Searching for Melilot : 2022
In response to a commission for Light Night Wigan and Leigh, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to explore some Wigan-specific history around my family heritage. On a 2 week narrow boat residency between Wigan and Leigh, I retraced my grandmother’s footsteps (Beatrice Hinde) searching for the wild clover Melilot, which Bea surveyed around Wigan over 50 years ago. Using the boat as a darkroom, I processed analogue films by harnessing the unique chemistry of Melilot and other plants to create environmentally friendly film developer, culminating in a set of projections, holding the stories embedded within wild flowers and plants of the towpath. The resulting artwork had many elements, the first being a diptych projection across the canal under Henhurst Bridge, marking the start of the light trail along the canal, and also the point where I had entered the centre of Wigan on the narrowboat, and one of the locations I’d discovered Melilot plants. Find out more about the background of this project from 4 blog posts – starting HERE, and below is a video of extracts from the projection. Huge thanks to ‘Things that go on Things‘ for curating my work into the event, and to Wigan Council and the Canal & Rivers Trust.
I displayed additional material created during the process of making the film inside Wigan Pier, alongside the canal, which has a lot of historical significance. A triptych of analogue films created using experimental methods of ‘camera-less’ filmmaking such as phytography and photograms were presented as super-slow-motion scrolling loops on adapted 1930’s specto film projectors. Adjacent to these were 3 picture frames, containing Melilot pressed by Bea in the 70’s alongside recent flower pressings of the same species I found in similar locations. Two ‘old-school’ TV monitors showed a timelapse film of the narrow boat journey, and a film made up from footage shot every day on the residency using a 1970’s wind-up bolex film camera. Two large light boxes displayed information from my grandmother’s surveys, including her original map of Melilot and pages from her notebooks, next to my recent re-mapping of the plant, plus recent articles celebrating the new status of Wigan’s post industrial ‘flashes’ being classed as a National Nature Reserve. A set of riso-printed ‘Wild Flower of the Day’ postcards, documenting my daily instagram posts about wild flowers found on the towpath, were available for people to take away.
Quote from one of the light boxes… “Cultivating the growth of plants often classed as ‘weeds’ to promote biodiversity touches on aspects of eco-agriculture and re-wilding. Wigan Flashes Local Nature Reserve is a prime example of a former industrial landscape, reclaimed by nature, into a site that supports many species“ and has recently been designated by Natural England as part of a new national nature reserve.“
Below is a short video showing the installation, followed by a few photographs.
Following the show, I made a shorter single-screen edit of the film, and added sound which is composed from field recordings of plant roots and extracts from a plant based synthesizer created in collaboration with Matthew Olden. I’m keen to continue this project, as it feels like I have uncovered a rich strand of research with deserves further attention and exploration.