natural_mente / 2000

”natural_mente” was a collaborative project by Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig, The Botanical Gardens in Leipzig and the Leipzig Museum of Natural History. The project’s programmatic title is taken from and refers to the Italian term ”natural” or ”naturally”. However, the division in the title introduces an additional connotation: ”mente” refers to reason, intelligence and memory, thus implying human and, by extension, technical action.

Leipzig’s parks, woodlands, ”Schreber” gardens and open-cut mining areas offered many opportunities for in-depth investigations within the following thematic parameters: park/nature, leisure/sport, recycling/technology. Part of the task was not only to consider ”nature” and the problems related to it, but rather – very much in line with ”earth art” – to employ nature as a source material and as an installation setting.


Tagebau Leipziger Südraum / Botanic garden Leipzig / Schrebergartenmuseum Leipzig / Zoo Leipzig / Museum of Natural History Leipzig/ Artists gardens Weimar

Tagebau Leipziger Südraum

Surface mining, which proliferated in this region at the end of the 19th century, exemplifies the alteration of the landcape by humans. In the course of extracting brown coal, whole regions were transformed into lunar landscapes, the older settlements disappeared and new ones, the typical mining settlements, emerged. Of current interest is the re-activation of these landscapes after the completion of mining activties. The excavations are being flooded leaving bodies of water, which on the one hand serve the purpose of recreation, such as the Cospuden lake project, and on the other, the careful resettlement of nature through the return of humid biotopes etc.

Schrebergartenmuseum Leipzig

The occurance of “Schrebergärten” (settlements of garden allotments) parallel to industrialisation and the accompanying urbanisation is characteristic: People created a small piece of nature, which was no longer present in overpopulated cities.

Zoo Leipzig

In earlier times, animal enclosures had the exclusive function of isolating and displaying animals as a form of spectacle; today it is attempted to present them in their ecological settings. Animals are thus intended to impart to the observer a conscious and conscientious attitude toward nature.

Museum of Natural History Leipzig

“It begs the question whether a taxidermist is a craftsman or an artist. Professionally, he’s a craftsman, the connection to art however is so close that he can’t be entirely regarded as such; he must possess an artistic vein, otherwise he’d be unable to prepare the animals with so much veracity and naturalness.” (Quotation Mrs. Hanso/museum teacher)

Artists gardens in Weimar

Babara Nemitz, artist and professor at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, has gathered together an international group of artists and made them into gardeners with her project artists’ gardens in Weimar, begun in 1993. The vegetation and the analysis of its signifigance as aesthetic phenomona are the central theme.


Wilfried Morawetz: Biodiversität (Biodiversity)

No place on earth has the same diversity of living organismus as the Amazon rainforests. Prof. Morawetz, director of the Botanical Institute of the University of Leipzig, elucidates in his lecture the interactions and relations between species, which extend well beyond the popular conception of the ecosystem.

Georg Dietzler: Austernpilz frißt Altlast
(Chinese mushroom eats up waste)

Can mushrooms separate poisons? Is the use of Chinese mushrooms for the cleansing of contaminated earth a feasible alternative? And which aesthetic takes its point of departure from a bio-technological environment? All questions addressing the experiments of Georg Dietzler occupy the border zone between art and science. The employment of the latest modern technology and scientific knowledge aim at interdisciplinary solutions.

Prof.  Türcke:  Die Entdeckung der Landschaft
(The discovery of the landscape)

An introduction to the intellectual and cultural development of occidental conceptions of landscape, its gradual transformation from the primitive shaping through the threatening character of nature through to the modern understanding of nature as an accessible resource and an exploitable consumer good. Prof. Türcke illustrates with the help of examples.

Annette Weisser, Ingo Vetter: The Garden

The artist-duo analyses the common properties in the social function of public gardens and parks and the Internet. They see parallels in the primarily non-profit, non-purposive usage of public space as well as in the displacement of activities from the private sphere (e.g. sleeping, eating, conversing) into the public. Transposing this principle, in its entirety, into the Internet, in their project “The Garden”, visitors are requested to register their personal interests in the form of links. The resulting content is a network of interests; optically, the individual references are transformed into plants in the digital garden of the two artists.


However, reconciling didactic aims and an artistic approach was no easy task. Moved into the context of a natural history museum, modes of expression that have long been considered as acceptable in the art field, proved to be greatly provocative. Things even went so far that components of an installation were stolen under mysterious circumstances, like in a thriller. The police was called into action to locate the missing objects.

An accompanying flyer helped the visitor discover the ”natural_mente” works amidst the museum’s permanent exhibits. A folder and other accompanying products, serving to communicate, publish and distribute the project.