12 SPECIMENS | Forgotten Seeds

25 04 > 10 07 2021
Marlies Lageweg, Loes Schepens


For the ongoing project SPECIMENS, visual artist Marlies Lageweg focuses on Naturalis’ “economic plant and seed archive”, a library of materials from colonial history assembled by Dutch researchers and trading companies that helped open up the colonies. SPECIMENS reflects on a shift in thinking in terms of ‘Dutch mercantile spirit and economic interests (represented by the seeds and plants in the archive) to imperialism as part of a capitalist system that was able to flourish thanks to the exploitation of people, animals, plants and raw materials on a global scale. By removing seeds and plants from the archive of this economic label and placing them in a new context, Lageweg depicts alternative history narratives. For example, a group of works around the rice grain Blaka Alesi that Lageweg germinated and raised. Another example from the archive is the Papaver Somniferum, whose manipulation contributed to the success of the VOC, the world’s first multinational corporation.

In SPECIMENS Lageweg co-operates with ethnobotanist Prof. dr. Tinde van Andel, who researched the rice story and the way human populations and plant species migrated from Africa to the New World.

Forgotten Seeds
In the Netherlands there is a need to restore native plants. This is crucial for the survival of flora and fauna. Among other things for the threatened survival of (wild) bees, more biodiversity is necessary. But also due to climate change, native nature will become more important in several ways.

“Forgotten seeds” calls attention to these original plants. It is important to know our rich flora instead of the imported exotics that push away our own biological species in our landscape.

Eight plant species (from Buttonwort to Evening Primrose) form the basis of this installation of handmade paper. The visibility and perceptibility of the plant fibers, color, transparency and texture make the plant species more special and exuberant. They encourage the viewer to take a closer look, feel and feel our historical heritage and the importance of nature. This paper project fits into Schepens’ work of the last few years, which seeks to slow down the detachment we experience with nature.

With special thanks to Peter de Groot of Biodivers, for the collaboration and the submission of plants. Also thanks for the use of pictures of the Groningen Institute of Archaeology (GIA)/Deutsches Archaeologisches Institute Berlin (DAI). Photographs are part of The Digital Plant Atlas Project (www.plantatlas.eu) by R.T.J. Cappers, R.Neef & R.M.Bekker.