Look, this is so so nice:
The commodification of plants – as ornaments, cash crops or sources of energy – is a recurring topic in the work of London-based American artist Rachael Champion. Her monumental installation Primary Producers (2014) is a pebble-dashed landmass with sinkholes in which wild and specific strains of freshwater algae grow in pools of water. Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, were the primary producers of life on earth during what scientists have called the Great Oxygenation Event, 2.3 billion years ago. By pairing them with the reconstituted stone of pebble-dash – a popular but often-disparaged material used on modern British houses – she stages a rehabilitation of these two organic commodities. Champion’s democracy of materials brings to mind ‘the ecological thought’ propounded by philosopher Timothy Morton, in his eponymous 2010 book. For Morton, whose writing has been associated with the object-oriented ontology movement, this mode of thought involves acknowledging and valuing the interconnectedness of all objects and organisms. Morton discusses how the history of ideas has produced: ‘“Nature” as a reified thing in the distance, under the sidewalk, on the other side where the grass is always greener […] a special kind of private property, without an owner.’ Our alienated sense of the plant and animal life that surrounds us has caused the rift between humans and their so-called ‘environment’ that has produced catastrophic results for the planet and its species. Ecological thought – applied in science, poetry or art – would result in an ethically sound approach to human and non-human living organisms.
It’s not surprising that Morton’s and Bennett’s theories have found eager proponents in the art world: the tenor of their arguments is reminiscent of countless discussions about the ‘vibrancy’ of artworks, expressed through their colour, mood, affect or transcendent properties.