Botanical Drift / Ebbe Stub Wittrup
January 23 – May 17, 2020

Ebbe Stub Wittrup, Botanical Drift. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, 2020. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

In the exhibition Botanical Drift, the artist Ebbe Stub Wittrup addresses national identity and cultural ownership. As the artist follows in the footsteps of the Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich, a narrative emerges on Western economy and scientific logic as opposed to local knowledge and experience.

Ebbe Stub Wittrup, mostly known for his photographic works, shows a different aspect of his practice in this exhibition. In four installations created specifically for Copenhagen Contemporary’s hall 5, he examines phenomena, linking the imperial self image of past times with present day global power struggles.

 

Ebbe Stub Wittrup, Botanical Colours. Indigo, Cutch, Lac, Madder, Kamala & Myro Balan. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, Botanical Drift, 2020. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Ebbe Stub Wittrup, Botanical Colours. Indigo, Cutch, Lac, Madder, Kamala & Myro Balan. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, Botanical Drift, 2020. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Ebbe Stub Wittrup, Botanical Drift. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, 2020. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Ebbe Stub Wittrup took inspiration for the exhibition from the Forstbotaniske Have (Arboretum) in Charlottenlund, Copenhagen, home to a tree with the strange name of Pinus wallichiana. The tree is named after, and by, the Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786–1854), who was stationed in the Danish – later British – colony Serampore in India in 1807. Here, Wallich began the comprehensive task of collecting local plants and classifying it according to the contemporary example, the Swedish botanist nonpareil Carl von Linné, who had set out a system of genera and species, which could be used to classify all the world’s plants. The collected specimens from the Indian flora was described, pressed, and documented on sheets of paper distributed to botanical gardens throughout Europe.

Botanical Drift shows a selection of these original sheets of paper in seven specially produced showcases in ash wood, one of the wood species discovered and named by Wallich. Using a Western plant classification and naming system as an atlas of the Colonial Age, Ebbe Stub Wittrup paints a picture of the prevailing view of humanity and of the world during this period as well as the beginnings of industrialization. The story of Wallich reflects a time when Western nations not only conquered large territories by force, but also in terms of language by overwriting local experience and knowledge.

 

Ebbe Stub Wittrup, Botanical Drift. Wallich Herbarium. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, Botanical Drift, 2020. Photo: Anders Sune Berg
Ebbe Stub Wittrup, Twenty-Four Characters. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, Botanical Drift, 2020. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Ebbe Stub Wittrup, Twenty-Four Characters. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, Botanical Drift, 2020. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Seven large-scale textile banners colored with vegetable dyes from the Indian flora extend from the ceiling of hall 5. Using color pigment extracted from local plants has, for millennia, played a key role in the emergence of myths, traditions, and spiritual rites worldwide. The flags fly like territorial markers above the exhibition, addressing questions on national and cultural identity.

An installation consisting of twenty-four small and two large gloved hands cast in black-patinated bronze spread across the floor of the exhibition. The gloves form various hand signals, so-called mudrās, originating from Indian mythology. Mudrās is a spiritual practice and language traditionally denoting symbolic or territorial gestures in Hinduism and Buddhism, but is seen in many cultures. The hand signals embody an extensive vocabulary, crystallizing into a form of communication which could not be translated or understood by the colonial power.

The fourth installation in the exhibition represents the interchange and balance of power between India and Great Britain in the form of a modified Jaguar MK 2 created as a collaboration between Ebbe Stub Wittrup and the architect Peter Møller Rasmussen. The original interior of the car has been replaced by parts shaped in Indian wood species named by Nathaniel Wallich. The Jaguar company, a classic British style icon, was purchased in 2008 by the Indian group Tata Steel, which originally produced steel for the Jaguar car when India was still a British colony. The Jaguar in Botanical Drift relates a narrative about the renegotiation of identity and power as India’s post-colonial response to the former colonial power – marking a shift in world order.

