The Museum of IF contains two clippings from a grapevine or grapevines. A fluid has been applied to the frilly tendrils at the ends of the woody stems, perhaps to suggest that the juicy fruits have recently been removed. Or perhaps to keep the ends alive so that – in some unusual circumstance – the fruit might be placed back on the stem.
If the fluid has been added to evoke the residual act of picking the fruit then this suggests that the significance of these objects is located in the specific time period after the harvesting of the grapes and before the drying out of the stems. To be ‘still fresh’ but absent puts the spectator in the position of a tracker, close to the last person to interact with the object – in such a decisive fashion by removing the edible parts of the plant. We can’t be sure whether the spectator would be welcome or not to touch these objects, although handling would inevitably change their nature. However, either way they must feel somewhat deprived that act of eating.
That these samples are short clippings, cut with sharp implements, suggests that they were connected to a variety of table grapes rather than wine grapes. Here have been displayed on an open, flat white table which adds to the sense that they are domestic or domesticated fruits. Indeed the width of the stems and engorged feeling of the connecting parts of the stem suggest some level of selective breeding.
The flat white surface of the table makes the shadows cast by a single but diffuse source of light more easy to follow than if they were shown on a surface with heavy relief. It may be that the objects’ relationship to their own shadow is deemed important. The simplicity of the background might also suggest an attempt at neutrality in order to emphasise the forms and colour of the clippings. However, we should not assume that whoever made this display associated the colour ‘white’ with neutrality. It might represent other values from the natural world such as the cold associated with snow or the distance or the clouds.
In the former case the shadow might be seen to infringe with the snow. In other cultures ‘black’ need not be opposed to ‘white’, but if it were then the shadow woud appear hot on the surface. The objects’ mass, responsible for cutting out the light and casting the shadow, might be seen to be that which ‘melts’ the surface or is somewhat disruptive to something so flat. However, all this assumes that this display was made with and understanding of physics sufficient to know that shadows are the result of the absence of light and that heat causes snow to melt.
In the latter case – that the ‘white’ corresponds to clouds – the shadow might imply something less binary than the snow scenario. The darkening of clouds is synonymous with rainfall or alternatively with the coming of night. Where the clippings touch the surface of the table they also appear to touch their shadow. So here the connection of plant life and the rain cycle seems close.
In many of these scenarios however, we presume either a familiarity with these cultural ideas that makes them immanent or a slower attempt on the part of a spectator to make sense of them. The notion that the spectator is a kind of tracker would, contrary to these reading, suggest a much swifter and less symbolic response. The index that is the nodes of grape juice and the absence of the fruit might be enough to trigger a swift movement from one to the next. In this case does from one to the next pertain only to the two samples that are in The Museum of IF collection or are they two of a much bigger collection? If there only ever to then does the spectator look from one to the other an complete the experience or do they look repeatedly from one to the other in a cyclical fashion? The latter scenario would imply a kind of short-circuiting of attention that would have to be broken in some way; perhaps the spectator looks from one to the other a number of times that corresponds to the number of absence grapes, in the case and reading left to right (which may not be correct) that would be seven and eight. A total of 15 glances.
We might also comment on the difference of the two samples. The first is squat with long and relatively think branching parts. The second has a much longer ‘stem’. By our own estimation the second sample seems more elegant, but this might not be the view or intention of those who set up this display. One may be deemed more ‘beautiful’ than the other, but again we can’t assume this value makes sense for those who set up the display.
Two grapevine clippings (date unknown)