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Alien Native theme for opening of revitalised Gosport arts venue

TO CELEBRATE the opening of Gosport Museum and Art Gallery following a major capital development project, a specially commissioned new video artwork created by duo Heinrich & Palmer will reveal plant life from the area in a unique and fascinating manner.

Titled Alien Native, the installation is a film, which has been edited to create a multi-channel projection onto a large, translucent screen hung from the ceiling space in the building’s main gallery.

Inspired by plants growing locally and Hampshire Cultural Trust’s botany, or herbarium, collection – which consists of 27,000 specimens, principally collected from across the historic county – the exhibition explores so-called alien plants, introduced by human activity, and their native counterparts, which are either indigenous species, or arrived ‘naturally’ in Britain and Ireland following the end of the Ice Age.

The installation creates an immersive and otherworldly experience which explores the subtle nature and movements of plant life and our attempts to capture, study and understand it.

When they began to research the project for Gosport Museum and Art Gallery, Heinrich & Palmer found themselves drawn towards the herbarium’s vast archive of dried and pressed plants, lichens and fungi, many of which originated from Hampshire, with some dating as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries.

And Anna Heinrich said: “We were curious to explore how this archive could inform our current understanding of the environment and the biodiversity of the Gosport area – are the common plants of the past still as prolific, or have new species taken their place?”

Using the herbarium archive collection of local specimens as a guide, Heinrich & Palmer then identified a selection of common flowers in the Gosport area and used them as subject matter to record the effects of time on the plants’ morphology and movements, using a combination of extreme slow-motion film and time-lapse photography.

The resulting film follows a journey made by a group of alien Dalmatian White foxgloves and their encounters with other plants such as the native teasel, yellow horned poppy and ragwort. The artwork reveals individual plants and their environments evolving over time and shown at a height of over five metres, presents the viewer with an extraordinary sense of scale and movement.

The artists have also created a soundscape to accompany the projections. Developed from recordings made in the field, the evocative sounds of the Hampshire countryside are brought into the gallery, including the sounds of wind, rain and pollinating insects and birds.

The installation will be accompanied by specimens from the herbarium collection and the exhibition runs at the Gosport Museum and Arts Gallery from November 22 until March 19, 2023.