In his project #OVERRUN+, Hubert Hasler focuses on current buzzwords such as alienation, intermixing, expulsion, endemic and neobiota. He discusses analogies of plants and humans that have been influencing our continent for centuries and colonising it with us. The allegorical representation of neophytes takes national thought to absurdity.
The presentation of his latest work, The Naked Peacock, rather quickly suggests the parallels to Big Men, who are currently plunging the world into chaos and devastation. The overconfidence and toxically aggressive masculinity in the political context is addressed as well as the misconception and classification of plants and humans.
Neophytes are plants that were introduced directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously by humans after 1492, the year Christopher Columbus explored America, into areas where they did not occur naturally. Experts estimate that around 800 non-native animal and plant species have been introduced by humans in the last 500 years. Today, the spread of seeds is supported for various reasons, including freight transport and travel facilitation of global time, but exchange is also prevented for economic reasons. There are also black markets for seeds in the USA and Canada because companies like Monsanto prevent good seeds from being passed on. In the case of plants, it is assumed that they can be classified as established after 3generations. This is the case when they can reproduce without help in the new environment and have learned to survive.
We can observe the process of adaptation in the example of the potato, which has become a fundamental food in many countries of the world. At the end of the 16th century, there is a documentary record of the cultivation of the potato in Ireland and England. It is also certain that from 1600 onwards most European botanists grew potato plants as a precious rarity in their own gardens. It took further generations for the potato to transform from ornamental plant to food. In Austria, the potato was on Maria Theresa's agenda, but it would take until the Napoleonic Wars at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries for the potato to become popular in Austria. It was a long and rocky road to become native.
The condition for people with a migration background or refugees to be allowed to call themselves belonging in Germany and Austria is the birth of at least 2 generations, not reproduction or survival. The concept of home has changed in contrasting ways in recent decades. In 1877, the German dictionary of the Brothers Grimm defined Heimat as "the country or even the area of land where one is born or has permanent residence". Until the middle of the 19th century, the word was a sober word used in a legal and geographical sense.
Today, the concept of home is indulged in by means of political, small-minded nationalism; on the other hand, young people, starting with the Millenials, see the global world as their home.
Migrants or immigrants, depending on the perspective, are people who leave their country of birth or temporary homeland for various reasons. Refugees are people who have to leave their homes for reasons of war, environmental change and poverty. Hubert Hasler's neophyte installation series #overrun+ shows the beauty of the invaders, but also the astonishment that familiar plants often do not originate from our habitat.
Global warming, mainly caused by the western world, will not only force completely different plants on us in Europe, but will also bring more people from the dry south or flooded coastal areas to us. Evolution is adaptation.
Hubert Hasler brought back seeds of giant hogweed from his trip to Georgia in 2021.
This had come to Europe in 1890 with the botanists Carlo Pietro Sommer and Èmile Levier and quickly established itself as a popular ornamental plant. Giant hogweed was much appreciated by beekeepers and used as a bank stabilisation plant. At the beginning of the 20th century, it went wild and spread rapidly over large areas. Today, attempts are being made to counteract the spread of this invasive species because of the health-threatening properties of the phototoxic plant, which causes severe nettle rashes. Hasler, like his predecessors, has collected seeds, but not in order to spread the plant even further, but rather to prepare them in vacuo as a two-dimensional work of art. Unlike the Swiss painter Fred Weismann, who exaggerates the plants in his paintings, Hasler shows the everydayness in the frame.
The naked peacock, on the other hand, is dragging a giant hogweed seed trail behind it - the poisoning seeds of propaganda.
Denise Parizek, Curator, 2022