Plants are actually much cleverer than humans. They’ve managed to develop successful methods of sustaining themselves, sensitively and sensibly, over millions of years. Humankind, on the other hand, has destroyed at least as much as we have created, generally working to sustain ourselves at the expense of natural systems rather than in harmony with the planet. Thankfully, humans are gradually cottoning on to the fact that this ruinous practice must cease, or at least be curbed. With the gentlest of aims, Diana Scherer has developed a pleasant way of collaborating with nature to produce organic artworks that inspire a better way forward.

What does ‘natural’ mean in the Anthropocene? Is humankind natural or are we a parasitic species infesting the environment? And what does it mean to love nature? A gardener will likely proclaim their love of nature, but at the same time they will cut, prune and poison the garden, forcing it to behave in a certain way in order to get specific results which are pleasing to their eye. Why is it that a bird making its nest is considered natural and a person building their house is not? What is natural and what is not natural? Has there ever even been a real difference? Have we gone too far in our contamination of the natural world that a distinction between the natural and unnatural is simply no longer possible? Moreover, is natural always good and unnatural (as in manmade) always bad? Ancient pagan wisdom claims there’s no real difference between good and bad because what’s good for you is probably bad for someone else; what’s bad for nature may be good for humans and vice versa. Until it isn’t.

Munich-born, Amsterdam-based artist Diana Scherer explores the relationship between humans and the natural environment. In her practice she examines the boundaries between plant culture and plant nature. Using botanical material and intervening in living systems, both intuitively and through scientific means, defines her way of working. Scherer’s focus is on the hybridisation of natural and human processes.

If you leave a potted plant in a too-small pot for too long and then you break that pot, you’re apt to see hardly any soil left and will notice that the roots have become a tightly-knit jumble, all tangled up together — rootbound: the roots have outgrown the pot and are desperately seeking space. Diana Scherer is interested in roots, above all, particularly in their strength and ability to find any kind of tiny opening through which to carve a path and grow. “I started working on a photo series called ‘Nurture Studies’, showcasing the rootbound phenomenon, and became more and more interested in the world of roots and in what happens below ground. Eventually I began to think of roots as fibres, or yarns, and started exploring the potential of weaving them below ground, literally training them to grow in a specific way. I reached out to Radboud University in Nijmegen, which specialises in plant roots, and together we developed a technique based on a template system.”


Exercises in Root System Domestication, #6, 2020; 30cm x 20cm

Greenhouse View #4, 2016; 160cm x 350cm

Nurture Studies; Soil, Seed, 2011