Darwin’s Wardrobe. Artefacts by Joanna Rogers
If Charles Darwin were still voyaging around the world, these are some of the items he might have recently acquired - either as specimens or gifts to enhance his collection. If he were still travelling, however, Darwin would document lost worlds rather than “found” ones. Reminiscent of the samples brought to England on the Beagle in 1836, my artefacts comment on similar areas of concern: living species of flora and fauna, i.e. examples of plants and creatures that suggest adaptation and evolution. Unlike their ancient forbearers, today’s animals, plants and habitats are being obliterated at an alarmingly accelerated rate, due to unchecked industrialization and human-population growth. The problems endangering present-day ecosystems and driving living beings to near-extinction result, primarily, from the human lust for money, power, and property/land.
“At the last judgement we will all be trees.”*
The artworks in Darwin’s Wardrobe reflect my concern regarding recent changes in the environment, changes which have led to the adaptation or the extinction of species. To show my concern, I have made three types of garments (women’s shifts, medieval copes, suits of armour) that illustrate our various relationships with the land. I have also made six mourning quilts, which were inspired by the journals kept by explorers. These quilts offer a record and catalogue of our lost and disappearing world, just as the explorers’ journals documented the discovery of “new” worlds.
Altogether, Darwin’s Wardrobe conveys a sense of the abundant yet fragile environment that surrounds me, comments on the nature of collecting (including value and authenticity), and reflects my long-standing love of narratives old and new. The exhibit’s works refer to ancient and/or contemporary, real and/or imaginary situations and things. They set up dialogues between past and present, history and mythology, mythology and literature, fiction and biography. Several pieces invite viewers to explore ideas of the representation of reality by noting how one person’s documentation of facts becomes another person’s fiction, or by observing how a subject can be lost or changed or can assume the identity of the narrator.
“Whether the wilderness is real or not depends on who lives there.”*
*Margaret Atwood. The Journals of Susanna Moodie.