Stroom Bibliotheeksessies: Leonie Brandner

Monday 12 December 2022
Location: library Stroom Den Haag, Hogewal 1-9
Archive Stroom Bibliotheeksessies / library sessions

A pile of thoughts and perspectives all participants are eager to dive into

On Monday 12 December we enjoyed 2022's final library session. This time our main guest was Leonie Brandner, whom we had invited because of her interesting thesis Dreaming in the Museum that she has mainly been writing in our library! Her guests were Stephanie Pan, Ana Guedes and Farah Rahman.

From white cube to mental health
Leonie starts of by spreading her books on the table, neatly arranging them in a line. She intends to discuss them likewise, chronologically: from her graduation to where she is now heading to. But while talking, Leonie and the other participants often return to previously discussed books, going back and forth, until all books - including the intriguing titles we haven't found time for - end up in a pile of thoughts and perspectives all participants are eager to dive into. This report unfolds itself likewise: meandering from the white cube to mental health, from rocky cellars to ethnobotany and from Celtic wisdom, history, singing and storytelling to the importance of chaos, feminism and non-western knowledge. But gradually a common thread is to be traced.

Leonie's thesis Dreaming in the Museum : Potted Plants as Indicators of Trauma in Museological Settings, is based on her observation that potted plants (and before them, many other comfortable, homey objects like rugs and furniture) gradually have disappeared from exhibition spaces. And that descriptions of the white cube in many ways sound similar to those of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) the first being "a place deprived of location", the second as a state in which "time freezes, dissociation and lack of orientation"...

Joy, comfort and togetherness
Though since her graduation her interests have developed, a lot of the books Leonie has brought, refer to (mental) healing and the importance of joy, comfort and togetherness; therefore also singing, feminism, history and storytelling turn out to be important topics to her. Books that have inspired her thesis are The Body Keeps The Score : Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk, Inge Meijer's The Plant Collection, Brian O'Doherty's Inside the White Cube : The Ideology of the Gallery Space, and One to One, a book on one of Brandner's favorite artists, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, with pictures of his ‘homy' installations.

Most plants in the museums were from colonized areas, so culturally from exploitative systems. Therefore gradually Leonie sought inspiration in a cultural heritage that was more related to her own, Swiss background, and started a study Ethnobotany and Ethnomedicine at Zürich university, transdisciplinary sciences that explore the topics of people, plants and health across cultures
Not surprisingly Emma Kunz 1892-1963 : Forscherin, Naturheilpraktikerin, Künstlerin (Researcher, Naturopath, Artist), by Anton Meier is part of her collection. Kunz, whose work is often mentioned together with that of Hilma of Klimt was not an artist per se, but making art seems to have given her comfort and mental rest.

Places of retreat
Other books of interest are Die verzauberten Täler : Kulte und Bräuche im alten Rätien (The enchanted valleys : cults and customs in ancient Rhaetia) by Christian Caminada, and Grotti, Splui, Cantine : anonyme Felsarchitektur im Maggiatal (Grottos, Splui, Cellars : Anonymous Rock Architecture in the Maggia Valley) with the mystic, intriguing photographs of this 'Felsarchitektur' that remind Stephanie of a church on Crete, at Ayos Pavlos, that, being made out of its surrounding rocks, hardly is discernable from its background.
It seems that a place of retreat, a hideaway is the common denominator in many books. Like in Wintering : The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May.  After being diagnosed with autism May decided to take time to reflect and write. Leonie heard May's interview on the podcast On Being by Krista Tippet, a series she loves to listen to regularly.In these radioshows/podcasts also John O'Donohue was interviewed, another important writer to Leonie. She has brought his book Anam Cara : Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World.

Feminist voices
Staying with ancestral wisdom: The Book of the City of Ladies by the French author Christine de Pizan, written in 1405 was a significant feminist argument against the misogynist male writing of the day. De Pizan had been allowed by her husband to write, which was quite unique by then, as mostly only nuns, like composer and writer Hildegard von Bingen were allowed to study. With Hildegard von Bingen's Physica the conversation moves into Leonie's interest in music and singing. Though Leonie has a sculptural background she wants to incorporate singing more and more in her work, and to get rid of texts, she often finds to didactic. Therefore Lexicon Of The Mouth : Poetics and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imaginary by Brandon Labelle.
Stephanie: "Our voice can reach a lot but with most people the levels and possibilities of each one's voice are very much dependent on (restricted by) the language and culture they belong to". Stephanie specifically mentions opera, especially the Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Its performance has been a great experience to her as its experimental, chaotic way of creating, together with the public, offers lots of freedom. Stephanie regards this way of creating as a feminist strategy: there is no dominance; the chaos, the glitches offer space to create. A way of working she herself needs too.

