With Love. From an Invader.
Looking into the contested ecological term ‘non-native and invasive species’, the British-Chinese visual artist Yan Wang Preston and the English sonic artist Monty Adkins developed a multi-panel visual audio installation starring Rhododendron ponticum, the perceived pariah of the plant world, and draws empathic comparisons to a non-British person living in the UK. Photographed 182 times over an entire year, the love-heart-shaped rhododendron bush featured in the work is a rich metaphor to anchor Preston’s exploration of the complex connections between landscape representation, identity, migration and the environment.
One week before the start of the first national lockdown, on the 17th March 2020, continuing for a whole year to 16th March 2021, Preston walked the same love-heart-shaped rhododendron bush at Sheddon Clough, Burnley, Lancashire, a post-industrial land, with the frequence of every other day. Each time, she took a photograph of the rhododendron bush half an hour before sunset in identical ways. Meanwhile, she placed infrared cameras around the area and subsequently discovered a rich community of animals thriving inside and around the rhododendrons. Collaborating with Monty Adkins, they recorded environmental sounds in the areas throughout the four seasons, which became the celestial and evocative soundscape featured in the show.
More than 600 of the 1100 species of Rhododendron are native to China, Preston’s homeland. However, the subject of her work, Rhododendron ponticum was introduced into the UK, from Spain, in the 18th century and became extensively used for game cover on country estates and as a parent in garden hybrid rhododendrons. It is now recognised as a major threat to the British flora. The removal of Rhododendron ponticum and habitat restoration are time consuming and expensive. Rhododendron ponticum is the outlier among the 1,100 species of rhododendron and even then, the plants that are invasive in the UK are not the pure species. About a third of all Rhododendron, including Rhododendron ponticum in its native Spain and Portugal, are threatened – some even extinct in their natural habitat and are at the centre of conservation efforts.
‘With Love. From an Invader.’, is being shown as part of Rhododendrons: Riddle, Obsession, Threat at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It features a subtel time-lapse of 182 photographs of the love heart rhododendron bush and infrared footage of an astonishing community of animals living there such are deer, badgers and foxes. Together with the soundscape, the work presents visual and sonic ‘data’ in defence of a rhododendron habitat instead of a wasteland while immersing the audiences into an intimate and sensorial environment.
‘With Love. From an Invader.’ raises questions within the context of eco-politics: in an area completely changed due to industry, with no natural vegetation, can a ‘non-native and invasive species’ have a positive impact on local biodiversity? When placing within the context of xenophobic views from the backlash of Brexit and worsening racism against East Asian people in the beginning of COVID-19, Preston’s work with the invasive species asks further questions: to what extent has the multicultural character of the British society been accepted as its national and native character?
For further information, interviews or images, please respond to this email or contact Caitlin Paterson on 07958510634 Shauna Hay on 07824 529 028
Ends on 28th August 2022
Ground floor temporary exhibition at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a leading international research organisation delivering knowledge, education and plant conservation action around the world. In Scotland its four Gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan attract nearly a million visitors each year. It operates as a Non Departmental Public Body established under the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985, principally funded by the Scottish Government. It is also a registered charity, managed by a Board of Trustees appointed by Ministers. Its mission is “To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future.” Learn more: www.rbge.org.uk
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