In the Swiss Alps town of Sion, the Artificial exhibition occupies all four floors of a historic penitentiary. The exhibition was produced in collaboration between Professor Rich Pell‘s Center for PostNatural History and the Museum of Nature in Valais. The show included specimens from Pell’s museum, ones curated from European museums, and newly acquired specimens that will form the foundation of the first PostNatural Museum in Europe. The fourth floor of the exhibition is a survey of Pell’s 3D photography.
In museums, some objects are easier to classify than others: an alpine plant? At the Museum of Natural Sciences. Farm tools? At the history museum. But what about corn? After millennia of cultivation, is it still a “natural” plant? or does the process of artificial selection carried out by humans make it more of a cultural object? And what about domestic pigeons, especially when they specialize in the backflip? Asking these questions amounts to wondering about the boundaries between the natural and the artificial.
Through a selection of revealing stories, “Artificial” recounts the multiple intentions and the thousand ways invented by human societies over time to modify living beings. Whether for economic, aesthetic, recreational or scientific reasons, we have acted on various species and influenced their evolutionary trajectory. From the wolf to the E. coli bacterium, from cannabis to the transgenic tomato, the exhibition presents the post-natural stories of the living world from a new and sometimes stunning angle.
The show was co-curated with Gil Oliveira and will be on view until May 2023. This French-language television program covered the opening.