2022 Eden Exhibit

What would you do if your salad bit you back or started to talk? Eden? Plants between Science and Fictiona multimedia exhibit about the role of plants in science fiction literature and film, invites you to engage in exactly this thought experiment. Conceptualized by graduate students at the University of Münster in Germany, it is on display at the University of Arizona in Fall 2022. Featuring killer plants from outer space and utopian gardens of the future, the exhibit highlights poems, (graphic) novels, and films that are all about plant protagonists. By bringing together the natural sciences, visual culture, and literature, the curators ask us to pay attention to what we often consider to be mere scenery and examine our thinking about plants. In light of our current ecological crisis, an encounter with plants as intelligent beings who talk back might just enable us to imagine different ways of living together on our shared planet.

The exhibit will be shown across two spaces on the University of Arizona campus:

  • Exhibit I: Oct 4-Dec 22 at the Poetry Center (1508 E Helen St, lobby), Tue-Fri 9AM-5PM, Sat 9AM-3PM
  • Exhibit II: Oct 28-Dec 9 at the Tree Ring Lab (1215 E Lowell St, lobby), Mon-Fri 8:30AM-5PM

Entry is free, and tours for classes and groups are available upon request.

Learn more about how the exhibit was conceptualized in Münster, Germany by curators Katharina Scheerer, Christina Becher, and their team.

The exhibit will be accompanied by a series of events:

Sept 29, noon-1PM: “Vegetal Eroticism: Plants between Science and Fiction,” talk by Joela Jacobs at the UA Herbarium

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The discovery of the many ways in which plants can reproduce caused a series of moral scandals in the eighteenth century and again at the turn to the twentieth. There was concern that people would get ideas about their own sexuality from plants, so botany became a prohibited pursuit for women and was censored from school curricula. These worries about vegetal eroticism were satirized in humorous literary texts that mock the seductive danger of plants. Follow me on a little trip through the scandalous world of plants between science and fiction!

Oct 11, 7PM: Screening of Little Shop of Horrors at The Loft Cinema as part of the Tucson Humanities Festival (get free tickets at the Loft on Oct 11)

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“Feed me, Seymour!” In Little Shop of Horrors (1986), a bloodthirsty plant demands to be fed human flesh, and florist Seymour complies. What would you do if your salad bit you back, or even started to sing? Join us for a thought experiment about plants as intelligent beings rather than mere scenery, and explore how science and fiction can work together to change the way we live on this planet.

The film will be introduced by Joela Jacobs and Katharina Scheerer.

Nov 5, 9PM: Eden Burlesque Show, featuring Tucson Libertine League, at 191 Toole (doors 8PM, 21+, $12-15)

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Plants are sexy… at least that was a big concern of the eighteenth century. That’s when biologists discovered that flowers do not reproduce like the Virgin Mary, but instead involve every moving thing around them in their pollination process. What’s more, plants have so many sex combination and reproduction possibilities that botany was suddenly considered an amoral pursuit for women, since they might get the wrong ideas about monogamy and matrimony. Anxieties around plant sex returned whenever there were new developments regarding human sexuality. When discussions about sexual orientation became increasingly important at the beginning of the twentieth century, schools banned botany instruction, so that children would not find out about bisexual plants and their ability to reproduce with themselves. Of course, all of these fears about what is “natural” were satirized too, in texts about “plant prostitutes,” masturbating roses, and the dangerous allure of flowers. Those are, after all, the genitals of plants—so think about what you’re doing the next time you stick your nose into a blossom.

Featuring plant speed dating and spoken word by Joela Jacobs and Katharina Scheerer. 20% of the proceeds will go to plant conservation.

Nov 7, 2:30-3:30PM: “Vegetal Eroticism: Plants between Science and Fiction,” talk by Joela Jacobs at the Arizona Senior Academy

More

The discovery of the many ways in which plants can reproduce caused a series of moral scandals in the eighteenth century and again at the turn to the twentieth. There was concern that people would get ideas about their own sexuality from plants, so botany became a prohibited pursuit for women and was censored from school curricula. These worries about vegetal eroticism were satirized in humorous literary texts that mock the seductive danger of plants. Follow me on a little trip through the scandalous world of plants between science and fiction!

Nov 16, 7-8PM, “Super Carrots and Killer Vines: Plants between Science and Fiction,” Humanities Seminar lecture with Joela Jacobs and Katharina Scheerer at the Rubel Room & live-stream ($10, registration required)

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Plants create the atmosphere we need to breathe and vastly outnumber us. Science fiction films and literature imagine what would happen if they took advantage of that. What if trees went after us, or Venus Flytraps developed a taste for humans? Join us for a thought experiment about plants as intelligent beings rather than mere scenery, and explore how science and fiction can work together to change the way we live on this planet.

Contact & Organizers: Joela Jacobs (joelajacobs@arizona.edu) & Katharina Scheerer (scheerer@arizona.edu)

The exhibit and events are sponsored by the University of Arizona Poetry Center and Tree Ring Lab, as well as the International Office and the Kulturbüro of the University of Münster, with support from the University of Arizona College of Humanities and the Department of German Studies.