Tina Tahir: Botany of Desire


Gallery 2

The narrow passageway becomes an immersive painted installation by Tina Tahir. The interdisciplinary artist makes a quick intervention into the space by experimenting with a temporary site-specific installation of invasive vegetation that visitors will have to walk on, through and between all at once.

Exhibition sound is created and performed by David Schulman.

Tahir first showed her work at Hyde Park Art Center when she was selected by the Exhibitions Committee to participate in Ground Floor (2014), a biennial exhibition of art from noteworthy artists emerging from MFA programs in the Chicago-area. She was awarded the Ground Floor scholarship to participate in the Art Center's 2015 Center Program class and has been generating new work in a private studio in the Guida Creative Wing at the Art Center since October 2015.

Artist Statement

In the broader sense my work stages a moment of anxiety in which the object patiently awaits its own demise; it awaits the intervention of the viewer or other external forces. Over the last several years, my research has repeatedly brought me back to the relationship between beauty and destruction. I began to explore botany, in particular toxic plants. The project, "Climbing Vines in an Unknown Gallery" began with the idea of creating an environment that has been completely ingested by flora. Weeds creep up the walls and around corners, growing out of the cracks and crevices, meandering from one space into another, infesting the pristine white cube and transforming it into a perceptually disorienting maze that envelops the viewer. My fascination with the dual nature of botany harks back to my adolescent memory of the nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl plant in the Northern Ukraine—an event after which nature’s innocence had been erased from one moment to the next, as it transformed itself into this insidious place, in which everything seemed fine on the surface, yet its toxic secrets were lurking underneath, and the terms “half-life” and “contamination” were omnipresent in the European broadcast fostering the fear of an ecological apocalypse.

This temporal nature of my work not only seeks to question the nature of life and death, philosophically, but it also alludes to the underlying ambivalence of the natural world being poison and cure simultaneously. These often all-immersive floral installations propose fantastical, imaginary spaces for the viewer, which they can temporarily escape into. The viewer will walk into a sort of Wonderland composed of natural, imaginary, and toxic patterns, which are going to change scale and dimension between viewer and viewed, making the visitor feel grow or shrink in relation to the space that he or she walks through where expected boundaries have dissolved, and the exterior world, or nature, can be experienced indoors.

Since 2012, I have been making work concerned with questions about the notion of impermanence and toxic botany, enveloped by broader motifs such as Memento Mori and Vanitas. The piece at Hyde Park Art Center depicts varies species of Orchids. Orchids are known to be Masters of Deception, with a species count of over 25,000. They are adept to transform and integrate into their environment using deceit and trickery to fuel their sex drive mimicking smells from other species on a vastly wide spectrum, ranging all the way from roses and rotten meat to the female bee, all in the quest to satisfy their sexual appetite and evolution.

About Tina Tahir

Originally from southern Germany, Tina Tahir is currently a Chicago-based artist who works in a variety of media. Her work explores the concept of impermanence. Tahir’s temporal installations were shown, amongst others, at Gallery 400, the Hyde Park Art Center, Threewalls, Ballroom Projects, all in Chicago, Paul Watkins Gallery, Winona, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and SCA Contemporary Art & Artlab, Albuquerque. She received an MFA in Studio from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MA in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Tahir was the recipient of the ArtSlant Prize Second Prize.

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