Graft me a flower


La belle saison au Belgo entre quatre expositions et huit situations

Graft me a Flower
from July 5th to September 9th 2017

Here is a strange title for an exhibition! How should we read this? Indeed, the request could seem embarrassing. If we consider the literal meaning, it inevitably appears unreasonable. It is unlikely that someone would really ask to be grafted with a flower. And yet, such endeavours have taken place in the art world. In the mid 70s, Czech artist Petr Stembera grafted a flower on his arm during his performance piece Štěpování, and in 2000, Chinese artist Yang Zhichao had grass implanted on his right shoulder for his performance Planting Grass. Despite these antecedents, something propels us to consider the title differently. Maybe it would be better to ignore the title’s demand and concentrate on its form, formulation and resonances. It seems to echo a famous literary request. While some command us to make them a drawing of a sheep, others are more inclined to ask for a grafted flower. Consequently, the title, for us, appears to activate a creative process rather than to be a crazy request.

In fact, we probably are limiting ourselves too much to the idea of the graft only in relation to medicine or botany. If we conceived of it as a conceptual model, it no doubt would be possible to catch a glimpse of the basis of a real poietic process, the artist’s creative process. This would encompass the different modalities that enable bringing together things of the same or differing nature, multiple forms of fusion and amalgamates of objects and images as well as all the variants of collage making. In this way, the ensemble of these composite elements is illuminated in new ways. More than a praise of interweaving practices, this would be a celebration of hybridization at large, to quote René Payant’s famous words, which from then on would summon us.

For a long time, Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell’s work has been organized around these unusual encounters of forms and objects stemming from different cultural spheres. She has experimented with numerous ways of pairing iconic and varied motifs, and even disparate artistic practices. In her recent work, these relationships occur among drawings of plants, living plants and ceramic ones, giving body to new specimens, crossing interior plants with decorative knick-knacks. It becomes clear that the work does not simply illustrate the process of grafting, producing various decorative representations of it, but rather translates, through artistic and mimetic form, the function of the cutting, the joining.

The installation presentation also explores the concept of the graft, making some elements coexist in the space to simulate scientific experimentation (Plexiglas boxes, grow lamps, video documentation), while others form a more traditional art exhibition (wallpaper, ceramic objects, large-scale drawings). Beyond the strange effect that emerges from this hybridization, Greffe-moi une fleur takes us back to Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell’s questioning of basically decorative displays while enabling her to re-examine one of her recurring preoccupations – the relationships that art has with nature.

-Essay by Pierre Rannou