Systema Naturæ (EN)

Systema Naturæ, an installation/drawing project, is a fictional botanical study. The title refers to Linnaeus’ book: Systema naturæ per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus differentiis, synonymis, locis (System of nature through the three kingdoms of nature, according to classes, orders, genera and species, with characters, differences, synonyms, places), written in 1735. In this text, the author marks the starting point of consistent use of binomial nomenclature, establishing a hierarchical classification of the natural world.

In my research, I create and draw botanical species crossed with mechanical and constructed shapes. Like hybrid plants, they allude to the manipulation of the natural world. Using scientific drawings from different periods, visits to herbaria and botanical gardens, I am composing a parallel fictional science. Once my new species are invented, carefully and didactically depicted, I proceed to their taxonomic classification. This classification has been developed from the study of taxonomical rules and traditional systems, which are based on the species’ external morphology.
Making use of Latin epithets that describe characteristics of genera and species, I transform them, combining them with translated contemporary words, looking for composites that create new meanings. The results are either absurd, ironic, ambivalent, sometimes amusing, but always follow the rules of taxonomic nomenclature and of the use of Botanical Latin. My species are then grouped in families which are also newly named. For this investigation process, I had the invaluable assistance from the staff of the Department of Genetics and Botany of the Instituto Superior de Agronomia, in Lisbon.

The installation exhibition Systema Naturæ includes:

Eight large watercolor drawings that reference educational charts. Small drawings of each of the invented species, displayed in furniture specifically built for them. A sculptural piece: a Portable Museum, a box/crate on wheels filled with objects and materials related to the whole exhibition. The Portable Museum could hold the entire contents of the exhibition, addressing the ideas of portability and nomadism, critical in my artwork.
A book: Systema Naturæ, produced in collaboration with the writer José Roseira.
The book combines the drawings with a tangentially autobiographical fiction piece by Roseira. The text materializes the ambiguous shapes found in my drawing practice, by purposely supplying more disruption: a contribution to the overall confusion, blurring the boundaries between the natural world and the artificial, fact and fiction.

The book is the first publication by Orbis Tertius Edições, Orbis Tertius Edições is a publishing company that has been founded by José Roseira and I, in February 2012. The purpose of this enterprise is to continue publishing books that create a dialog between the visual arts and literature.

Catarina Leitão, March 2012