Born London (GB), 1981
Films and plants, both need light to exist. Plants and films, both need time to move.
Tracing our history of the orchid, one evidently cuts through complex layers of colonialism, economic activity, and cultural beliefs that span across many centuries and many continents. Arvo Leo tracks the orchid from its acquisition as an exotic trophy to its highly charged sexual symbolism to its present day existence as the most popular ornamental organism to grace the windowsills and hotel lobbies of our damaged planet. Over the past year Arvo has been extending his work into the world by engaging in everyday relationships with plants and humans, devoting much of his domestic life to growing orchids, visiting botanical gardens and orchid nurseries, and actively participating as a member of the Nederlandse Orchideeën Vereniging (Dutch Orchid Society). Each month Arvo meets with a group of botanists, hobbyists, and retirees to talk about this diverse family of plants. As such, a research and field-based approach is activated in the realm of human interests and associations, thus extending the reach of an arts practice far beyond the studio.
Now it is the end of November and time-lapse photography, cyanotype prints, and stop-motion animation are material traces in an installation where orchids have become agents in a human-centric world. The plants spring to life, meddling with the environment they’re constrained to; frolicking, creating, and destroying with self-determination and amusement. As visitors move through the space they find themselves part of the mise-en-scène, engaging with the ‘actors’ as they hang - seemingly passive and immobile - on the studio walls.