Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s

Feb 11–Jun 3, 2012

Christopher Williams (American, b. 1946)
Angola to Vietnam*, 1989
Gelatin silver prints with individual labels
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The El Paso Natural Gas Company Fund for California Art, 89.34
Angola to Vietnam* features twenty-seven images (nine of which are seen here) of glass flowers from Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. Drawing from the Peabody’s cache of sculptural specimens, Christopher Williams selected only those plants native to countries in which state-sponsored murders occurred in 1984. The information affixed to each photograph mimics the museum’s labels, but here Williams places the country of origin above the flower’s Latin name, subtly foregrounding the political over the natural. By referencing government-sanctioned atrocities, Williams calls attention to the flowers’ colonial origins, as the science of botany is rooted in the tangled and often exploitative history of international exploration and trade.