Lucia Veronesi: The Extinct Desinence

Lucia Veronesi. MOCA London

Curated by Claudio Zecchi and Paolo Mele

The Italian artist Lucia Veronesi’s project The Extinct Desinence is a broad reflection on the relationship between the extinction of languages, the field of botany, the history of science in its female declinations, and their socio-political implications.

Until the Middle Ages, scientific knowledge was reserved for men – with one important exception: botany. Since ancient times, women have known the uses of herbs for medical purposes.  During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, new possibilities opened for women; they could access education and, in rare cases, travel to train themselves. In the nineteenth century, the first manuals for travelers began to circulate, with instructions on the collection of archaeological finds, observation, and cataloging of populations, animals, and plants. Some women traveled across Europe, Asia, and Africa, but their scripts and memoirs were rarely mentioned in the bibliographies of travelers of those times. Their contribution to scientific knowledge had been removed. This historical “cancel culture” has a striking analogy in today’s botanical field, that is in the erasure of many medicinal plant species used by indigenous populations who pass on their knowledge orally. If their languages go extinct, valuable medical knowledge will be lost. A study by the University of Zurich conducted by Jordi Bascompte and Rodrigo Cámara-Leret confirms that 30% of indigenous languages will disappear by the end of our century: when the indigenous languages disappear, plant names disappear and traditional pharmaceutical knowledge disappears with them.

Language loss will be even more critical to the extinction of medicinal knowledge than biodiversity loss.

Veronesi’s project started with a phase of research in London, Trondheim, and Zurich. The final artwork composes a tapestry and a video that will enter in the collection of Ca’ Pesaro – Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna (Venice, Italy).

Her exhibition in London is the first of four solo shows of an international program presenting the project from four different perspectives. At MOCA London Veronesi presents an immersive site-specific installation conceived as a unique collage, generated from the photos of the botanists, plants, and notes written by the artist, emphasizing research as a visual tool. The images also function as a mood board, and are integrated by a selection of materials such as collages, tapestry, and video. She presents a unique environment where the different stories of the botanists and the plants can be intuitively linked, generating new unpredictable connections, stories, and meanings. The spectator, in their active role, functions as an active reader and a co-author.

The publication by Marsilio (Venice, Italy) will also integrate the exhibition.

The Extinct Desinence is a project curated and produced by Ramdom (Italy). It is realised in collaboration with the National Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Trondheim, Norway); with the support of the University of Zurich – Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany and Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies (Zurich, Switzerland); Goldsmiths University (London, UK); Italian Cultural Institute, Oslo; and Ca’ Pesaro – Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna (Venice, Italy).

The project is made with the support of Collezione Luca Bombassei.

The project is supported by the Italian Council (12th Edition, 2023), program to promote Italian contemporary art in the world by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Culture.


Duration 28 April 2024 - 25 May 2024
Times see website
Cost Free
Venue MOCA London
Address 113 Bellenden Road, London, SE15 4QY
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