Botany of ruins

" And wouldn't it be conceivable," continued Austerlitz, "that we should also have appointments in the past, in what has been and is already largely erased, and that we should go and find places and people who, beyond time in some way, retain a link with us?"
W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz (trans. Patrick Charbonneau)

What does a place tell us about its history? Taking a walk means being attentive to what places tell us about themselves and about ourselves. To the silence they sometimes maintain. In spaces as diverse as landscaped parks, former world or colonial exhibition sites, prehistoric or Gallo-Roman sites, castles and other ruined buildings or industrial wastelands, Botany of Ruins sets out to question our very physical perception of history - and possibly its blind spots.

In this workshop, we'll be doing the same kind of work as botanists: first, during a one-hour walk, participants will gather sensations and impressions of the place; then, during a writing session, we'll take a closer look at the impressions gathered and link them to a wider knowledge of the place, by means of a selection of archives. Each participant will be invited to write a personal text based on these various materials.

Together, we'll try to "brush back the shiny hair of history", as Walter Benjamin invites us to do in On the Concept of History - but also to perform the iconoclastic gesture that philosopher Paul B. Preciado calls for: "let's take the statues down from their pedestals and climb them to speak and tell our own story of survival and liberation" ("For a monument to necropolises"). Preciado calls for: "let's take the statues down from their pedestals and climb them to speak and tell our own story of survival and liberation" ("Pour un monument à la nécropolitique", Libération, July 4 & 5, 2020).

A Botany of Ruins was proposed as part of the "Indispensable!" festival organized by Atelier de Paris / CDCN in September 2020, in the tropical agronomy garden of the Bois de Vincennes.