Botany of ruins

« And might it not be, continued Austerlitz, that we also have appointments to keep in the past, in what has gone before and is for the most part extinguished, and we must go there in search of places and people who have some connection with us on the far side of time, so to speak?”
W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz (translation: Anthea Bell)

What comes out in the essence and history of a place? To ramble is to listen to what our surroundings say about themselves and about us. And sometimes to listen to their silence. Botany of ruins seeks, amid spaces as varied as landscaped parks, the settings of bygone World’s Fairs or colonial exhibitions, prehistoric or Gallo-Roman sites, castles and other dilapidated buildings, as well as industrial wastelands, to explore our strictly physical perception of history – and perhaps of its blind spots.

Participants in this workshop are akin to botanists: they start by gathering sensations and impressions during a one-hour walk; the experience then shifts to writing, as participants take a closer look at the impressions collected and attempt to link them to broader factual knowledge of the site through archival research. Everyone will be asked to compose a personal reflection based on these diverse resources.

Finally, the group will strive collectively to heed the advice of Walter Benjamin in On the Concept of History: “brushing history against the grain” – while also performing the subversive deed philosopher Paul B. Preciado exhorts us to accomplish: “Let us remove the statues from their pedestals, let us stand atop them to speak and tell our own stories of survival and liberation” (“Pour un monument à la nécropolitique”, Libération, 4 & 5 July 2020).