The project You Can Learn a Lot of Things From the Flowers brings back to light a forgotten collection of preserved plant specimens that was once assembled by a passionate, amateur botanist. The true identity of this self-taught man remains shrouded in mystery and all that is known is his enormous appetite for pseudo-scientific research in the natural world.
From his studies in ecology it is possible to trace the foundation of his ideas back to the work of Carl Linnaeus, an eighteenth century Swedish botanist. In his book Systema Naturae, Linnaeus first attempted a revolutionary system of taxonomy based around the number of a flower’s reproductive organs, thus recognising the sexuality of plants. The pollination of stamens and pistils occurring in the secrecy of voluptuous corollas were suddenly mimicking an alcove’s romantic encounter. Botany opened up to the intimacy of sex.
As a late and devoted apostle of Linnaeus teachings, our inexperienced botanist decided to combine his research on botanical conservation with his passion for "les jeunes filles", young ladies photographed in seductive poses for the centrefolds of adult publications. The result of this curious obsession is an extensive collection of hybrid creatures where each playmate is morphed into the nymph Daphne. An Herbarium of botanical pin-ups.
Created within the interception and disjunctions of the plant silhouette, what was once the recipient of the voyeur’s gaze has now become a specimen to be studied and analysed. The male sexual projections and stereotypes are mediated and mitigated by the transformation. The plant and the object of desire: the two things brought together are equal. The botanist becomes the voyeur and vice-versa.
‘Since you cannot be my wife, you shall assuredly be my tree. I will wear you for my crown… And, as eternal youth is mine, you also shall be always green, and your leaf know no decay.’
Apollo and Daphne in Ovid’s Metamorphosis
Following the 2014 exhibition at Less is More Projects in Paris, Paolo Giardi presents an excerpt from the series of You Can Learn a Lot of Things From the Flowers, 28 cut-out intervention on original vintage centrefold, created between 2011 and 2014.
The title of the series is borrowed from the lyrics of All In the Golden Afternoon – the scene of the talking flowers – in Disney’s 1951 Alice in Wonderland. The project is also a tribute to the wonderful and evocative world created by Marcel Proust in his ode to youth in A l’Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur.
In an attempt of preserving cultural resources the artist is adopting, not only the fictitious role of the botanist, but also of the role of the conservationist concerned with the re-materialisation of an appropriated image and concept.
Paolo Giardi is an Italian artist born in 1964. He lives and works in Florence and London.
This exhibition is a collaboration between Less is More Projects, Paris and room capacity, Berlin