Büropflanze (office plant / 2012) is a study of German office flora. It meditates on workspaces and inherently questions the forms and values of daily work life. The bits and pieces of nature, almost unconsciously brought to the workplace, seem to reveal a lot about the basic needs of human beings when placed into an inorganic, standardized environment, where everything present is assigned under the premises of functionality.
Even when provided by the company as a decorative element, the office plant is something that is allowed to unopposedly thrive and blossom: A tiny bit of anarchy amid the rigid clockwork, something amorphous among the geometric forms, a spark of life within the mechanisms of control. In contrast to holiday postcards, family photographs or other attempts to personalize the impersonal office architecture, plants are prone to change and grow – sometimes utterly unnoticed, and sometimes under close observation and loving care – up the ceiling, around the heater and encroaching through the blinds. Plants can only be controlled to a certain extent, yet they are utterly dependent; they must be watered and cared for to survive in an arid and artificial habitat. From the mail room to the chief executives office, you will always find the same robust species of plants transferred from subtropical regions, adapted to a life at room temperatures, dry periods, and floodings. The close relationship between human and plant can last for many years – sometimes for the duration of an entire career.
On numerous expeditions into the offices of Germany, Saskia Groneberg photographed office plants within their “natural” habitat. She collected leaves for a herbarium, archiving them with the help of a scanner, and cultivated the cuttings afterward. Accompanying texts composed by employees offer a glimpse into the plant owner’s psyche. The results of this research are cumulated in an extensive artist book reminiscent of historical botany books.
Installation view at Haus der Photographie, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, 2013
Archival pigment prints (70 × 50 cm) and installation of collected cuttings.
Artist book, 42 × 29,5 × 4 cm, 390 pages, 3.7 kg, hardcover, linen (Ed. of 5)