Simon Starling

19 November - 23 December 2005

  • C.A.M.

The exhibition C.A.M conflates various nocturnal tales of exchange, survival and opportunism. The title C.A.M refers to the process Crassulacean Acid Metabolism, where by cacti and other succulent plants reduce water loss by taking on Co2 at night and thus survive in the harshest of arid climates. Although this process was first given its name in 1813 by the Moravian missionary Benjamin Heynes,it had first been observed in 1804 by the Swiss scientist Nicolas Théodore de Saussure (1767 – 1845). Nicolas experimented regularly with Optunia cacti and observed that, unlike most plants, they respire at night. He published his findings in Recherches Chimiques sur La Végétation.

The form of the exhibition is also inspired by a tale of Swiss ingenuity already investigated in the photographic work " By night the Swiss buy cheap-rate electricity from their neighbours which they use to pump water into holding reservoirs. By day they use the stored water to generate hydroelectric power which they then sell back to their neighbours at peak-rate prices." This verbosely titled work that involved the re-photographing of a set of images made by the America artist Christopher Williams of the Grand Dixance Dam, proposed a relationship between the storage of artworks and the use of Swiss mountains and lakes as a kind of vast battery capitalising on daily fluctuations in electricity prices to generate revenue from nearly nothing.


Will it start a vogue for plant-shaped radiators? Worthy of the Turner – Good luck Simon.