Online screening, presented by RBGE until 28 February 2021
In this video compilation, a quartet of contemporary artists – Louis Henderson, Uriel Orlow, Charlotte Prodger and Ben Rivers – use film to investigate subjects as varied as herbal medicine, gender, and e-recycling, contemplating humanity’s past and future.
The line between yesterday’s utopias and tomorrow’s dystopias is a fine one. History’s mythic ideals have given way to our present predicament in the Anthropocene (the current geological age, in which humanity is the greatest environmental influence). Yet old myths persist in new, technologically smarter guises.
Through a mix of documentary, (science) fictional and poetic modes, the films in Future Ecologies bring together incisive views on the long historical arc of extraction and exploitation alongside several speculative projections for the future.
To accompany the online screening of Future Ecologies, you can also watch RBGE botanist Greg Kenicer in conversation with artist Uriel Orlow until 28 February.
Future Ecologies is part of WE ARE HERE: Artists’ Moving Image from the British Council Collection and LUX. This presentation by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is the UK première of Future Ecologies, and sits within our Climate House project, supported by Outset Contemporary Art Fund's Transformative Grant.
- Uriel Orlow
Colour, Stereo, 16:9
17 minutes, 40 seconds
Please note that this film features drug imagery at 01:33.
Uriel Orlow (b. 1973) lives and works between London, Lisbon and Zurich. Orlow’s practice is research-based, process-oriented and multi-disciplinary including film, photography, drawing and sound. He is known for single screen film works, lecture performances and modular, multi-media installations that focus on specific locations and micro-histories. His work is concerned with spatial manifestations of memory, blind spots of representation and forms of haunting.
- Louis Henderson
All That is Solid, 2014
Colour / B&W, 5·1 Surround, 16:9
Louis Henderson is a filmmaker who is currently trying to find new ways of working with people to address and question our current global condition defined by racial capitalism and ever-present histories of the European colonial project. The working method is archaeological.
- Charlotte Prodger
Single-channel HD video
Colour, Sound, 16:9
Please note that this film contains strong language.
Charlotte Prodger (b.1974, United Kingdom) is a Glasgow-based artist working with moving image, writing, sculpture and printmaking. She was the winner of the 2018 Turner Prize and represented Scotland at the 2019 Venice Biennale. She received the 2017 Paul Hamlyn Award and the 2014 Margaret Tait Award.
- Ben Rivers
Single-channel HD video
Colour, Sound, 16:9
Ben Rivers (b. 1972) studied sculpture before moving into photography and Super 8 film. After his degree he taught himself 16mm filmmaking and hand-processing. His practice as a filmmaker treads a line between documentary and fiction. Often following and filming people who have in some way separated themselves from society, the raw film footage provides Rivers with a starting point for creating oblique narratives imagining alternative existences in marginal worlds.
When Future Ecologies opened in the John Hope Gateway on 21 November 2020, we showcased related specimens from RBGE's Herbarium alongside the artists' films. Unfortunately, the exhibition had to close early due to temporary lockdown restrictions, but we are delighted to be able to share the six specimens with you online now.
Known as Wild Ginger or Natal Ginger, the rhizomes (underground stems) of Siphonochilus aethiopicus are one of the most sought-after medicinal plants in South African ‘muthi’ markets, referred to in Uriel Orlow’s film Muthi. According to the Red List of South African Plants, this plant is classed as Critically Endangered as it is now extinct over most of its former geographical range, with a 90% reduction over the last 100 years. This is a cultivated specimen, grown from wild collected material in RBGE’s Living Collection.
Aframomum sulcatum is another species in the ginger family. This specimen was collected in the Atewa Mountains in Ghana in 1972. Atewa Forest Reserve is one of the largest remaining intact areas of Upland Evergreen Forest in Ghana. This area is important for biodiversity conservation and is a crucial watershed, providing clean water to millions of Ghanaians. Ghana’s forest cover has been fragmented and suffered losses due to the practices of logging, expanding agriculture and various mining activities, including gold mining.
Crepis mollis is a British native plant, commonly known as Northern Hawk's-Beard. In the paper Rare and Scarce Plants of Northumberland, published in 2017, it is categorised as locally scarce and populations are declining nationally due to the change in land management and loss of upland meadows. It is now only found growing in six small, vulnerable sites in Northumberland. Originally, 40 sites had been recorded. This specimen was collected in August 1857 near the town of Alnwick.
The Purple Milk-Vetch, Astragalus danicus is locally scarce in Northumberland. This perennial herb grows on chalk and limestone soils and its common name is derived from the belief that it improved the milk yield of livestock. The flowers are purple, but the colour has faded away in this specimen, collected in Belford village in Northumberland in 1882.
The facility featured in Ben Rivers’ film Urth is Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona, northeast of the city of Tucson. The specimens shown here are from the surrounding landscape.
Tumamoca macdougallii is on the list of Arizona Protected Plants and is named after the Tumamoc Hill, just west of the city of Tucson, where the University of Arizona has an environmental research facility, The Desert Laboratory.
This cactus specimen, collected in 1909, is from the genus Echinocereus and has yet to be identified to species level. This genus is native from southern Colorado, south to Mexico. This specimen was collected in Ramsey Canyon, in the Huachuca Mountains, southeast of Tucson, close to the Mexican border.
WE ARE HERE: Artists' Moving Image from the British Council Collection and LUX
WE ARE HERE is a series of five artists' film programmes of compilations and installations curated by Tendai John Mutambu for the British Council and LUX, an international arts agency that supports and promotes artists' moving images practises. Each programmer is curated around a them: the future, national identity, marginality, intimacy and the archive. WE ARE HERE interrogates how outstanding emerging and established British or UK-based contemporary artists are influenced by these themes ad how they explore them through biography, documentary, poetry and fiction.
Tendai John Mutambu (b. 1991, Zimbabwe) is a writer, curator, and film programmer presently based between Bristol and London in the UK. Recent projects include: Artist in Focus: Marwa Arsanios for Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival, UK(2019); Twenty-two hours at ICA London for the 62nd BFI London Film Festival, UK(2018): and Sriwhana Spong: A hook but no fish for Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, NZ(2018). He has written for Runway Journal of Contemporary Art, Frieze, Ocula Magazine, the British Film Institute, LUX Moving Image, and several exhibition catalogues.