The Dictionary of Gardening
Etching prints, etched plates, and heat transfers
14in x 17in (22)
Printed at Prati The Atelier, Bangalore, India.
In a series of volumes, named The Dictionary of Gardening (The Encyclopaedia of Horticulture, published in 1887 in London), the author George Nicholson begins to teach the reader everything he or she need to know about how to tend to plants. Justifying himself at each step, the author explains that plants do not know how to grow within their limits - guided to root correctly, grow straight and aesthetically, understand their optimum size, shape, etc. Parallely, the Dictionary moves into sections which address the fact that we must constantly save the plant, not only from its own lack of understand, but also from everything that would come and attempt to destroy it.
What's interesting is that this dialogue, that this book is 'teaching' you to have (or improve on) - one that a majority of the population has on a daily basis with the plants in their house and in their garden - addresses and area that is not about farms and agriculture as way to achieve optimum output based on crop or an economy. Instead it treads on ideas solely around aesthetics, and intimacy that develops with time – translating to care to keep them alive, and hurt if they die.
When read, it seems like the author does not write keeping the intimacy in mind. In fact, often, his description of care of an ivory handle on a budding knife seems more intimate than his description of the plant or how to rightly interact with it. That removal of intimacy, functions as a larger question, as to why such a dialogue is struck at all, and what such mutually tamed relationships bring.
Pages from this series of books are extracted, and reproduced onto etching plates as drawings and transfers. In reproducing specific pages of the book - one that was originally produced using metal plate engravings and a letterpress - the information is brought back, tracing parallel processes and materials, and allowing what is being said to be recontextualized.