Society for Parallel Botany Exhibit at The Brunswick Window

zz Now on view: An intricate collection of fake leaves, gathered from commercial products and packaging. This exhibit was organized by artist Anne Percoco under the guise of the fictitious Society for Parallel Botany.

The project is also viewable online, and you can submit your own specimens of faux foliage to be part of the collection!

Visit at 158 Brunswick Street through the end of June.

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We (humans) have created an entire kingdom of plant imagery ranging from abstract little green footballs, to fantastical baroque drawings, to naturalistic depictions. The study of Parallel Botany combines life science, anthropology, and aesthetics. While parallel species have inhabited our collective imagination for thousands of years, they now proliferate in illustrations, advertisements, logos, and decorative products. Parallel plants are as numerous and varied as non-parallel plant species, and they signify qualities such as freshness, eco-friendliness, luxury, leisure, health, beauty, growth, etc. (In contrast, non-parallel do not normally act as signifiers.)

Plants that thrive in the parallel realm, according to scientific historian Leo Lionni, are “real because we want them to be.” He continues:

“If we find them intact in our memories, the same as when we saw them before, it is because we have invested them with the image that we have of them, with the opaque skin of our own confirmation…Motionless, imperishable, isolated in an imaginary void, they seem to throw out a challenge to the ecological vortex that surrounds them.”1

As our lives (especially as city-dwellers) are increasingly divorced from direct contact with natural flora, these images can sometimes stand in for the real thing. Additionally, as biodiversity decreases in non-parallel species, the diversity and volume of parallel species seems to increase. Science journalist Brandon Keim describes our renewed focus on such species as: “…..A psychic escape from the pervasive sense that no space on our map remains blank, that civilization has filled its container and is pushing back inwards.”

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This exhibition, the most public of its kind, contains local species as well as some from distant lands, and focuses exclusively on foliage. These specimens have been collected and catalogued according to their morphological characteristics, aesthetic qualities, and function in their environment. The Society would like to thank Roger Sayre of the Brunswick Window as well as exhibition assistant Kether Tomkins. Submissions of amateur collection samples are welcome through the submission form.

1 Lionni, Leo. 1977. Parallel Botany. New York: Knopf.

This website and accompanying exhibition at The Brunswick Window in Jersey City was produced by the Society for Parallel Botany and organized by Anne Percoco.