Episode 1. Plant Psychogeographies: Code/ Drift

Essay available May 2019.

TeaserAlexander von Humboldt’s essay, The Geography of Plants (first published 1807) elaborates upon a drawing Humboldt made after having ascended Chimborazo—a stratovolcano in the Andes—and being inspired by this encounter to propose a new way of looking at and thinking about vegetal life, and its entanglements with and across
ecological milieux. This image or Naturgemälde expressed Humboldt’s idea of the relations that exist between plant species and climate zones, latitudes, longitudes and atmospheric variations. His essay expanded what the imag attempted to visually propose: nature as ecology, an interplay of lively phenomena, a ‘never-ending activity of the animated forces’ (Humboldt 1845-62). Prior to this, Western literature had, at first, classified plants instrumentally: according to their medicinal, decorative, structural or culinary qualities. Later, Linnaean attempts at more systematic taxonomies were caught up in the idea of a topographic order that could be imposed upon, and thus used to structure, a seemingly unruly nature. Humboldt’s image, however, rejected botanical taxonomic units for the idea of lively botanical-geographic zones—which could allow for not only a vegetal relation to an ecology of intra-active force specific to different geographic regions, but also for a vegetal relation to human and other movements between such regions; anthropogenic movements such as plantations, deforestations, industrial efflux that, in various ways, shaped and reshaped the potentials for botanical life. In the web of life Humboldt proposed, nature was ‘a reflection of the whole’ (1845-62). ‘Everything’, he argued, ‘is interaction and reciprocal’; underscoring, in turn, the interwoven destinies of various organic and inorganic systems, and the potential vulnerabilities of the particular expressions of suc entangled ecological systems.

Sonic Essay

👂🏽  (Sound file available August 2019).

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