The Galerie Maria Lund is showing Swedish photographer Helene Schmitz’s “Kudzu Project,” a visual mediation on nature and the impermanence of things. The mostly black and white photographs are a poetic melange of documentation and art—at once beautiful and yet subtly terrifying like a David Lynch film.
The kudzu, a plant originating from Japan, was introduced to the United States at the end of the 19th century, for its decorative qualities and as a ground-covering plant; it was then massively planted from the 1930s onwards as an answer to soil erosion in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Kudzu can grow up to 30 cm in a day! Thus, within a few years, this imported plant deemed pretty and useful at first became a nuisance. It’s sometimes referred to as “the Vine that devoured the South”.
Spreading with its tendrils, like in a slow motion apocalypse movie, the Kudzu smothers almost everything in its path — trees, abandoned cars, roads, houses. Intrigued by this phenomenon Schmitz went to Georgia and Alabama several times in 2012 to photograph it. She explored a similar theme of nature prevailing over human activity with her “Sunken Gardens” photos taken a few years ago in the Surinam jungle.
Many of her photos of Kudzu covered trees evoke super-sized monumental sculptures, a kind of “land art” or “earth work” in progress. For this project Schmitz decided to return to traditional film using a view camera to get large-format negatives (24 x 30 cm) which she later scans. Doing this she says allows her to work “with the slowness of a painter… to observe and record the phenomena of nature with a heightened consciousness of the ephemeral.”
Helene Schmitz’s “Kudzu Project,” to December 7, 2013, Galerie Maria Lund, 48 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris http://www.marialund.com/en/