This installation was made for the group exhibition Imitation of Life, curated by Crystal Mowry at Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. In considering the work, my starting point was the 1959 film of the same name directed by Douglas Sirk. I was interested in exploring the exhibition theme of mimesis connecting with ideas of representation, concealment and shame.
Originating in South America, mimosa pudica is a type of plant that performs rapid movement. It evolved to collapse its leaves and stems when touched or physically threatened, and re-extend when conditions are safe. Its name mimosa derives from Greek "to mimic" and pudica, Latin for "modest", "chaste" or "shame". As detailed by Nanette Salomon in her 1996 text "The Venus Pudica: uncovering art history’s ‘hidden agendas’ and pernicious pedigrees", the latter word is also related to the Latin pudenda, meaning both "shame" and the female external genitalia. In its naming, the plant's behaviour was anthropomorphized, associated with both the female body and a specific emotional state. Contemporary nicknames for mimosa pudica include "shame plant" and "sensitive plant."
Through conversations with Crystal Mowry, the piece developed as an installation involving the curator acting as a custodian or caretaker for the live plant over the course of the exhibition. I'm interested the plant's resiliency- its continuous cycle of collapse and extension, self-defense and exposure, death and revival. Recent research about mimosa pudica suggests that it has intelligence - can “learn” to distinguish between damaging and harmless stimuli, remembering and adjusting its behaviour accordingly.