Artificial plants at the Intensive Care, at Hgtomi Rosa
published on Jegens&Tevens by Frits Dijcks - March 2021
With almost everyone working from home and spring approaching, garden centers are working overtime. The plants cannot be dragged. Logical. They have a positive effect on our well-being and on our productivity, and we can put that to good use in a time of stagnation and uncertainty. Artist Arthur Cordier is therefore devoting a project to the function of the plant in the workplace and its meaning in relation to advertising and marketing.
The idea for Kunst_planten arose in response to the invitation of Alexander Webber (co-initiator of Hgtomi Rosa) to respond to the theme "open". It is the second short presentation in the Acts of Opening series at Hgtomi Rosa, the artists' initiative housed in De Besturing incubator in Binckhorst, The Hague. This former industrial area is gradually being transformed into a residential and working area, so factories and garages are rapidly making way for neat offices in multi-company buildings. It is therefore no coincidence that Arthur Cordier looks for any sign of life in the office environment. According to research, the room or office plant improves employee productivity by 15%. Moreover, it gives a company a hospitable appearance. The plant should therefore not be missing in a representative office lobby.
the funniest plant in 'the office'
Cordier requested by letter twenty leading advertising agencies to lend a plant for the new ‘lobby’ at Hgtomi Rosa. After some communication traffic, this resulted in a response of about 40% and now there are 9 plants in the front space of the artists' initiative. Cordier and Webber personally picked up the plants to exhibit them for a week and left the choice of the specific plant to the office employee present.
One of the advertising agencies (a term that they themselves like to avoid and replace with 'creative agency' or 'strategic branding company') has drawn up a contract to ensure that the plant will be properly cared for and there will be no fee to be paid for the services. One company provides the smallest possible cactus (an attempt at originality or office humor?). One of the companies gives a sick plant in the hope that it will return healthier from the ‘health resort Hgtomi Rosa’ (which coincidentally was named after a flower). Apparently, asking a favor quickly leads to the expectation of some form of ‘service’.
the highest plant
the sick plant
a video with falling advertising pillars
intentional and unintentional irony
The Kunst_planten project reveals all kinds of cross-links between the world of art and commerce. How flexible and spontaneous is a creative company actually? And what is a concept? For example, Cordier, who himself was brought up in French, only discovered the meaning of "art + plant" in Dutch after Google research, hence the underscore (for which there is hardly a decent Dutch word) between the two words in the title. It also led to new insights into the relationship between the artificial nature of the lending and exhibition project and the idea of an artificial plant as a "fake plant" or the work of art as an object. But Cordier is of course primarily concerned with the process-oriented nature of the project. The contact details of the agencies contacted and the many e-mails that were needed to bring the nine plants together are also part of the project. And this probably also applies to this text that I am writing after my visit (I now look diagonally across my computer screen at the large houseplant in my workspace and make sure that I am busy).
Hgtomi Rosa's watering can (unlabeled)
The exhibition also includes a watering can made available by the artists' initiative. The visitor is requested to arrange the irrigation of the plant collection, with the risk of the plants succumbing to proper care. The whole is reminiscent of an Intensive Care unit, a familiar image in this time. A fire extinguisher hangs on one of the white walls as a surrogate for the ventilator. In the corner a telephone shows a collection of disaster film (s) with falling advertising pillars. But the exhibition can also be understood as a private conference in which the plants exchange their work experiences, with the risk that trade secrets may be revealed if the plants are careless with their notes. Each plant bears a yellow badge with the name of the agency it represents.
I am also reminded of a story that I previously wrote for Jegens & Tevens about an exhibition by Marcel Broodthaers at M HKA in Antwerp, which ends with my request to make one of the exhibited potted palms available to me. Although the museum initially seemed enamored with the idea and the item, the transaction turned out to be "impossible" because the plants had been rented and had to be returned to the supplier. Another resounding victory of the bureaucracy over man.
the plant’s contract
In Hgtomi Rosa hangs the letter that Cordier sent to the desks. Printed on a large sheet of white paper, the ‘not enlarged’ letter nevertheless acquires monumental proportions. It emphasizes Cordier's interest in the various forms of communication between art and commerce and the artificiality of what we call labor or a product of labor. Hence the choice for an industry that prefers to define itself by naming its envious customer portfolio or terminology such as 'positivity' and 'strategy' and 'concept' and that has the greatest difficulty on their own websites to say what they actually do themselves. to be precise.
So why is art not actually seen as fair work in our neoliberal service economy? And who provided a service to whom here? The company that lends a plant? Or the artist who gives meaning to the collectively ignored plant in the office now abandoned by home work? I think the 'positivity' comes from the artist who is researching what is possible here. Now let's see which of the participating agencies from the temporary House_plants situation has ‘created’ online content on their channels.
We certainly do.