 

Ebbe Stub Wittrup & Peter Møller Rasmussen, MK 2 Wallichiana. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, Botanical Drift, 2020. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Ebbe Stub Wittrup & Peter Møller Rasmussen, MK 2 Wallichiana. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, Botanical Drift, 2020. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Ebbe Stub Wittrup, Botanical Drift. Installation view at Copenhagen Contemporary, 2020. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

In this way, Ebbe Stub Wittrup cross-cuts between economic, cultural, linguistic and botanical interpretation strategies. In their hybrid form, the works appear as renegotiable objects, a veritable collage of existing and new meanings exploring issues of origin, power, and counterpower: is it possible to reclaim something that has been taken from you? How does the accompanying story go?

The exhibition at Copenhagen Contemporary is presented in collaboration with Gammel Holtegaard. The two art institutions will be showing solo shows of Ebbe Stub Wittrup at the same time. While the exhibition at Gammel Holtegaard is based on Stub Wittrup’s photographic work, Copenhagen Contemporary shows sculptural and installation works. The two exhibitions will give visitors a unique opportunity to experience a broad selection of Stub Wittrup’s practice from his photographic works to new site-specific installations.

Botanical Drift by Ebbe Stub Wittrup is supported by Statens Kunstfond, 15. Juni Fonden, Beckett Fonden, Kvadrat, Nordic Artbank and Randers Handsker.

 

Botanical Drift / Ebbe Stub Wittrup
January 23 – May 17, 2020 / Copenhagen Contemporary
Visit the exhibition page >

Robert Rauschenberg: Japanese Clayworks
Apr 8 – Jul 9, 2022
This comprehensive exhibition brings together rarely seen artworks of Rauschenberg's series using a newly developed technique that combined ancient...
+
ARS22 / Living Encounters
Apr 8 – Oct 16, 2022
Art has the power to investigate society and present alternative interpretations of our shared world. The featured works raise...
+
Charging Myths / On-Trade-Off
Mar 6 – Aug 21, 2022
How is technological innovation dependent on raw materials? This question is key in the exhibit tracing the origins of...
+
Circulation(s) / 12th edition
European Young Photography Festival
Circulation(s) is back with a program that reveals the vitality, creativity, and diversity of emerging photography. For two months,...
+
Ukraine: Updates from Magnum
Photographers in the Field
Magnum Photographers are on the ground in Ukraine documenting the Russian invasion and its impact on life in the...
+
The Last Humans
Alienation in the Anthropocene
We have fundamentally altered the earth's ecosystem by disrupting the natural rhythm of our planet and in doing so...
+
International Women’s Day / 2022
Artpil / Prescription .127
More terrible is love in Kyiv than magnificent Venetian passions. Butterflies fly light and maculate into bright tapers –...
+
Bayil – Behind The Hills
Bayil, Baku / Ongoing Project
On the horizon of the district between old, handmade fences and the sky, you can see the newly built...
+
Robert Rauschenberg: Japanese Clayworks
Apr 8 – Jul 9, 2022
This comprehensive exhibition brings together rarely seen artworks of Rauschenberg's series using a newly developed technique that combined ancient...
+
ARS22 / Living Encounters
Apr 8 – Oct 16, 2022
Art has the power to investigate society and present alternative interpretations of our shared world. The featured works raise...
+
Charging Myths / On-Trade-Off
Mar 6 – Aug 21, 2022
How is technological innovation dependent on raw materials? This question is key in the exhibit tracing the origins of...
+
Circulation(s) / 12th edition
European Young Photography Festival
Circulation(s) is back with a program that reveals the vitality, creativity, and diversity of emerging photography. For two months,...
+
Ukraine: Updates from Magnum
Photographers in the Field
Magnum Photographers are on the ground in Ukraine documenting the Russian invasion and its impact on life in the...
+
The Last Humans
Alienation in the Anthropocene
We have fundamentally altered the earth's ecosystem by disrupting the natural rhythm of our planet and in doing so...
+
International Women’s Day / 2022
Artpil / Prescription .127
More terrible is love in Kyiv than magnificent Venetian passions. Butterflies fly light and maculate into bright tapers –...
+
Bayil – Behind The Hills
Bayil, Baku / Ongoing Project
On the horizon of the district between old, handmade fences and the sky, you can see the newly built...
+