Systema Naturae

With a multidisciplinary practice anchored in her lived experience, Anahita Norouzi examines displacement, longing to homelands left behind, and alienation within new, often hostile, environments. But she does so through a proxy—the migrations of plant species—revealing how botanical explorations and scientific research have been entangled in the exploitation of non-Western geographies. By scrutinizing the disastrous legacies of colonialism globally, and especially in the “Middle East”, the artist sheds light on the ways in which hegemonic powers have impacted humans and other species alike, altering entire cultural traditions, demographics, and ecologies. In her new exhibition Systema Naturae, Norouzi focuses on irises. With a distinctive six-lobed flower, typically rising on long stems, the perennial iris plant is familiar throughout the world’s temperate zones. Some varieties are native to Persia, a source of national pride in Iran, Norouzi’s ancestral homeland—her project was instigated by official stamps celebrating four iris species. Widely cultivated in domestic and botanical gardens, both pure and hybrid breeds are prized by horticulturalists worldwide, where the flower evokes a variety of symbolic associations. But Norouzi is primarily interested in the geopolitics encapsulated in, or perhaps eluded by, depictions of this species.

– Amin Alsaden


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