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V&A’s latest exhibition explores local ecology

by Alice Wright

Natalie Jeremijenko V&A

'Phenological Clock' and 'Farmacy Ag Bags' by Natalie Jeremijenko,© V&A,'Moth Cinema' installed in the Socrates Sculpture Park, New York

A phenological ‘clock’ depicting a year in the life-cycle of the flowering plants and pollinating insects that surround the Victoria and Albert Museum forms part of a new exhibition at the London gallery.

Artist and ecologist Natalie Jeremijenko has produced three related pieces under the title “Re-Public of Air”, each considering the museum within the wider ecology of the city.

The ‘Phenological Clock’, which is situated in the museum’s Grand Entrance, uses data from the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar which records when members of the public first see a particular seasonal occurrence, such as a tree coming into leaf or a bird nesting.

Speaking about the piece, Natalie said: “Typically we represent time on an empty clock face, as if it is nowhere and everywhere the same. The phenological information that Nature’s Calendar provides, and the thousands of people who have contributed their observations, correct this, showing that time is seasonal and local, with hundreds of mutualistic organisms in each neighbourhood, each patch of ecology.”

Natalie’s second piece – ‘Farmacy Ag Bags’ at the front of the museum brings greenery to the stone architecture and illustrates a simple way to contribute to biodiversity. Meanwhile, June will see the arrival of ‘Moth Cinema’ – a flower garden providing a habitat for moths that will be illuminated at night, dramatising the lives of moths and highlighting the role they play in the city.

The installations form part of All of This Belongs To You, a free exhibition at the V&A about the museum as a public space and the role of public institutions in contemporary life.

Co-curator Dr Rory Hyde explained that the exhibition as a whole “tests the capacity of the V&A as a public space”, and said Natalie was invited to test it “from an ecological perspective”.

“Museums excel at excluding nature, by eliminating pests, controlling the light, temperature and humidity, for obvious reasons of conservation,” he said. “But as we face the grand challenge of climate change, we felt this disconnection between the museum and the environment beyond needed to be bridged somehow.”

He added that it was hoped ‘Phenological Clock’ would help visitors to better understand their place within the natural environment, and how fragile and dependent it is. He added: “Farmacy Ag Bags illustrate how you can contribute to this ecology through simple means. Flowers, plants, and the support they offer pollinators, can be installed on any balustrade or wall, cheaply and effectively. Multiplied across the city, small interventions such as this could have a meaningful impact on air quality and habitat support.”

All Of This Belongs To You runs until July 19. Visit http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/all-of-this-belongs-to-you/ for more information.

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