The participants share their ways to get inspired, create and communicate. Stephanie: "Dutch language has less words to make yourself clear". She refers to an example she encountered when learning Dutch: she did not notice the satire in a Dutch text; for Farah body language is important. The conversation leads to The Body Multiple : Ontology in Medical Practice by Annemarie Mol. Though Leonie has not brought it, it has definitely been very important to her, as it is about what we see - and more: what we do not see. And it brings her to In the Eye of the Wild by Nastassja Martin, about being excluded, the feeling not to belong anywhere anymore.

How do you deal with things that are not yours?
The realization that our knowledge often is limited by our culture and history, leads us to The Botanical Mind : Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree that reveals how the vegetal kingdom has metaphysical importance to the development of consciousness and spirituality. The cover shows a figure, half man half plant, a Mandrake. Leonie dealt with the Mandrake in her thesis as part of her studies Ethnobotany.

How can we deal with history - and especially: with all that has been left out, knowledge not been passed over? In Our Fatal Magic, Tai Shani proposes a space of critique in which gender constructs are destabilized, alternative histories imagined, and post-patriarchal futures proposed.

Stephanie shares her experience with a Chinese herbalist and an acupuncturist. "A lot of non-western ways of healing cannot be decided upon their genuineness and effect as we only have western ways of testing". And for a long time the western medical science has been male dominated, so that symptoms of e.g. a heart attack or autism with women, were overlooked. Farah refers to her research in Peru on medicinal plants. It made her dive into her own Surinam family history and explore her grandma's knowledge. "The jungle is a living archive. A lot of found footage."

"Books are like friends, like having the antenna's out"
Farah shares that also doing courses is important to her, and walking, to help her think, reflect. Again: the importance of retreat. Stephanie: For process you need rest, relaxation, reflection. "Your life is meditation; minds need doing nothing". All agree. No wonder the participants come up with new titles to read, like In Praise of Walking by Shane O'Mara and Bill Bryson's A history of almost everything. Which of course brings us to our final insight: the relevance of books: as a way to wonder around in luminescent ideas.

"Books are like friends, like having the antenna's out".
"A book is a medium talking to mediums."
Ana: "Books are instruments"

A selection of the books brought in by Leonie:

Dreaming in the Museum : Potted Plants as Indicators of Trauma in Museological Settings / by Leonie Brandner. - The Hague - in house, 2021. - 124 p. : ill. ; 27 cm
Includes bibliography
Brandner's KABK master thesis "about the triangular history of potted plants, museum displays and trauma diagnosis. A collection of stories across time in different places [-] stories of peoples' lives, stories of potted plants and stories about the way we account for the fragmenting effects traumatic experiences can have. But more than anything else it is a story about hope, wonder, and joy [-]" (Brandner).

The Body Keeps The Score : Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma / by Bessel van der Kolk. -  New York : Penguin Putnam, 2015. - 455 p.
ISBN: 9780143127741
Drawing on more than thirty years at the forefront of research and clinical practice, Bessel van der Kolk is a Boston-based psychiatrist shows that the terror and isolation at the core of trauma literally reshape both brain and body. New insights into our survival instincts explain why traumatized people experience incomprehensible anxiety and numbing and intolerable rage, and how trauma affects their capacity to concentrate, to remember, to form trusting relationships, and even to feel at home in their own bodies. The author is both a scientific researcher and an active therapist. This makes the book a personal, analytic, and highly readable approach to the topic of trauma recovery.

