Native and exotic. Towards decolonizing a botanical garden

This paper presents and discusses an artistic intervention conducted by Karolina Grzywnowicz in the Botanic Garden of the Jagiellonian University in July 2019. The intervention was a result of an art&research residency during which the artist spent two weeks in the garden, accompanied by a research team, discovering the history of the institution, observing the way it functions, conducting interviews with its employees and discussing her observations during open meetings held in the garden.

Grzywnowicz’s intervention took a form of a contrfactual, alternative guided tour. It was the artist’s response to the colonial structures of organising knowledge and exhibiting nature that she observed in the garden. The two crucial notions for this tour were, on one hand, the clear divisions between ‘native’ and ‘exotic’ (and value that is attributed to each of the categories); on the other hand — the peripheries, both of the topography of the garden itself, but also as a position from which the discourse of the institution is being constructed and reproduced, in relationship to the ‘center’: former colonial empires and botanical institutions that resulted from their colonial explorations.

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