Saskia Groneberg “Büropflanze”
Büropflanze (office plant) is an ostensible scientific study of German office fauna. It meditates on workspaces and inherently questions the forms and values of daily work life. The bits and pieces of nature, almost unconsciously brought to the workplace, seem to reveal lot about the basic needs of human beings when artificially placed into an inorganic, standardised environment, where everything present is assigned to fulfil a specific function.
Even when provided by the company as a decorative element, the office plant is something that is allowed to unopposedly thrive and blossom: A tiny bit of anarchy amid the rigid clockwork, something amorphous among the geometric forms, a spark of life within the mechanisms of control. In contrast to the holiday postcards, family photographs or other attempts to personalise the impersonal office architecture, plants are prone to change and grow – sometimes utterly unnoticed, and sometimes under close observation and loving care – up the ceiling, around and behind the heater and encroaching through the blinds. Plants can only be controlled to a certain extent, yet they are utterly dependent; they must be watered and cared for to survive in such an arid and artificial habitat. From the mail room to the chief executives office, you will always find the same robust species of plants transferred from exotic subtropical regions, adapted to a life with dry periods and flooding at room temperatures. The close relationship between human and plant can last for many years – sometimes for the duration of an entire career. Office plants seem to fulfil a primeval human need for being surrounded by the organic, particularly in an unnatural and impersonal space, constructed purely under the premises of functionality.
On numerous expeditions into the office fauna of Germany, I photographed office plants within their “natural” habitat, deep in the spheres of western workspaces. I collected leaves for a herbarium, meticulously archiving them with the help of a scanner. Accompanying texts composed by various employees offer a glimpse into the plant owner’s psyche. The results of my research are cumulated in an extensive book reminiscent of old illustrated botany books. The collected cuttings continue to exist as a living archive in a laboratory-like installation in which they are able to strike roots and grow.
Büropflanze was awarded the German Photography Prize ‘gute aussichten_new german photography 2012/2013‘. The book object was nominated for the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award, Arles at Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles in 2015 and was included as part of the permanent collection of the Fotomuseum Winterthur in 2013. The work has been shown in many national and international exhibitions.
About the author
Saskia Groneberg studied at the State Academy of Art and Design, Stuttgart and the State Academy of Fine Arts, Leipzig (Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig).
In her projects, Saskia Groneberg meditates on the design of various human environments. For the past several years, she has been particularly interested in artificially moulded nature, finding its expression in parks, landscapes and ornamental plants. She questions and interprets this synthesized nature as projections of profound and essential human longings and needs that arise from certain cultural, political and social circumstances. While primarily focusing on photography and book design, she also incorporates other mediums such as video and installation into her artistic work.
Among several other awards, she won the German Photography Talent Prize „gute aussichten_new german photography“ in 2012 and received a special mention at the Fotomuseum Winterthur Plat(t)form in 2013. She was nominated for the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award, Arles at Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles in 2015. In April and May 2016 she was invited to participate in an artist residency programme of the Goethe-Institut Bangalore in India. Her work has been shown in national and international exhibitions, including Haus der Photographie, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Museum Marta Herford, University of Cologne, Goethe-Institut Chigago, Goethe-Institut Washington DC, Goethe-Institut Bangalore, and others.
Richard Mosse, Heat Maps, 2016
Mandy Barker, Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals, 2015
Saskia Groneberg, Büropflanze, 2012
Beate Gütschow, S Series, 2004-2009
Benny Lam, Subdivided Flats, 2012
Michael Wolf, Tokyo Compression, 2008-2010
Munem Wasif, Land of Undefined Territory, 2014-2015
Pavel Wolberg, Barricades, 2009-2014
Rinko Kawauchi, Ametsuchi, 2012
Sergey Ponomarev, Europe Migration Crisis, 2015
Sohei Nishino, Diorama Map, 2010-2016
Thomas Ruff, ma.r.s, 2013