Campfire Club trailer
Phytology is an action-based research project bringing artists and botanists together to explore the medicinal properties of plants common to derelict urban environments.
The project aims to challenge ideas of use, value, resilience and the function of wildness within our urban ecosystem. Phytology has transformed a disused piece of land in the heart of East London into a dynamic and multi-functional community hub for creative interrogation across the arts, sciences and humanities.
A large billboard hoarding, sited within the South-West corner of the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve, hosts an evolving and eclectic series of interventions across the spring, summer and autumn of 2016.
The space provides our commissioned artists and project partners with a platform to collaborate and present new works throughout the year.
The billboard is intentionally incongruous within the overgrown site, aiming to encourage awareness of the meadow while simultaneously hosting a multitude of related artworks, experiments and information.
Over the past two years the Phytology team have established a medicinal field in the centre of Bethnal Green, East London. The apothecary garden has been sown with thirty-two varieties of plants common to the streets of London and urban ecosystems across the country.
The planting scheme includes Yarrow, White Dead-Nettle, Mallow, Ribwort Plantain, Dandelion, Red Clover and Common Nettle. The medicinal field is grown in pollution free soil to ensure the plants are safe and suitable for daily use. Visitors are invited to freely harvest from the medicinal field with the support and guidance of the Phytology team.
Lucy McLauchlan’s large-scale monochromatic paintings are at home within galleries and museums just as they are covering multi-story building across Europe, gigantic billboards in China, huts of The Gambia, Italian water towers, Norwegian lighthouses, car parks of Detroit and the depths of abandoned subway tunnels in New York.
Over the next few months Lucy will create a new site responsive installation incorporating found objects sourced from the city and the Phytology site.
An avid experimentalist, Vhils has been developing his notion of the aesthetics of vandalism in the form of stencil painting, wall carving and pyrotechnic explosion-drawings since 2001.
His work often turns ordinary people into icons, with the majority of his subjects being anonymous individuals found within the communities where his artworks are located.
“They are all people I have met briefly in cities where I have created murals. I like the idea of turning ordinary, common people into icons, to contrast this with the need people seem to have to create icons in the first place. Instead of creating icons out of people who have changed history, like what Warhol was doing with Mao and others, I take an ordinary person and try and make people think about the ordinary citizens who struggle everyday to eke a living in contemporary society.”
In 2014 Vhils was commissioned to produced this wall piece in response to the collection of medicinal and nutritional plants found at Phytology. The wall piece explores the interconnected and complex relationship between humans, plants and medicine.
The artwork can be found on the corner of Old Bethnal Green Rd & Clarkson St, Bethnal Green, East London.
Talya Baldwin is a British illustrator who graduated from London's Central Saint Martins School of Art in 2008.
Her drawings are always rendered by hand using biros, coloured pencils, pastels, wax crayons and felt tip pens. Baldwin's work documents the unloved, forgotten, unpopular or overlooked, such as weeds, pigeons, rats and human outsiders.
Talya has illustrated the 32 species of ‘weeds’ grown within the medicinal field. These botanical illustrations are currently featured on the ‘plant’ section of the Phytology website.
The Ministry of Stories was founded in London by the author Nick Hornby and co-directors Lucy Macnab & Ben Payne in 2010, and provides a free and encouraging space for young people to explore and experiment with creative writing in all its forms.
Their program is supported by volunteers, established novelists, scriptwriters, poets, artists and filmmakers, many of whom offer their time for free, simply for the love of the written word.
As artists in residence, Ministry of Stories developed a series of experimental creative writing workshops based on the medicinal field and urban wildness of the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. The residency was in collaboration with Raines Foundation School.
Siobhan Davies Dance - founded and led since 1988 by pioneering choreographer Siobhan Davies CBE, Siobhan Davies Dance has evolved from an international touring dance company into a ground-breaking investigative contemporary arts organisation. Whilst exploring choreography and movement is at the heart of everything the company does, its work creatively explores how to apply choreography across a wide range of disciplines including visual arts, film and craft.
Siobhan Davies Dance curated the Human-Nature talks programme for Phytology, exploring the generative and often overlooked potential of un-purposed growth within and across London. Over the course of the programme, speakers discussed the perception gap between built and non-built environments, investigating ideas surrounding urban wildness, harvestable medicine, alternative urban planning and the role of biodiversity within the modern city. The talks program was situated across two parts of London; Siobhan Davies Studios in Southwark and the Phytology site in Tower Hamlets. Both locations represent the diverse and complementary landscape of the contemporary city. A video archive of the programme exists here.
The Nest Collective hosts regular events that create platforms for traditionally inspired British and World artists from both emerging and established backgrounds. In 2016 the Nest Collective will return to Phytology for a third year with their Campfire Club.
Artists who have performed at the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve include Alasdair Roberts, Tom Paley & Ben Paley, Martha Tilston, Family Atlantica, Mara Carlyle, Liam Byrne, Max Baillie & Sura Susso, Thomas McCarthy, Magic Lantern, Rachael Dadd, David Young, Simo, Arlet, Gwennie & the Old Accord, Bridie Jackson the Arbour, Farafi, Apple Of My Eye and Alba.
The Phytology medicinal field is situated within the north west corner of the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve.
In 1940, during the Second World War, it was bombed and totally destroyed. The ruins of the complex remained untouched for years gradually becoming wilder and wilder.
Eventually a few local people – including a core group of mothers who were home-schooling their children – realised its value. Helped by the Environment Trust they started to clear the land.
In the 1970s the Tower Hamlets Council decided to fence the site in and lock it up to protect the area from fly-tipping. In the late 1990s the local Teesdale and Hollybush Tenants and Residents Association became the site custodians and, with the support of Tower Hamlets Council, took responsibility for St Jude’s as it was still called locally. They have been caring for it devotedly ever since.
Our planting scheme would have been recognised by the Old English Herbarium that was translated from a 5th century Latin text in around 1,000 AD. A widely used text, it detailed the medicinal use of plants and continued to be popular in Britain and across Europe for centuries. Its lessons have long been part of traditional knowledge.
2016 dates - May 7th till September 3rd.
Wellcome Trust, Arts Council England, Cape Farewell, Grow Wild and Biffa