Art and Science Exhibition at University of Bristol Botanic Garden
Tel: +44 (0)117 4282041
Experience life as a bee this summer!
Visit the summer exhibtion at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden - ʽDisplays Decodedʼ The Multi-sensory Language of Flowers.
Enjoy a unique way of interacting with the natural world. This exhibition uses a blend of the most innovative interactive technology, inspiration from 17th century Dutch flower paintings, and the latest scientific research on the symbiotic relationship of plants and insects, to enchant the visitor.
The original artwork is by the artist Alex Hirtzel working in collaboration with biologist Dr. Dave Lawson and colleagues from the University of Bristol, School of Biological Sciences.
At a time when insect populations continue to decline, science research is revealing new ways in which pollinators are attracted to plants. Pollinators are attracted to flowers in several different ways, known collectively as 'sensory modalities.' Through interactive sculptures, ultra-violet prints and heat sensitive materials, Alex's artwork demonstrates some of the principle modalities: scent, UV light and colour patterns, static attraction and the cellular structure of the flowers themselves. Her work re-constructs 17th century Dutch flower paintings from the Broughton Collection at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in a series of prints called 'Tipping Point,' with vases toppling over to reflect today's global ecological crisis.
Other aspects of her work are more interactive, inviting visitors to experience for themselves how bees and other pollinators sense static from flowers, or are affected by a flower's scent. Alex acknowledges that Covid has made her rethink how she presents ideas to a wide range of audiences and has chosen to use augmented reality (AR)) as a medium to further express the scientific storytelling and need for playful interaction.
Dr Dave Lawson is a behavioural ecologist with an interest in animal behaviour and plant-pollinator interactions. Primarily working with bumblebees using lab-based behavioural experiments, his research investigates the reasons why flowers produce such complex, multi-sensor displays and the effects of rain on flowering plants and their pollinators. Inspired by this research, Alex has created multimedia artwork which highlights how a bee visualises and interacts with flowers.In these latest series, she uses materials that require interaction in order to experience the unseen world of the bee. Working with fluorescent paints the colour is very strong and is made to represent how a bee sees a flower.
An activity that the artwork needs by the viewer is thus a metaphor for being involved. Alex wishes the viewer to take a role actively ensuring that bees are at the core of a natural and healthy future.
Not only are these artworks undeniably and exquisitely beautiful, as an art historian, Alex is particularly interested in this historical period as it was a time of exploration. New flowers were arriving in Holland as a result of trading; there was a great deal of discussion as well as scientific endeavour to understand how plants work. Nowadays new techniques and technologies have revealed how flowering plants act as advertising billboards to attract insects into them so that the flowers can reproduce.
This unique exhibition will delight lovers of art, science, history, wildlife, new technology and all those interested in the natural environment. Visitors can also enjoy a workshop with Alex and tours of the garden with biologist, Dr. Lawson.
Adults £5 (£7 if glasshouses open)
Free to children under 18,
Friends, university staff and students
must be booked in advance via University online shop.
10.00am - 4.30pm
Date of Event
Sorry, this event has passed