Plant Hunting was an artistic and scientific exploration, commissioned by Invisible Dust, and responding to the impassioned curiosity of botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, and artist Sydney Parkinson, aboard Captain Cook’s Endeavour. It explored contrasting systems of knowledge and technologies that increase our understanding of the plants that fascinate us, intersecting the boundaried hierarchies in which these systems of knowledge are conventionally placed.
For the installation in Whitby Library for Plant Hunting, Feral Practice has created four site-specific paintings on kozo paper (mulberry bark paper traditional in New Zealand), which respond to two plants that were collected on the Endeavour voyage and have near relatives growing wild in Whitby. They investigate the plants using observational painting, direct printing, microscopy, and other visual research methods. Alongside the paintings, Feral Practice made a new sound work that weaves technical descriptions of the humble yet potent Plantain (Plantago lanceolata and Plantago major) from a local botanist, a plant chemist and a medical herbalist, plus a forager's recipe, into the Anglo Saxon poem 'Nine Sacred Herbs', which honours Plantain, and sound recordings in which the fluctuations of electrical current from a plantain plant in Feral Practice's garden are converted into musical tones. As ways of thinking about plants (often regarded as weeds) proliferate, compete and enrich each another, they both inform, and suggest that there will always remain an excess, a mystery, a potential to know more.
Feral Practice collaborated with the Whitby Naturalists and Maria Arnold on a series of accompanying plant hunting workshops:
Plant Hunting is currently on display in Encounters, an exhibition at Whitby Library, alongside a parallel commission by Ahilapalapa Rands, and events and displays sharing other strands of the project.
One of which was Feral Practice, author Natasha Pulley and six young explorers from Whitby, who embarked on a creative journey through Whitby, then London museums, before sailing the tall ship Atyla back to Whitby for the @Cook250whitby weekend, 7-8 July 2018. Sea shanties were written and sung, films were shot and edited, sailed were raised, rigging was climbed, ships were helmed, all were challenged, horizons were very much broadened.
Encounters is funded by Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust with support from Scarborough Borough Council.
Twitter: @invisible_dust @feralpractice
Instagram: @invisible_dust @feralpractice
#Encounters250 #Cook250Whitby #planthunting
In addition, on display at Whitby's Cook Memorial Museum - a 'mysterious object', informed by Plant Hunting, and inspired by the museum's loan of (a good copy of the very fragile) painting Portrait of a Wild Dog - by George Stubbs, which was painted from a description of an Australian dingo, described and commissioned by Joseph Banks.