Inge Meijer : The Plant Collection / ed. by Inge Meijer. - Amsterdam : Roma, 2019. - 112 p. :  ill. ; 30 cm. -  (Ned./Eng.)
ISBN: 9789492811530
When Willem Sandberg, the newly appointed director of Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum, held an exhibition in 1946 in honour of Piet Mondrian, he did something quite remarkable. He placed a Swiss cheese plant next to Mondrian's paintings. For Sandberg, the aesthetic placement of a plant in the museum made a statement. No longer would the Stedelijk be an elite temple for art; rather, he wanted the public to become accustomed to contemporary art in a familiar, domestic environment. Artist Inge Meijer investigated the vanished and subsequently forgotten vegetation in the museum during the 1945-1983 period for this book, rendering its history once again visible.

Inside the White Cube : The Ideology of the Gallery Space : expanded edition / by Brian O'Doherty ; intr. by Thomas McEvilley. - Berkeley : University of California, 2000. - 120 p. : ill. ; 20 cm
Publication of the essays O'Doherty wrote for Artforum in 1976. When first published their impact was immediate. They were discussed, annotated, cited, collected, and translated. O'Doherty was the first to explicitly confront a particular crisis in postwar art as he sought to examine the assumptions on which the modern commercial and museum gallery was based. Concerned with the complex and sophisticated relationship between economics, social context, and aesthetics as represented in the contested space of the art gallery, he raises the question of how artists must construe their work in relation to the gallery space and system. This edition also includes ‘The Gallery as Gesture', a critical piece published ten years after the others. With an introduction by Thomas McEvilley and afterword by Brian O'Doherty.

Marc Camille Chaimowicz : One to One / by Marc Camille Chaimowicz. -  Milan : Mousse, 2006. - 72 p. : ill.
ISBN: 9788867493302
Publication documenting the exhibition at the Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover by London-based installation artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz's (born 1947). The titular piece is a kind of "surrogate apartment" with provisional walls and skirting boards that demarcate the floor plan.

Emma Kunz 1892-1963 . Forscherin, Naturheilpraktikerin, Künstlerin / durch Anton C. Meier. - Wu?renlos : Emma Kunz Zentrum, 2003. - 95 p. :  ill ; 20 cm
ISBN: 978-3855450862
Emma Kunz lived in Switzerland from 1892-1963. Throughout her life she was known as a healer, but she described herself as a researcher. Even during her school years, Kunz was concerned with unusual phenomena. At the age of 18, she began to use her talents in telepathy, prophecy and as a healer, and she started scrying. In 1942 Kunz discovered the power of the Swiss healing stone and gave it the name AION A. From 1938 she created large-format pictures on graph paper. She described her pictorial work as follows: "design and form as measure, rhythm, symbol and transformation of number and principle". As a visionary artist, she left behind a fascinating body of work.

Die verzauberten Täler : Kulte und Bräuche im alten Rätien / durch Christian Caminada ; mit Vorwort von Peter Egloff. - Chur : Desertina, 2006 [1961]. - 338 p.
ISBN: 978-3856373252
Ancient pre-Christian sagas live on in the form of Christianized legends and many traces suggest the religiosity of the original inhabitants. The former bishop of Chur, capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden, Christian Caminada, (1876-1962) collected such traces of cults and customs in ancient Rhaetia (now Graubünden) in decades of work.

Grotti, Splüi, Cantine : anonyme Felsarchitektur im Maggiatal / Fotogr. von Thomas Burla und Ralph Hut. Mit einem Text von Conradin Wolf. - Zürich : Howeg, 1995. - 144 p. : ill. ; cm
ISBN: 9783857361296
Ralph Hut and Thomas Burla photographed the caves and rock shelters in Ticino, Switzerland, that the inhabitants once harnessed and expanded for their own purposes with dry stone walls.

Wintering : The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times / by Katherine May. - London : Ebury, 2020. - 288 p. ; 19,5 cm
ISBN: 9781846045998
In ‘Wintering', Katherine May recounts her own year-long journey through winter, sparked by a sudden illness in her family that plunged her into a time of uncertainty and seclusion. She managed to find strength and inspiration from the wintering experiences of others as well as from the transformations that nature makes to survive the cold.

Anam Cara : Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World / by John O'Donohue. - London : Transworld, 1999. - 288 p. ; 20 cm
ISBN: 9780553505924
Where the Christians worshipped one God, the Celts had many and found divinity all around them: in the rivers, hills, sea and sky. Irish poet and scholar John O'Donohue shares the secrets of this ancient world, by using authentic Irish prayers and blessings, thus leading his readers  "to a place where your heart can be healed and nourished [-] where you will discover your own anam cara, your true 'soul friend'."

