Goethe’s Primal Scream: The Plant and Sexual Love (imagine imogen's images)

The golden links in Goethe’s alchemical chain are still clinking since I produced the artwork Goethe’s Urpflanze in 1977. I interpreted Goethe’s Primal Plant by drawing directly on computer printout data that described the effects of pollution on the development of the bean plant. Lucifer’s ugly head had arisen, albeit in another form, in the 1700s, roughly two hundred years before this scientific experiment on the bean plant took place at the University of California, Davis. Goethe had pointed to the personified pollutant, Lucifer, whom Goethe claimed had split the Unity of the World. In his alchemical theory of Unity in Duality, Goethe’s Primal Plant, as exemplified by the double bean plant, would eventually resolve the opposing tensions in its evolutionary growth of leaves as they became liberated from the burden of matter.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a Romantic Botanist in both senses of the word “Romantic”. In one sense, he believed his scientific observations were verifiable through “passionate divination”, and in another sense he was a ladies man who used botany for his entree into flirtations with women when they were marginalized in academic pursuits.

In the artwork, Goethe’s Primal Scream, Lucifer’s ugly voice arises as a gender pollutant. Lucifer, whom Goethe claimed had split the Unity of the World, had himself split the Unity of the World by splitting the roles that the sexes would play in scientific pursuits.

To restore Unity in Duality in tribute to Imogen Cunningham, I combined portions of her nude photographs with those of her plant images. This series of collaged images is a collaborative project with printer Josh Partridge.

*[Image titles taken from "Goethe's Botany: Lessons of a Feminine Science" by Lisbet Koerner (Isis, 1993, 84: 470-495)]

Stemming from an "inner urge", Goethe's botanic insights were (he believed) verifiable only through "passionate divination".

Collage from Imogen Cunningham ‘s photographs Alta on the Beach 2 and Two Callas 2.

She herself is metamorphosed into a plant. Now she is always silent.

Collage from Imogen Cunningham ‘s photographs Pregnant Nude and Water Hyacinth 1.

He builds into the concept itself a notion that the male voice is dependent on women's silence.

Collage from Imogen Cunningham ‘s photographs Ear of Susan Cunningham and Leaves.

He overlays her (Vulpius) garden with his own interpretative grid.

Collage from Imogen Cunningham’s photographs After the Bath and Aeonium.

Goethe understood women as equipment to his thought rather than participants in his science.

Collage from Imogen Cunningham ‘s photographs Nude and Tuberose.


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