JUNE 24 – JUNE 26, 2011

In response to the Edible Estate Garden on SALT Beyoğlu’s fourth floor this program of video works explores human society’s obsessive relationship and desire for certain plant species. The title comes from Michael Pollan’s betselling book The Botany of Desire, in which he focuses on the complex co-evolution of four plant species in relation to their domestication by man. These are the apple, tulip, marijuana and potato. The story of the tulip is particularly close to home. To quote Pollan:

“Each spring for a period of weeks the imperial gardens {of Istanbul} were filled with prize tulips (Turkish, Dutch, Iranian), all of them shown to their best advantage. Tulips whose petals had flexed wide were held shut with fine threads hand-tied. Most of the bulbs had been grown in place, but these were supplemented by thousands of cut stems held in glass bottles; the scale of the display was further compounded by mirrors placed strategically around the garden. Each variety was marked with a label made from silver filigree. In place of every fourth flower a candle, its wick trimmed to tulip height, was set into the ground. Songbirds in gilded cages supplied the music, and hundreds of giant tortoises carrying candles on their backs lumbered through the gardens, further illuminating the display. All the guests were required to dress in colors that flattered those of the tulips. At the appointed moment a cannon sounded, the doors to the harem were flung open, and the sultan’s mistresses stepped into the garden led by eunuchs bearing torches. The whole scene was repeated every night for as long as the tulips were in bloom, for as long as Sultan Ahmed managed to cling to his throne.”

Eleni Kamma’s work Bubbles and Harlequins describes the next part of this tale, when the Dutch became so obsessed with tulips that tulipmania saw tulip bulbs and in particular the Harlequin bulb exchanging hands for incredible amounts of money. Filmed in Turkey where poppies are harvested for official medical use, Hulusi’s hallucinogenic work Afyon presents the lure of the poppy; in Muresan’s work the less aesthetic potato tuber is shown as the reliable staple it has become, and finally Agarwal’s video follows the ecological and social issues resulting from India’s obsession with the marigold.

Bubbles and Harlequins
Eleni Kamma
2009, 04’51”

The Flower Pluckers
Ravi Agarwal
2007, 03’30”

Untitled (Potato Peelers)
Ciprian Muresan
2009, 24’15”

Repeat of Kamma and Agarwal’s videos
Bubbles and Harlequins and The Flower Pluckers

Mustafa Hulusi
2011, 72’06”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Eleni Kamma
Eleni Kamma