Contemporary artist Wolfgang Laib

Discussion in 'Plants: Science and Cultivation' started by ladygray, Mar 5, 2013.

  1. ladygray

    ladygray New Member

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    Brooklyn, New York
    Hello there, I'm an art historian researching contemporary artist Wolfgang Laib. Some of Laib's signature works are made of pollen (hazelnut, dandelion, and pine) which he has painstakingly collected from around his village in southern Germany. He collects as much as possible, jars' worth. A good example is a work made of hazelnut pollen currently on view at The Museum of Modern Art in New York:

    Laib has been doing this every year since 1977. My question is, is there any environmental impact from this activity? Is there cumulative harm done to the reproductive cycles of these plants, since he has been harvesting their pollen for so long?

    I would really appreciate any insight you all can give!
  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    A few thoughts that immediately come to mind:

    He's able to collect a lot of pollen because these plants produce a lot of it.

    Source of the plants? If the pine pollen was collected from a plantation, I don't see too much overall detriment other than depriving some pollen-eating and pine-seed eating organisms (and those reliant upon them). Collecting pollen from cultivated hazelnut would again reduce food sources for those groups, but if the hazelnuts were just going to be harvested for human use anyway, then the impact is even more reduced. In either case, I doubt he's 100% efficient, so the overall effect would be to suppress, not eliminate.

    On the other hand, if these are wild plants, then I suppose the method of collection comes into play as another factor. If the pollen is harvested directly from the plants (as opposed to, say, collecting from a pond surface), then there is probably some effect on suppressing recruitment of the next generation of plants. It comes back to numbers, though -- if 2% is collected from any given tree, the long-term effect probably wouldn't be measurable for many years. If 50%, then, yes, there might be some harm; however, that then brings up the question of frequency. If 50% in years 1, 4, 7, 10 and none in the other years, the impact would be reduced overall.

    A lot of ifs and speculation, so without knowing his methodology for collection it is hard to say what the overall impact would be. I imagine the environmental impact is much less than, say, the cumulative impact of harvesting, processing and distributing the tissues used by people who have pollen allergies on any given day...

    As for dandelions, other than the removal of pollen as a food source for pollen-eaters, no real impact, I should think. Dandelions are often apomictic, with the effect that they don't require pollen to produce viable seed.

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