The Book of the City of Ladies = La Cité des Dames / by Christine de Pizan. - London : Picador Books, 1984 [1405]. - 336 p.
ISBN: 9780892552306)
The Book of the City of Ladies, published in 1405 as ‘La cité des dames' was written by medieval author Christine de Pizan in praise of women and as a defense of their capabilities and virtues. The work is a significant feminist argument against the misogynist male writing of the day. It was based in part on Giovanni Boccaccio's De claris mulieribus (1360-74; Concerning Famous Women). The Book of the City of Ladies has a three-part structure. The first section introduces the three Virtues—Reason, Rectitude, and Justice—with whom the author communes. Christine then tells the stories of 11 ladies of political and military accomplishment, 18 ladies of learning and skill, and 4 ladies of prudence. The second section includes ladies who exemplify virtuous conduct, and the third section includes discussions of various holy women, including Mary Magdalene, Saint Catherine, martyred virgin saints, Saint Christine (Christine's patron saint), two female saints who lived disguised as monks, other martyred female saints, women who helped the Apostles, and a conclusion.

Hildegard von Bingen's Physica : The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing / by Hildegard of Bingen ; transl. Priscilla Throop. - London : Healing Arts Press, 1998. - 256 p. ; 23 cm
ISBN: 9780892816613
At a time when few women could write and most were denied a formal education, the nun Hildegard von Bingen became a legendary healer, visionary, musician, artist, poet, and saint. Her works include twenty-seven symphonic compositions; Scivias, a compilation of her visions; and her two major medical works, Causae et Curae, a medical compendium, and Physica, published here in English. Physica has a strong affinity with the Eastern medical approaches gaining great respect today. The modern reader interested in natural healing will recognize the enormous truth in the theories of this 12th-century physician, which remind us that our cures for illness depend on our natural world and our place in it.

Lexicon Of The Mouth : Poetics and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imaginary / by Brandon Labelle. - Bloomsbury, 2014. - 221 p. ;  22 cm
ISBN: 9781623561888
‘Lexicon of the Mouth' surveys the oral cavity as the central channel by which self and surrounding are brought into relation. Questions of embodiment and agency, attachment and loss, incorporation and hunger, locution and the non-sensical are critically examined. In doing so, LaBelle emphasizes the mouth as a vital conduit for negotiating the foundational narrative of proper speech. Lexicon of the Mouth aims for a viscous, poetic and resonant discourse of subjectivity, detailed through the micro-oralities of laughing and whispering, stuttering and reciting, eating and kissing, among others. The oral cavity is posed as an impressionable arena, susceptible to all types of material input, contamination and intervention, while also enabling powerful forms of resistance, attachment and conversation, as well as radical imagination.
The Body Multiple : Ontology in Medical Practice /  by Annemarie Mol . - Durham : Duke University, 2003. - 216 p.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-2917-6
Drawing on fieldwork in a Dutch university hospital, Annemarie Mol looks at the day-to-day diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis. The result juxtaposes two distinct texts. Alongside Mol's analysis of her ethnographic material - interviews with doctors and patients and observations of medical examinations and operations - runs a parallel text in which she reflects on literature drawn from medical anthropology, sociology, feminist theory, philosophy, science and technology studies to reframe such issues as the disease-illness distinction, subject-object relations, boundaries, difference and ontology. In dialogue with one another, Mol's two texts meditate on the multiplicity of reality-in-practice.

In the Eye of the Wild / by  Nastassja Martin. - New York : New York Review Books, 2021. - 121 p. ; 27 cm  
ISBN: 978-1681375854
After enduring a vicious bear attack, the French anthropologist Nastassja Martin undergoes a physical and spiritual transformation that forces her to confront the tenuous distinction between animal and human. Martin's professional interest is animism; she addresses philosophical questions about the relation of humankind to nature, and in her work she seeks to partake as fully as she can in the lives of the indigenous peoples she studies. Her violent encounter with the bear, however, brings her face-to-face with something entirely beyond her: the untamed, the nonhuman, the animal, the wild. In the course of that encounter something in the balance of her world shifts. A change takes place that she must somehow reckon with. She must discover what it means to have become, as the Even people call it, medka, a person who is half human, half bear.

