In her latest, major solo show, Pia Rönicke has created a sculptural, filmic exhibition landscape for the ground-floor galleries at Overgaden Institute of Contemporary Art. The Cloud Document is the result of an artistic journey through botanical collections, investigating the colonial history of collecting and reflecting on archive material as the source of new narratives.
The Cloud Document is based on an expedition to Mexico between 1841-1843, during which the Danish botanist Frederik Liebmann collected over 50,000 plant specimens. In 2016 Rönicke went to Mexico, and followed in Liebmann’s footsteps with two Mexican botanists, collecting and documenting some of the same plants, as well as new species they encountered on their way. The part of the collection that has now been added to the Copenhagen Herbarium is presented in eight display cases in the exhibition.
Rönicke has previously used the act of wandering as a basis for new narratives. Wandering represents a direct and physical way to gather material where the point of departure changes according to new impressions gathered en route. This transformation generates new connections and narratives, which in Rönicke’s installations are often expressed through letters and notes, video, photography and architectural elements. Different media are also present in The Cloud Document, each of them figuring as examples of the investigative gaze of the documentarist, including collected material on herbarium pages, animations of Liebmann’s lithographs from 1845, visualisations of the DNA registration of more recent scientific research, a 16 mm film of Copenhagen’s Botanical Garden, and a dual projected video work that takes viewers on Rönicke’s trip to Mexico using words and images.
One of the underlying threads in The Cloud Document is the geography of disappearance, in which Liebmann’s collection figures as an agent sent back in time to tell us what once was – and what no longer is. The different elements of the exhibition are in dialogue with each other, with the juxtaposition of Rönicke’s personal travel documentation and historical archive material, and collected and pressed plant specimens with films of the places they grow: In The Cloud Document Rönicke reveals a complex, exploratory universe in which the personal travel account intersects with the traces of historical data traversing time and place.
Pia Rönicke (b. 1974) is educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and California Institute of the Arts. She has previously exhibited at Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art and Nikolaj Kunsthal in Copenhagen, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde. Her international exhibitions include shows at leading art institutions like Heine Onstad Kunstcenter in Oslo, Apexart in New York, Tate Modern in London, and GIBCA in Gothenburg.