Medieval Medicinal Botany: The Gardens of Ghafiqi and Dioscorides, Punctum Caecum series, 2016-2017

Medieval Medicinal Botany: The Gardens of Ghafiqi and Dioscorides, Punctum Caecum series, 2016-2017

above: The Ghafiqi Garden; detail

The Gardens of Ghafiqi and Dioscorides, Punctum Caecum series, 2016-2017

De Materia Medica by Dioscorides was composed by the 1 st century Greek botanist.  De Materia Medica was one of the earliest scientific botanical manuscripts to be translated from Greek to Arabic and therefore it was preserved. The Herbal of al-Ghafiqi manuscript was composed by the 12th century Andalusian physician and scholar Abu Ja`far al-Ghafiqi. These are the most remarkable medieval botanical manuscripts on medicinal plants, their names, their visuals and healing properties.

Installations:

The shape and compositions of my medicinal botanical gardens installations, 2016-2017, are inspired by the placement of the plants on the original pages of the manuscripts. In my installations, I imagine these plants in a garden, released from the pages of the manuscripts; I extract the plants’ images and convert them into black, gray and white silhouettes and print the original manuscripts’ description texts on some of the forms. I use paint, parchments, wood, threads, pins, cut-papers and Mylar. The lighter materials such as paper, parchment, Mylar and threads, create movements when a viewer passes by the installations similar to plants moving in the breeze. Medieval societies and medical practitioners seem to have had great appreciation for benefits of nature (specifically the plants that prevented or treated ailments). By contrast, in our modern world, we mainly rely on chemically manufactured substances.  I use actual pills in a bottle, as part of The Gardens of Ghafiqi and Dioscorides installation, as a reminder of our today’s hyper-reliance on manufactured drugs. My garden installations not only highlight the significance of visual elements in early science of botany and medicine, but also offer an indirect criticism of today’s commercial pharmaceutical practices as well as our own disconnect with nature.

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The Ghafiqi Garden, laser-cut wood and screws, 2016, 6 x 10 feet
Installation view, solo exhibition, California State University, Stanislaus, 2016
After Herbal of al-Ghafiqi, Botanical Manuscript, 12th c., Andalusia

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The Ghafiqi Garden, detail, installation view, solo exhibition, California State University, Stanislaus, 2016

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The Ghafiqi Garden, laser-cut wood and screws, detail

The Gardens of Ghafiqi and Dioscorides, 2017, cut-paper and Mylar, wood, pills, text, paint, pins and threads, 7 x 12 feet
In this installation I composed the garden using both scientists’ botanical manuscripts’ plants

The Gardens of Ghafiqi and Dioscorides; detail

The Garden of Dioscorides, 2017, silkscreen on circle parchments, threads and pins, 4.5 x 10 feet
After De Materia Medica, the herbal manuscript by Dioscorides, 1st c. Greece

The Garden of Dioscorides, details

Folding Gardens, 2017, is an installation composed of 10 transparent strips of silk organza that are suspended from the ceiling. Each strip is 10 feet tall and 24 inches wide. The digitally designed and printed floral pattern on each strip is inspired by medieval medicinal plants as visualized in the 12th c. Andalusian manuscript, Herbal of al-Ghafiqi. Folding Gardens are accompanied by two wall shelves. One shelf displays folded version of strips for the purpose of being carried. If acquired by individuals, each garden strip can be folded and taken anywhere and everywhere. The other shelf displays jars, containing the plants’ extracts. The audience can pick up the jars and smell the aroma. The visitors are also encouraged to walk between Folding Gardens strips and see the drawings up close. Such a sensual experience that simultaneously engages the senses of sight, touch and smell is meant to evoke the power of herbal medicine and the natural world in general.

Folding Gardens 
will be installed in July 2017 at Kala Art Gallery, Berkeley, CA

Shelf Garden is an installation of medieval medicinal plants in vases on a pharmacy pusher-kit shelf with a lighting system for horticulture of the plants. Shelf Garden addresses an indirect criticism of today’s commercial pharmaceutical practices and the current human condition in relation to commercial drugs as well as our own growing disconnect with nature. This installation also offers an approach to healthy Placemaking and public engagement with natural elements and their conversion process in an urban life setting. This site-specific installation was presented in the 4th L.A.S.T Festival in San Jose, CA, April 7&8, 2017




Shelf Garden, 2017, medieval plants in vases, pharmacy pusher-kit shelf, lights, labels,18″x 48″x 14″ and hand-printed lab coat
The 4th L.A.S.T Festival & Exhibition, Hammer Theater Gallery, San Jose, CA, April 7 & 8, 2017


Shelf Garden’s Plants Information Card, 2017, Letter Press print, 8″x 11″, edition of 15
The 4th L.A.S.T Festival & Exhibition, Hammer Theater Gallery, San Jose, CA, April 7 & 8, 2017

Above left to bottom right: Chamomile, Asparagus, Houseleek, Spelt, Anagallis,
Buttercup, Cinquefoil and Henna, all grew indoors using artificial and partial natural lights, 2017

Silkscreen and Mixed-Media Prints:

Buttercup and Houseleek-Asparagus and Black Henna, silkscreen on paper, 30″ x 22″
After Herbal of al-Ghafiqi, Botanical Manuscript, 12th c., Andalusia

Asparagus and Buttercup, silkscreen on paper, 30″ x 22″
After Herbal of al-Ghafiqi, Botanical Manuscript, 12th c., Andalusia

Research and Fellowship Residency at KALA Art Institute:

I am a fellow-resident at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley for 6 months, Jan-July 2017.  I focus my research and art project on medieval botany

Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA, Jan 2017, my work station at their printmaking facility

Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA, Jan 2017, burning my screen: “botanical garden” stencil in the process of making

research

Pages of Herbal of al-Ghafiqi, Botanical Manuscript in Arabic, written by Abu Ja`far al-Ghafiqi, 12th c., Andalusia

Pages of Herbal of al-Ghafiqi, Botanical Manuscript in Arabic, written by Abu Ja`far al-Ghafiqi, 12th c., Andalusia

Pages of De Materia Medica, Botanical Manuscript in Arabic, originally written by Dioscorides, 1st c., Greece
De Materia Medica by Dioscorides was one of the earliest scientific botanical manuscripts to be translated from Greek to Arabic
These are leaves from an illustrated manuscript of the Arabic version of De Materia Medica, copied in the 7th c. and 13th c. in Iran

Images: Courtesy of The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada and Malek National Museum and Library, Tehran, Iran

Malek Library, Tehran, Iran: researching Herbal of Al-Ghafiqi manuscript, Jan 2016