The Botanical Mind : Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree / ed. by Gina Buenfeld and Martin Clark. - London : Camden Art Centre. - 232 p. : ill. ; 23 cm
Incl. notes
ISBN: 9781907208942
Richly illustrated companion to the similar named exhibition at Camden Art Centre, September 24, 2020 to February 28, 2021. 'The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree' looks back through history at diverse cultural, spiritual, and mythological traditions to reappraise the importance of plants to life on this planet. The exhibition presented an extraordinary array of artworks by over 70 surrealist, modern, visionary, outsider, indigenous Amazonian, and contemporary artists, spanning more than 500 years. Through the symbolism of diverse cultural artefacts and the works of mystics, artists and thinkers around the world, 'The Botanical Mind' reveals how the vegetal kingdom has metaphysical importance to the development of consciousness and spirituality.

Our Fatal Magic / ed. by Tai Shani. -  London : Strange Attractor, 2019. -  XXIII, 170 p. : ill. ; 19 cm
ISBN: 9781907222818
A collection of feminist science fiction by contemporary artist Tai Shani. Foregrounding explorations of sensation, experience, and interiority, these twelve prose vignettes refract their ideas through a series of curious characters, from Medieval Mystics to Cubes of Flesh, from Sirens to Neanderthal Hermaphrodites. Drawing on the speculative narrative strategies pioneered by writers like Marge Piercy, Octavia Butler and others, ‘Our Fatal Magic' metabolizes new and necessary fictions from feminist and queer theory to propose an erotic, often violent space of critique in which gender.

Also brought by Leonie, talked about, but not mentioned in the report:

Cræft : An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts / by Alexander Langlands. -  New York : Norton & Company, 2018. - 352 p. ; 23 cm
ISBN: 978-0393635904
In ‘Craeft, archaeologist and medieval historian Alexander Langlands argues that our modern understanding of craft only skims the surface. Reaching as far back as the Neolithic period, he combines deep history with scientific analyses and personal anecdotes on several ways of craft. When it first appeared in Old English, the word cræft signified an indefinable sense of knowledge, wisdom, and resourcefulness. Langlands argues that rediscovering craft as cræft will connect us with our past, sense of place, and our capacity to survive in the harshest of landscapes. It might even make us more fully appreciate human ingenuity and the passing on of traditions from generation to generation.

The Dark Abyss of Time : Archaeology and Memory / by Laurent Olivier. - Lanham (MD) [etc.] :  Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. - 230 p. ; 23 cm
ISBN: 978-0-7591-2046-4
The traditional view on archaeology is that the basic business of it is to reconstruct the history of cultures and civilizations through their material productions. Olivier challenges this view with a new approach based on the works of theorists such as Foucault, de Certeaux, Derrida, Darwin and Freud. His thesis is that archaeology does not study the past itself but rather what materially remains of the past in our present (so what has subjectively been selected as being important). Olivier also develops an interpretation of material culture based on Aby Warburg's and Walter Benjamin's work in the anthropology of art.

Die Lichtsinnesorgane der Laubblätter / durch G. Haberlandt. - Leipzig : Wilhelm Engelmann. 1905. 142 p. : ill. ; 29 cm
"Theoretically all plant cells are able to give rise to a complete plant." Gottlieb Haberlandt (1854 -1945) was an Austrian botanist, who first pointed out the possibilities of the culture of isolated tissues.

Titles mentioned in the report, but not part of Leonie's collection:

In Praise of Walking : A New Scientific Exploration / by Shane O'Mara. - New York : W. W. Norton & Company, 2021. - 224 p. : ill.
ISBN: 9780393867497
From walking's evolutionary origins, traced back millions of years to life forms on the ocean floor, to new findings from cutting-edge research, neuroscientist Shane O'Mara reveals how the brain and nervous system give us the ability to balance, weave through a crowded city, and run our inner GPS system. Walking is good for our muscles and posture; it helps to protect and repair organs, and can slow or turn back the aging of our brains. With our minds in motion we think more creatively, our mood improves, and stress levels fall. Walking together to achieve a shared purpose is also a social glue that has contributed to our survival as a species.

A Short History of Nearly Everything / by Bill Bryson. - London : Transworld, 2016. - 666 p. : ill.  ; 20 cm
ISBN: 9781784161859
Taking as his territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. The result is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge.