Sun Windows Moon Tendrils

Arvo Leo
Exhibition: 22 June -28 July 2019

Sun Windows Moon Tendrils; a man on a roof, spider webs in the attic, a blue house, orchids vandalizing a couch, plastic garbage garlands, floating bricks, liquid windows, plant self-portraits, a hole in the floor, wet hands, a gang of bats and fish, dried flowers, a movie in the basement, two young gardens, squatting plants, hungry bees, an ecology of intermingling images and spaces.

The exhibition Sun Windows Moon Tendrils at Hotel Maria Kapel [HMK] is Arvo Leo’s first incarnation of his flower trilogy, which is an entangling of his ongoing research into orchids, cannabis, and tulips. For this site-specific work, consisting of several sculptures, interventions and two films, Leo has used many parts of the building to establish a local ecology between these spaces and their images. As a result from this entangling, two new garden spaces have been created at the entrance of the Hotel Maria Kapel that will start to become occupied by flowering plants over the duration of the exhibition.

A hole is a thing in a thing it is not. 

The exhibition Sun Windows Moon Tendrils is the result of Arvo Leo spending four months living in Hoorn continuing his research into plants and his experiments with filmmaking, drawing, and site-responsive installation. Leo’s works have a close connection with the space they are being exhibited. He often makes films on location that tend to have playful and absurd narratives which allow space for the audience to participate in.

In the chapel Leo has constructed a cinema, called Blue House, that is inspired by the typical greenhouse design and the immersive paintings of Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. The walls of the blue house are made out of paper cyanotypes (blue print photographs) that are self-portraits made by orchids. In these selfies orchids are often posing with human objects and garbage found around the home and studio. Their images make fun of our addiction to consumption and our reliance on tools and show that the plants themselves are obviously aware of the idea of images and how they are made.

Inside the blue house is Leo’s film The Orchids/Had the Look of Flowers That Are Looked At which is a stop-animation movie that shows a group of orchids moving around his studio vandalizing things, making selfies, having a funeral etc. These activities could be seen as acts of communal play while at the same time as acts of resistance and protest to the plant’s domesticated way of life.

For his new site-specific film Leo has used many parts of the building including the rooftop, the facade, the chapel, and the attic. In this film (which screens in the basement cinema) we witness a man on the roof of the building fishing for bricks with a long string adorned with plastic garbage. He lowers this garland down to the sidewalk and with the help of a group of bats, fish, beets, and seaweed (which Leo uses as organic fertilizer for growing plants) a brick is connected to the string and pulled back up to the roof. This process repeats itself many times until all the bricks are removed, thereby creating openings in the city floor that can be converted into garden spaces.

After a brick has been pulled up to the roof, the man drags it with the garbage garland through the dusty attic. He eventually lowers the brick down into the chapel and places it inside a water-filled container (which Leo calls ‘liquid windows’) that are based on the measurements of the panes of glass in the chapel windows. After being immersed in water for a few days, these bricks transform into a temporary form of currency; a currency that viewers of the exhibition can use to trade for dried flowers that occasionally rise up from a hole in the floor (flowers that Leo grew last year on a roof in Amsterdam).

By removing the bricks out of the liquid windows and carrying the bricks over to the hole in the floor visitors have the opportunity to engage with the sculptures themselves, to become interconnected with the exhibition’s ecosystem, and to help in the process of making more space in the city for squatting plants and their pollinating visitors.

Photography: Bart Treuren

Made possible with the help of: Mondriaan Fonds, Gemeente Hoorn, Canada Council for the Arts, Stichting Stokroos.