Systema Naturae– The Order Of Nature

Cummings Art Center, Connecticut College,US autumn 2012

A collaborative project together with artist Berit Jonsvik including exhibition, lectures and a two week interdisciplinary workshop with art and botany students.


Excerpt from the catalog:


by Andrea Wollensak

Naming, systematizing and organizing natural forms have long been methods to understand the world around us. The binomial system, a method of naming and identifying plants and animals, was developed by 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus.

Systema Naturae: The Order of Nature is an exhibition that brings together two Swedish artists: Carina Fihn and Berit Jonsvik. Their complementary bodies of work pay homage to Linneaus, referencing the systemization of nature, and probing into the ramifications of assigning names and structure to natural form.
Through their work, they invite us to explore the relationship between nature and formal structures. Fihn and Jonsvik are able to employ a wide range of expressive media — including artist books, photography, drawing, printmaking and video — thereby creating multiple complementary perspectives in which to experience their investigations.

In her artist books, Carina Fihn employs language as material, shaping words on the page using a keen sense of ink, paper and form. Using floral nomenclature as the starting point, she artistically draws out these connections in Herbarium ( Who wants to be a flower ), an artist book that rythmically enumerates first names in a graceful linear sequence.
In Oblivion, Fihn creates a detailed study of wilted flowers drawn with pencil exploring the beauty found in decay.
Fihn´s creative process becomes a journey of discovery into the microscopic world of pollen in the large format screen print Dust. Sensitive, inquisitive and tactile, her art is both playful and thoughtful in its relation to Linneus´s work.

In her work, Berit Jonsvik explores the life of Linnaeus, drawing connections between his work and personal life. Jonsvik’s research into Linnaeus’s original notebooks and living arrangements form the basis of her artistic explorations. Her photographs of the intimate living quarters of Linnaeus’s home in Hammerby are simultaneously revealing and displaced, hinting at the otherness of the artist´s gaze through a mirrored reflection.
In her work The Tree of Kingdom Plantae, Jonsvik focuses on the naming and counting of species,depicting the impossible task of naming all living and extinct divisions and classes. She states "I have concluded that the figures are uncertain This made me reflect about mankind and our ambition to achieve some kind of total and fixed knowledge of the world we are living in".

Judged by today´s standards, Linneus´s systematic project to completely categorize and name the species of the world seems to be part of a bygone idealistic faith in mankind´s desire to fully comprehend the chaos and complexity of life.
But, as Fihn and Jonsvik remind us, an essential part of Linneus´s message concerns an active and tactile relationship to the objects of nature, a deep and meaningful relationship enriched by study and engagement.
Their work invites us to reflect on this relationship and inspires us to reengage with a comprehensive and learned study of the art and science of the natural world.

Supported by The Sherman Fairchild grant for interdisciplinary teaching, the Dayton Visiting Artist Residency grant, the International Curriculum Grant of Connecticut College and IASPIS, the Swedish Arts Grants Committee fund for international exchange .