Future Fossils
Acacia dealbata - Ailanthus altissima - Laurus nobilis - Phyllostachys aurea - Prunus laurocerasus -
Robinia pseudoacacia - Trachycarpus fortunei

Una Szeemann, 2022

When Una Szeemann discovered Parc Lullin, she was intrigued by a flight of steps in the garden of the patrimonial residence that overlooks it. Seven useless steps, pointing to some vanished structure. For the artist, they suggested the idea of another flight of steps, further on in the park.

On the edge of the woods, on a modest natural platform overlooking the forest, these steps are like immediate ruins, or “ruins in reverse”, to use the idea of Robert Smithson’s referred to by Szeemann. In these crumbling steps you can see the imprint of plants, like future fossils that will be studied by later generations of paleobotanists. Szeemann chose them from the different neophytes, invasive species from other climates. Adopted as ornamental plants for our gardens, they have broken through the barriers and conquered our landscapes at the expense of indigenous species.

During her exploration of the park and its surroundings, for example, Szeemann noticed Robinia pseudoacacia (the very common black locust), and Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven). Their leaves can be found in the concrete slabs, along with those of the Chinese windmill palm and the cherry laurel, or again the golden (or fishtail) bamboo. They speak of a future when the war against invasive species now being officially waged by the Confederation, has been won, a time when they exist only as traces, lying in the ground, greenery that once climbed up towards the sunlight. But the artist also points out that today the theorists of a new ecology believe that these plants could ultimately offer salvation at a time when it is becoming urgent to help nature regenerate. Should we be getting rid of trees, indigenous or neophyte, at a time when our carbon dioxide is doing such damage to the planet? In this way Szeemann questions the shifting balance of power between plants and humans. And of course, in an exhibition titled Open House, it is impossible not to make the connection with migration and human solidarity. Who do we welcome? With whom do we wish to cohabit? Szeemann explores the binarites between past and present, conscious and unconscious, life and memory, or matter and space, and seeks to perturb our preconceptions and sensations in order to give us access to a possible coherence between these apparent oppositions. This is why there is often an oxymoronic element in her works.

Elisabeth Chardon, Open House Parc Lullin, Geneva

Limestone concrete 190 x 130 x 15 cm, 140 x 100, 10 cm, 100 x 70 x 10 cm
(Photographs: © Annik Wetter, Kunstgiesserei St. Gallen)