their preservation. The use of fish hooks was not taken for granted in western ocean communities. Ann Chowning commented that at the time of contact with Europe, some companies did not use fish hooks. According to WWF, the J-shape of fish hooks instead of round hooks is the main cause in the threat of sea turtle extinction.

BOOK 5 THE PRESUMED RIGHT TO MANUFACTURE ENVIROMENT BY TRANSPLANTATION

The book refers to a pa’e kea headdress from Marquesas . A woven band of coconut rope evokes the explorations in more and more distant and diverse countries by numerous figures from the scientific naturalistic sector. The Empire organised special missions and figures such as the Italian Odoardo Beccari left for exotic destinations to discover unknown specimens that would then be introduced into private gardens and parks, not only to beautify them but also to examine their ability to acclimatise to our latitudes.

BOOK 6 IT IS GREAT TO HAVE ROOTS AS LONG AS YOU CAN TAKE THEM WITH YOU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is inspired by an HEI TIKI From New Zealand and is about the reinvention of pounamu “hei tiki” between the 1860s and 1940s. Colonial culture was shaped by engagement with pounamu and its analogous forms greenstone, nephrite, bowenite and jade. The exploitation of Ngāi Tahu’s pounamu resource during the West Coast gold rush concluded with post-World War II measures to prohibit greenstone exports. It is established that industrially mass-produced pounamu hei tiki were available in New Zealand by 1901 and in Britain by 1903. There is a little-known German influence on the commercial greenstone industry.However Māori leaders maintained a degree of authority in the new Pākehā-dominated industry through patron-client relationships where they exercised creative control.

BOOK 7 PLANTING AS A FOUNDING GESTURE OF PATERNAL POSSESIVE INSEMINATION.

Book 3 is dedicated to a group of  “KETE” from New Zealand . The three bags are woven from “Phormium tenax”, also known as “New Zealand flax”. the ‘Harakekeke’ trade has had a strong impact on Maori society, health and economy. The traders imported it in exchange mainly for weapons and muskets that made the island’s internal conflicts more bloody. Maori were also asked to work at an unsustainable pace to keep up with trade and colonial industry.

 

BOOK 8 TRANSPLANTATION OF PLANTS ANIMAL AND PEOPLE AS A TECHNOLOGY OF COLONIZATION

Is a book about  a feathers cloack from New Zealand. The cloak is interwoven with feathers, some of which look like sulphur-crested cockatoos. Long-imported populations of these birds in New Zealand now number less than 100.Sulphur-crested cockatoos are kept under control and captured for the pet trade. Each year many chicks are taken from nests and occasionally many adults are captured.

 

BOOK 9 THE EMPIRE CLAIMS TO LAND AND THE STATE OF “NATURAL”

THE DOMINANT REFERS ITSELF AS “NATURE”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is about a fan from Samoa made of Pandanus leaves. The accordion book shows pictures taken by Augustin Kramer during his long stay in Samoa with his wife Elizabeth, who was passionate about weaving. One portrait of Elizabeth shows her weaving a Pandanus basket. Kramer was the foremost foreign anthropological authority on Samoa before Margaret Mead. He believed that the colonies were created from travellers’ tales and he worked on an important treatise where he examined all aspects of life on the islands of Samoa including fishing techniques, weaving, construction . His and his wife’s vision of Oceania were a Polynesian variant of the ‘noble savagery’ paradigm.

 

BOOK 10 COLONIAL LANDSCAPE AS AN EMBROIDERY OF COLORS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book number 10 is about a  whale bone weapon.  For the first 40 years of the 19th century whaling was the most significant economic activity for Europeans in New Zealand. The pursuit had major consequences for Māori society. Some of New Zealand’s early European settlers were whalers. The 1830s saw a big increase in American whalers in New Zealand. On whaling expeditions lasting about three years, in boats ofup to 500 tons, shore stations were also dependent on ‘native wives’ – Māori helpmates for those who served for the season – who cooked, mended clothes and washed. Some whalers supported themselves in the off-season, from October to May, by cultivating gardens and looking after animals, and they often married into Māori communities.