On the disconnect between the colonial impulse to collect, consume, and commodify ecologies and the violent realities of the colonial experience.
“Orchidelirium,” the orchid madness that gripped Europe over a century ago, is still alive and well. The Estonian presentation at the 59th Venice Biennale utilizes this moniker to highlight the disjuncture between the colonial impulse to collect, consume, and commodify ecologies and the violent realities of the colonial experiences in both Estonia and Indonesia. Using the power of art, visual cultures, and research, this project represents a conscious untangling of patriarchal, neocolonial visual vocabulary and attending structures, as new voices emerge, creating space for reflection and tools for understanding botanical lives.
This collaborative project between artists Kristina Norman and Bita Razavi working in close dialogue with curator Corina L. Apostol has been invited to take place in the Dutch Rietveld Pavilion. Orchidelirium is in conversation with the presentation inside the pavilion, encompassing installations, films, photography, and performance connecting the past with the present, all through the lens of colonial botany and its socio-political ramifications. As such, it gives heightened awareness of the power of choices artists past and present can make to use visibility which has been afforded on an international stage, and how to talk about privilege.
Orchidelirium expands on the topical discussions taking place today on colonial and neocolonial frameworks that are still with us, and as an extension, what forms art can take to challenge power structures rather than represent or describe them. The book is made up of several intertwining contributions: dialogues with Norman and Razavi analyze the works of contemporary artists working at the intersection of art, botany, science, and decolonial methods, while a timeline, commissioned essays, and a glossary of terms offer accessible viewpoints into the complex and multifaceted issues that inform and are raised by the art projects. The autonomous but interrelated contributions and dialogues, which either speak directly to the art projects by Norman and Razavi or follow lines of inquiry along with them, cover prospects from decolonial cultural studies, art criticism and art history, natural history, economic botany, critical race studies, and ecofeminism along with them.