Inge Meijer

The Plant Collection

‘Don’t look at me – I’m irrelevant!’ In the middle of an episode of the 1980s comedy series The Young Ones, the camera suddenly zooms in on a matchbox, which then states its irrelevance in these words. The plants in The Plant Collection are presented in a similarly absurdist manner, in the white museum spaces of Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, through the black-and-white exhibition images from the time of Willem Sandberg and Edy de Wilde collected together in this book. There is certainly a dead-pan humour aspect at work here: seeing a Swiss cheese plant alongside Mondriaan’s Victory Boogie Woogie. Inge Meijer’s archive project results in a wonderful collection of impressions of the museum at that time, in which it is not the art but the plants, however modest and marginal they may seem, that take centre stage. Unthinkable in the museum as it is now, with all the hygiene and climate-control requirements, we are surprised by their silent presence – although their equally silent disappearance from the museum’s spaces is just as remarkable. This could easily be a contemporary climate activism-inspired art project, introducing a natural element into the sterile museum building. In a certain sense, Meijer’s project is also this; Sandberg’s introduction of the plants was after all a conscious step motivated by cultural policy and social/idealistic considerations. It is incredible how the presentation of this series of black-and-white archival photos can have such a twenty-first century, post-modern, absurdist vibe. The straightforward presentation, the captions accompanying the photos, the texts: everything is done in the style of an exhibition catalogue. And justly so, because the Stedelijk’s plants were seen as a collection, with a specially trained attendant to care for them. As one jury member pointed out, the linen spine of the Swiss binding is reminiscent of Sandberg’s visual language, and the two flaps enclosing the book block to left and right lend the book the feel of an archive folder. The transformation of archival photos into an art project has been achieved through selection, presentation and concentration and the design and execution are exemplary and integral to this. A perfectly finished world which finally won over the jury unanimously.

Edition: 2019
Release date: May 2019
Language: English / Dutch
Translator: Jane Bemont
Final editor: Geurt Imanse; auteurs: Caroline Roodenburg, Maria Barnas
Picture editor: Inge Meijer
Artist: Inge Meijer
Publisher / commissioner: Roma Publications, Amsterdam
Available through: Bookschop, webshop
Designer: Roger Willems (Amsterdam), Dongyoung Lee (Amsterdam)
Lithographer: Wilco Art Books, Amersfoort
Printer: Wilco Art Books, Amersfoort
Binder: Wilco Art Books, Amersfoort
Dimensions: 210 x 297 x 14
Amount of pages: 112
Number of copies: 800
Price: € 28
ISBN: 978 94 92811 53 0
Font and foundry: Caslon (Adobe)
Binding style: Swiss-style cut-flush binding, spine glued with linen (Halflinnen Dark - Van Heek Textiles)
Paper interior: 150gsm Munken Print White 15, Arctic Paper
Cover material: 300gsm Munken Print White 15, Arctic Paper
Other technical features: The back flap of the cover has been folded around the book block.