The research projects by Bat-ami Artzi, Sria Chatterjee, Hanin Hannouch, Luke Keogh, and Lucas Vanhevel are part of the Research and Fellowship Program 4A Laboratory: Art Histories, Archaeologies, Anthropologies, Aesthetics (4A Lab), a cooperation between the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut and the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.
4A Lab Fellows 2019/20: Abstracts & Bios
Mutual Growth: The Agency of Plants as Reflected in Inca and Chimú Visual Culture
Present Andean communities express animist ontologies in several ways. One such manifestation is the perception that not only humans have the potential to rear and grow; there are potent entities that raise humans and other beings. Plants in the human domain, the cultivation areas, raise human beings, and they in turn are raised by the apus, the spirits of the sacred mountains. Similar perception was documented by Spanish colonial chronicles. Proceeding backward in time, we have information on animism among pre-colonial societies, however, these refer only to topographical features and objects. This research explores the possibility that similar conceptions regarding plant animism existed among ancient Andean societies. The research focuses on two political entities, the Inca (1400–1532 A.D) and the Chimú Kingdom of the Peruvian North coast (900–1470 A.D), which was integrated into the Inca Empire. Given that there is no representation of a landscape with vegetation in Andean art, the representation of a specific plant warrants serious attention and consideration. It might, for example, be an identifying attribute or a motif that conveys a message. The research aims to understand the meaning of the plant representations in the two artistic styles. It also delves into the social roles and agency of the represented plants within these societies. In order to understand the social roles they played, the research explores the relations represented in art between human and plant, and between animal and plant. The study also examines whether the artistic expression of the two styles echoes animism ontologies. In addition, the research places crosswise the social role of a represented plant and the artefact's function and agency. Since the artefacts that constitute the database of this study have dual agency, as objects and as represented plants, the research uses two types of theoretical framework related to the anthropology of art and to the anthropology of nature. In recent years, anthropologists working in these two currents have been challenging the dichotomies between humans and non-humans, in one case referring to human-made objects and in the other to all non-humans in human surroundings.
Bat-ami Artzi, PhD of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is an art historian, archaeologist and curator interested in the art and material culture of ancient and colonial Andean indigenous societies. Her doctoral thesis, Beyond the Image: Femininity and Other Gender Expressions in the Ancient Art of the South-Central Andes (800 B.C–1532 A.D), successfully reconstructs many aspects of the ancient Andean gender structures and their expressions in art, society, religion, and ideology. Artzi’s research centers on the material representation of ideas and notions through forms, technologies, materials and iconographies. Her research also focuses on the way Andean societies conceived the European invasion and how colonial art interlaced the Andean tradition with the European one. Dr. Artzi’s studies were funded by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (2018, 2011), the Minerva Foundation (2015, 2011) and by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2010–2014, 2019). For one of her publications she has been awarded the Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality in the Humanistic Disciplines (2017).
Nature & Nation: Art, Design and Political Ecologies in the Twentieth Century
With a particular focus on plants and ‘plantscapes’, this project, probes the relationships between art and the politics of nature in colonial and postcolonial South Asia with a view to the transnational networks and imaginaries that emerge around them. It examines how ideas of nature were embedded in artistic practices and aesthetic discourses, and how both of these were tied to politics and practices of nation-making in a long twentieth century account of pre- and post-independence India. Through a focus on the Santiniketan-Sriniketan project (established in early 1900s British India) in Bengal, and the National Institute of Design funded by the Indian government and the United States-based Ford Foundation (established late 1950s, after independence in 1947) in Ahmedabad and the transregional and transnational networks of ideas, agents, and institutions around them, it unpacks art and design’s deep relations to colonial and modern science and anthropology between colonial rule and the Cold War. It zooms in, for example, on key relationships between India, Japan, Britain and the United States.
Sria Chatterjee holds a PhD from Princeton University. She was awarded Princeton University’s Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Fellowship in 2019. She has held fellowships at the Yale Centre for British Art (2019), Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-Institut (2013–14, 2017), a Paul Mellon Junior Research Fellowship (2016), and grants from the Rockefeller Archive Center (2017), and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (2013, 2017). She was the Frank J. Mather fellow at Princeton in 2012. Sria holds degrees from Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India and Oxford University, UK. She was on the curatorial team for Das Bauhaus in Kalkutta, an exhibition held at the Bauhaus Stiftung in Dessau, Germany, from March through June 31, 2013, and has been a part of Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s Anthropocene Curriculum project since 2016.
Colonial Landscapes and Organic Vision: Robert Lohmeyer's Dreifarbenphotographie of Africa
Plants dominate the landscape photography of photo-chemist and color photographer Dr. Robert Lohmeyer (1879–1959), whose archives are housed at the Ethnologisches Museum. The ca. 400 photographs and original glass plates stem from the two earliest color photography expeditions to Africa, which Lohmeyer undertook in 1907 and 1909 after having mastered the subtractive three-color process Dreifarbenphotographie nach der Natur; developed by Adolf Miethe (1862–1927). A selection of his images was reproduced throughout the two-volume book Die Deutschen Kolonien (released in 1909 and 1910) whose circulation long outlived the German colonies and can still be purchased online today. By investigating the uneasy shift away from the dwindling anti-racist and liberal anthropology towards the more völkisch ethnography informed by holism in the Kaiserreich at the turn of the last century, I analyze Lohmeyer’s photographic canon “Tropenphotographie” which he based entirely on the representation of "tropical" nature and by extension of Naturvölker through the Museum's collection. My contention is that “Tropenphotographie” is representative of a new organic paradigm of vision and of an embodied observing spectator of ethnographic imagery which is emblematic of the changes in the hierarchy between the marginalized color photographic image and the dominant black-and-white one. My work centers on the mechanical color generation disclosed by Dreifarbenphotographie, as well as the various discussions on color vision and the functioning of sight traversing the natural sciences (including anthropology) during the early 20th century, in order to posit a hitherto unexamined visual and epistemic break with the perspectiveless vision proper to German anthropology’s visualization technologies of the previous century.
