“Whether he knows it or not, a man needs to be close to growing things” - Ross Parmenter, The Plant in My Window
Exhibition Statement :
My most recent body of work explores notions of distance, displacement, and belonging through a focus on houseplants. I would describe this project as a series of exercises that investigate the aesthetic function that plants have in domestic scenarios. In addition, I am interested in the parallel role that these plants take on, reflecting our need to cultivate a sense of home through caring for them and keeping them alive.
Through performances, artist books, ephemera and installations my work speaks to the absurdity of taking these plants on as ornamental objects – turning a critical eye on our engagement with transplanting foliage from the outdoors. By taking plants from their natural habitat, where they grow within the larger ecosystem, we individualize them in pots – relatable to ourselves as individuals. Some people go as far as to name their plants! Such as ‘Tolerant Ted’, giving them anthropomorphized characteristics.
My project began in 2014 when I came across an ornamental banana plant in a Canadian supermarket. The site of this plant, so common in Costa Rica and so displaced in Canada, provoked me to consider the practice of plant-keeping as a fertile research ground. I began noticing that the species people around me keep are mostly tropical; their appearance is so familiar to me that I felt comfortable being around them. I decided to start a series of performances titled Houseplants On Tour that consisted on taking tropical house plants on collective and individual walks around urban settings. In these actions I would engage in conversation with the participants, trying to find answers to the questions I had; I was interested the role of these houseplants in their lives.
Through conversation my research expanded into houseplant-keeping manuals from the 1950s and 60s and their portrayals of plants. Approaching this subject matter with humour, I appropriated the imagery from these books and manuals, repurposing it as portraits of individual plants. By removing the images from their illustrative purpose in a book I allow them to enter the realm of portraiture; their fixed perspective and uniform composition is more reminiscent of photographs on identity documentation (passport, drivers license). I also associate each image to a given/personal name (e.g Emma) in order to ground their sense of individuality.
Artist's Bio :
Sergio Rojas Chaves (b.1992) is a Costa Rican artist currently working between Victoria, BC and San Jose, Costa Rica. Through the use of photography, video, performance and installation, his practice explores understandings of distance, locational identity and site specificity. His work has been shown individually and collectively in Canada and Costa Rica; his latest project is taking place at dc3 Art Projects in Edmonton, AB. He is a founding member of Animazules art collective and is a regular collaborator of the Open Actions group in Victoria, BC. He studied Architecture at Universidad de Costa Rica and is currently completing his BFA at the University of Victoria.