Contraband

Gallery SKE
2008


Local South Indian medicinal plants patented by US pharmaceutical companies in aluminum trunks with “grow lights”

each trunk 48” X 24” X 48”

Bangalore is often called “the garden city of India” because of the several gardens and greenhouses that date back to its early days of colonization. The city’s cool temperature, dryness and the abundance of water allowed the British to use it as a midway point in the dissemination of plants around India. The plants and trees brought from Britain would first arrive in Bangalore to be acclimatized and then sent to other parts of the country. Small landscapes like this were being uprooted and moved in boxes from one country to another in order to make the colonizers’ assumed home seem closer to their original home.

Consider the great contemporary controversy surrounding Intellectual Property Rights wherein large western agricultural and pharmaceutical companies are trying to patent plant and animal genes that have been traditionally used in third world countries for millennia. This time natural resources of distant social groups are being hijacked by a few large corporations for their own economic gains.

It is in examining this strange trafficking of nature and the fixing of its ownership that I am interested. This landscape “in transit” serves as a kind of island that is neither here nor there, a space of ambiguity where ownership is as yet undecided.