In 2017 I undertook a two-part residency at ZK/U Centre for Art and Urbanistics (Berlin) to develop the ‘Urban Antibodies’ project. Urban Antibodies is a long-term research project that imagines the city as a living organism, looking at sites of toxicity and vulnerability, healing and care – with a focus on plant knowledge and medicine. The project explores specific sites to investigate histories of industrial pharmaceutical companies in relation to plant knowledge, colonialism, and gender in the development of scientific knowledge.
During the first chapter of my residency in July, I began research into the development of pharmaceutical drugs based on plants, and sites connected to the collection, categorisation and processing of plant material and medicine. As the research develops, I am hosting participatory workshops to share plant stories – from home remedies, to the exploration and import of ‘exotic’ plants through the era of European colonialism, the violence of collecting and the development of botany as a discipline. During the second part of my residency in December, I developed new wearable sculptures based on magnified medicinal plants, riffing on 18th Century papier-mâché botanical models found in a museum basement. I am currently developing new performance work based on the research for public sites in Berlin and Nottingham.
Images: thanks to Tom Moore for filming & photography, and to Edna Bonhomme, Renee Miles, Yashar Adanali, Andrew Ritchie and Esther Samuels-Davis for wearing the costumes and testing out a performance ideas.
The Urban Antibodies research & development period is supported through a grant from Arts Council England. In 2018 Rebecca has been awarded a Wellcome Research Bursary for archival research to develop the project further.