A naturalist, specifically an 18th century one, likes to classify. After an expedition to the jungles of some remote land he – and it is almost always a he – takes out his specimens and begins to compare. This one looks like the second, the third does not, the fourth has some features of the first two, but also some traits seen in the third. He makes up categories and puts labels on boxes, marking the time and place at which the specimens were found. He then takes out a scalpel and cuts them open in order to examine their inner structure. Here are the muscles and these are the breathing organs. This is the skin, and under the microscope he can see the epidermal structure. Visually speaking, the naturalist proceeds mimetically, by finding patterns and organising resemblances. He looks and compares. He judges accordingly.
There are however animals that escape the naturalist’s grasp. Fictional beings like vampires and werewolves, who live in darkness of our imaginations and spread by infecting others with their poisonous bite – these can be easily dismissed as unworthy of our serious attention. Viruses and pandemics less so. A virus can hardly be deemed alive, reproducing only in the host’s body. Although it mutates, it does not develop to evolve into ever more complex organisms. While it can be placed into groups of similar viruses, it eludes the classificatory system with its orders, families, genera and species.
The exhibition ‘Lost and Found’ has a slightly dystopian, even post-apocalyptic quality, of various objects assembled in haste and then disregarded, leftovers from a Mad-Max film set. A preview exhibition, it consists of artists who will hopefully be part of GiG Munich’s ‘Thinking Nature’ 2022 programme, which examines the relationship between man and nature, as it presents itself in thought. These artists were selected because their practices are not of class and order, but rather of mutation and infection. We see this most in Julia Klemm’s sculpture were kitsch ceramic animals are broken up and then reassembled, set precariously on their rickety plinths. Pat Shoulder’s work is collaborative, a result of an exchange of letters between the two artists during the first lockdown. The order of time is put into question with Johanna Strobel’s installations and logic disintegrates in Lilian Robl’s videos. There is a celebration of nature’s structures in the glass turtle shells of Justin Lieberman but again this order is not that of the naturalist. As with the others, it is a viral order of an unnatural kind.