Beyond Plant Blindness: Seeing the Importance of Plants for a Sustainable World



The book stems from the pedagogical, art and botanical project of the same name, undertaken between 2015 and 2018 by a core team of researchers – artists Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson, Dawn Sanders and Eva Nyberg (plant science educators) and Bente Eriksen (botanist).

The team set out to urge a philosophical and actionable move beyond the cultural condition of “plant blindness” and so to disrupt what is a traditional and debilitating human view. Despite the challenges, there is a need for humans to engage conceptually and responsibly with non-human organisms, possessing entirely different physiologies and behaviours. In our engagement with such difference, it is vital that we are not diverted into subjecting plants to human registers and ‘terms of resemblance’, (Houle, 2011) but rather to engage with their ‘plantness’ (Darley, 1990), an approach equating to ‘parities in meeting’ (Snæbjörnsdóttir & Wilson 2010).

Plants live in different temporalities to mammalian life (Sanders, 2019). Consequently, in human perception they can appear still, silent and passive. This is often contingent on the cultural environment in which plants live and the consequently associated narratives. In contemporary city life the complex morphologies and behaviours plants possess are customarily conflated in simplistic terms, such as “house-plant”, “street-tree,” and “food”. These categories speak not at all of the incalculable contributions plants make to the ecological fabric of life on Earth; neither do they acknowledge the complex, temporal and socio-biological systems within which they exist.

Snæbjörnsdóttir & Wilson’s work took multiple forms during the period of the project but was manifest publicly in 2017 as three intervention/installations on as many sites in ‘Botaniska’, the Botanical Gardens in Gothenburg, Sweden. Working closely with plant biologists and plant hunters there, they investigated the far-flung provenances of specific ‘exotic’ plants within the Gardens and explored the historic and mysteriously, local incidence of a soon-to-be-extinct species of grass – together with its extraordinary life cycle.

Sanders, writes through an analysis of accumulated data, engaging with student teacher and public visitor responses to the art interventions in Gothenburg, Botanical Gardens.
Eriksen writes on ‘interpretation’ strategies and methods through visual means in the public presentation of plants in the context of the Anthropocene and extinction.

Other authors include Dawn Sanders (plant science educator), Bente Eriksen (botanist), Giovanni Aloi (Editor in Chief of Antennae; The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture), Lynn Turner (Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths), Ramsey Affifi (University of Edinburgh) and Olof Gerdur Sigfúsdóttir (University of Iceland).
Edited by Mark Wilson, Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Dawn Sanders.
BOOK RELEASE Thursday, 3rd September 2020, The Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BF, UK
Kunst Editionen | Berlin
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