Everything has a name, or the potential to be named

30 Apr 2009 – 20 Jun 2009


London, United Kingdom


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  • Vauxhall/Oval

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Maria Thereza Alves, Vasco Araujo, Alberto Baraya, Matthew Buckingham, Luis Camnitzer, Antonio Caro, Jimmie Durham, Andrea Geyer, Miler Lagos, Gabriel Sierra. Everything has a name, or the potential to be named* is a group exhibition that focuses on how European colonial powers during the 17th and 18th Centuries appropriated the natural environment in the Americas. The exhibition features works which address how organisms, land and people have been respectively classified, renamed and dislocated by generations of explorers and colonisers, as a consequence of economically and scientifically motivated expeditions by European empires to the Americas. These forms of cultural domination — from the re-naming of a region, to the classification of a medicinal plant — have left lasting legacies, which remain in common use today. In reconsidering this history, many of the artists in the exhibition critically re-appropriate such colonial interpretative systems. By examining the relationship between land, language, botany and colonialism, they reveal the imperialist quest to produce a universal index with which to perceive and tame the other and ‘unknown'. They do so through research, documentary, film and mapping practices; via text and outdoor interventions; and by using tactics, which are often humorous, to evade or overcome determinism. As part of the exhibition, academics from various fields will give lectures contextualizing the works. Literature produced between the 17th and 20th Centuries by writers, geographers, scientists and economists, once back from their expeditions, will be displayed in Gasworks' reading area. The public programme will enlarge the geo-historical parameters of the exhibition by addressing present-day issues of land ownership and contemporary cases of exploitation of natural resources which have resulted in the reconfiguration of a geography, a culture, a population or an ecosystem — in and beyond the Americas.


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