(Single-channel video, duration: 22’46, 2021)
Among the exquisite monochrome engravings in the 17th century botanical publication, Hortus Malabaricus, exceptionally one can encounter illustrations including human figures alongside botanical specimens. For instance, such is the case of a great fan palm double-folio illustration that captures next to the lavish “Codda-pana,” a seemingly European, tiny individual facing a Malabari local.
The act of human and natural world subject mutually constituting each other in the realm of visual representation was an entry point into the Tremor’s engagement with botanical illustrations in colonial times. Visitors at the Calcutta Botanic Garden were asked permission to be filmed while remaining in their posture. Held in duration, each shot seizes the tensions between the subjects’ stillness and their impatience, allowing a form of subjectivity to emerge under the camera gaze.
Through minor and awkward movements, subjects inevitably resist a static mise-en-scene that dominated colonial representations. Transitions from colour to black-white, visual filters applied to the image, disrupt a homogenous perception of the tropics. Through this process, the film underscores that visual representations of nature cannot be disentangled from the possibilities and manipulations of technology, whether in print or film form.
Video excerpt: https://vimeo.com/509553989