Felix will be presenting his research into the central role that the British botanic garden system played in the colonial project. His investigation traces the extraction, propagation and dispersal of plants and plant knowledge throughout the British Empire’s colonial botanical garden network.
The research focuses on the narrative and instrumentalisation of Gutta Percha, a resin producing plant indigenous to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, which was established into plantations from the late-1800s to the 1950s. The unique resin produced by Gutta Percha provided the necessary material in the insulation of submarine telegraph cables, which prior to the fabrication of synthetic plastics was a key commodity of the empire. The telegraph system itself became an important and necessary aspect in the coordination and administration of Britain’s global empire and so played a key logistical role in the expansion and maintenance of the colonial system. Gutta Percha and its exploitation among other botanical commodities also vastly restructured the biospheres, economies and communities of the nations that hosted them.
Felix’s research has taken place in numerous archives including the National Archive and the Kew Gardens Archives, Richmond, UK, The Telegraph Museum Archive in Porthcurno, UK, the Singapore Botanic Gardens Archive and Herbarium, Singapore, and the National Archives of Singapore.
The presentation will be followed by a 30 min screening of Felix’s video work.
About the artist:
Felix Kalmenson is a Russian-born artist, with a practice in installation and video. His work is concerned with the mediation of histories and contemporary narratives by political, institutional and corporate bodies examining how innovations in the field of communication and technology serve to redefine publicness, sovereignty and power.
Kalmenson has exhibited internationally including; Si Shang Art Museum (Beijing), ACAC (Aomori, Japan), Success (Perth), Museum Abteiberg (Germany), Minsheng Art Museum (Shanghai), AGO (Toronto), ZK/U Center for Art and Urbanistics (Berlin), Aaran Gallery (Tehran), Le Cube (Rabat), La Fabrique Culturelle des Anciens Abattoirs (Casablanca), and The New Gallery (Calgary).
Kalmenson is currently on a research project through the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts in London, Singapore and Sri Lanka studying botanical gardens as centres of colonial power. Recent residencies include Rupert (Vilnius), NCCA (St. Petersburg) and SPACES (Cleveland).
Felix is in residence at Grey Projects for October and November, 2017. This residency is generously supported by Canada Council for the Arts.