Our homes and wardrobes are abundant with flora and fauna, even as our lives move further away from them. Writer Meher Varma explores our enduring fascination with the natural world.
The union between botany and design is back and, perhaps, more visible than ever before. Across high-end and mass retail outlets, we see objects like pillows and wallpapers plastered with natural prints, like leafy palm leaves and robust lemons. ‘Bring the outside in,’ or ‘get in touch with your natural side,’ they suggest.
Botanicapitalism is a word I made up to explain this trend. The ‘capitalism’ addition is essential, because to me it suggests that while the marriage of botany and design is something we’ve seen before, the form and shape it takes now is a little different—a little more seriously intertwined with the larger phenomenon of capitalism.
Botanicapitalism, as opposed to a term like botanical design, indicates that nature has also become a kind of currency; this currency is at times, even more powerful than the actual value of nature itself. Botanicapitalism whispers: Nature— the one thing historically exempt from man’s designs—can also now be customised, curated, colour adjusted, and possessed at a price. In short, it has been commodified more than ever before.
Botanicapitalism is not ahistorical or random. Nor is it, in most cases, easy to resist. It emerges as one movement in a long history of design, and has produced some of the best works in our collective visual records. William Morris immediately comes to mind. Acquiring his regal wallpapers is one way to celebrate the charm of the aristocratic countryside, flowering gardens free of industrial production. People who buy Morris today may still sense the romanticism for the real flora and fauna that filled beautiful landscapes, before they were hijacked by intense urban development.
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