Date of Publishing:
November 21, 2023

Map of the Bomb © Amanda Beech, 2022

Understanding Practice – Astrid S. Klein

23 Nov 2023 18:00-19:30, 24 Nov 2023, 10:00-12:00

University of Applied Arts, Vienna

Zentrum Fokus Forschung

Rustenschacherallee 2-4

1020 Wien

23 November 2023, 18:00 – 19:30

Exchange & Discourse
24 November 2023, 10:00 – 12:00

The Power of the Kola – Negotiating the Living

With her long-term project The Power of the Kola, the artist Astrid S. Klein introduces her translocal research and research practice.Her artistic investigations trace connections and paths which intend to depart from the 'colonial library' (V.Y. Mudimbe) and to permit vibrant, nonessentialist neighborhoods of multiple worlds.

The Power of the Kola is a long-lasting, intergenerational art project by Astrid S. Klein that has involved international research, art works and public events since 2011. It is supported by the voices of many contributors. With the diasporic Kola plant (Cola acuminata), the artist focuses on tropical plants in Europe as powerful protagonists embodying varifold meanings and modes of action. In this she collaborates with a particular plant that lives in diaspora in a botanical garden in Germany. 

 Opposed to the violence of the Plantationocene, the Kola embodies constructive forms of activity and communication and enables the emergence of respectful, equal relationships. Marginalised, local, endogenous and indigenous knowledge about ecology, plant medicine, local economies, social relations, other cosmologies and cultures of memory and reconciliation are given their space. Alternative translocal modes of action are negotiated on an equal footing in the encounter and convergence of different knowledge complexes.


An audio piece by Astrid S. Klein with contributions by Jupiter Bokondji, Albert Gouaffo, Koko Komégné, and Soro Solo, and with music by Mariá Portugal and Huguette Tolinga

The audio piece To the Red Soil will accompany the departure of young Kola plants, living in the diaspora in Germany. They are embarking on a journey to the African tropics. The plants have decided to leave the University of Hohenheim’s tropical collection greenhouse to accept an invitation to travel to Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This departure from the Western archive may seem a bit absurd, and it raises questions. Why are the plants in a botanical collection in Europe in the first place? Why are they traveling “to the red soil”? What are their plans? Do they wish to unfold their dormant potential, activate alliances, and negotiate more just relationships? Will they make use of their profound skills to become active again? Will they link various systems of knowledge in an equitable way? Are they capable of countering the violence of industrial plantations and the extraction of natural resources with alternative perspectives and actions?

The Kola tree and its seeds, the Kola nuts, hold significant meaning for the African continent. In the botanical collections of the West, which are inextricably linked to European colonialism and extractivism, the Cola acuminata as a tropical cropplant and raw material is omnipresent. Yet the agency of these plants as protagonists is widely ignored. The journey of the plants will take place in 2024 and is part of the multivoiced art project The Power of the Kola by Astrid S. Klein.

Understanding Practice is an event series hosted by the ZFF and the PhD in Art Program. With our renowned guests, we explore their respective practices and experiences, questioning the possibilities of understanding and practising art and research together. In both a staged performance or lecture and a conversational workshop and exchange format, we will dive into different perspectives of art and research. This approach allows for an encounter with the work of the invited guests, as well as a joint reflection of their practice and its specific challenges and implications.