Dr. Hanin Hannouch is International Research Fellow for Photography at the German Maritime Museum – Leibniz Institute for Maritime History (DSM) since January 2019 where she examines exoticization in the interwar photography of Hanns Tschira. Throughout 2018, she was a post-doctoral fellow of the Ethnologisches Museum of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, with a research project partly funded by the De Gruyter Stiftung examining Robert Lohmeyer’s three-color photography collection. In 2017, she received her PhD from IMT Lucca, Scuola Alti Studi with a doctoral thesis on Sergei Eisenstein as an art historian and was a guest researcher at Jacobs University Bremen. She also completed the International Master Program in Art History and Museology (IMKM) at the University of Heidelberg and the Ecole du Louvre (Paris) in 2014, after a first Masters degree and Bachelor in European Art history at the University of Saint-Esprit De Kaslik.
The Wardian Case: Artefact of the Anthropocene
In 1829, the surgeon and amateur naturalist Nathanial Bagshaw Ward accidentally discovered that plants enclosed in airtight glass cases could survive for long periods without watering. The Wardian case, a simple portable greenhouse used for moving plants, revolutionised the movement of plants around the globe. After the first experiment, the cases were used for over a century. In the cases plants had greater chance of survival when in transit. The case facilitated plant movements around the globe with significant commercial, industrial and environmental consequences. Certainly a product of the gardening crazes of the Victorian era, the Wardian case is also an artefact of the Anthropocene. The case allowed a human facilitated movement of nature that was unprecedented in earth history. This project investigates the Wardian case as an artefact of the Anthropocene and explores the possibilities of the Wardian case exhibition that combines both histories and contemporary art. The project also showcases the Wardian case as a provocation for discussions on the special theme PLANTS at the 4A Laboratory.
Luke Keogh is a curator and historian. In 2011, he received his PhD from the University of Queensland, Australia. His research and writing have received many awards and fellowships, including the International Curatorial Fellowship from the Kulturstiftung des Bundes and the Deutsches Museum, Munich (2013–2014), the Gerda Henkel Research Scholarship (2014–2017), the Sargent Award from the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University (2015–16) and the Redmond Barry Fellowship from the University of Melbourne and the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne (2017–18). Luke was one of the curators on the internationally acclaimed exhibition Welcome to the Anthropocene: the Earth in our Hands (Deutsches Museum, Munich, 2015–17). From 2014 to 2019, he has conducted a major research project on the global environmental history of the Wardian case, a portable greenhouse for moving plants. His book The Wardian Case: How a Simple Box Moved Plants and Changed the World is published by the University of Chicago Press in 2020.
Fungi in the Early Modern Low Countries: Image-forming, Ethnomycology and Beyond
Even in the current climate of reactionary academic renegotiation of the disastrous traditional relational ontology of Man and nature, Fungi, comprising a natural kingdom of their own, as ubiquitous and essential to life as we know it as Plantae and Animalia, are still strongly neglected. Fungi are in fact more closely related to the kingdom of Animalia we belong to, than to Plantae. Not being able to photosynthesize on their own, they share a crucial aspect of the human condition, always and forever having to be dependent on plant intermediaries. As natures primary recyclers, disassembling large molecules into simpler ones, fungi play a vital and indispensable role in the web of life. While recent scientific studies of fungi by authors like Suzanne Simard, Paul Stamets and Peter Wohlleben have been enlightening as to the crucial role fungi play and have always played in ecosystems and life in general, comprehensive approaches from cultural studies have been all too few and far in between. With my research, it is my intention to contribute to filling this gap. Exploring the presence of this seemingly ever elusive natural kingdom within defined chronological and geographical boundaries I want to elucidate the vastly unstudied ways in which fungi have been entangled in cultural history. First, I want to approach the subject from my training as an art historian, charting and examining as much of the visual culture of mushrooms within this defined timeframe and geographical delineation as possible. Second I want to explore the subject from an ethnomycological approach, studying the ways in which early modern people have noticed and interacted with these organisms. And third I want to go beyond both art history and ethnomycology to study the vast ways in which fungi have been present and influential historical actors in this area and period even without anyone noticing directly.
Lucas Vanhevel received his MA in Art History at the university of Ghent, Belgium, with a thesis on mycological illustration in the early modern Low Countries, titled Op het Tooneel der Campernoelien: Mycologische illustratie in de Nederlanden: 1550–1700 (EN: The theatre of mushrooms: mycological illustration in the Netherlands 1550–1700). Lucas’ work focuses primarly on fungi and mushrooms in culture-historical entanglements.