Chiara Dellerba‘s The Chimera Plantarium project, which looks at mapping, rethinking and redesigning public places from the perspective of “weeds”, began with the first of a series of workshops with children at Exeter – A Learning Community Academy, in Corby.
Her first workshop began with a game of consequences. Incredibly creative Year 6 pupils each secretly drew half an imaginary plant, with their partner drawing the other half, before revealing surprising hybrid species to one another.
Once revealed pupils named their plants and ascribed them properties, with names ranging from Featherstone, Exotier, Kytacous, Magmaleaf, Trifol and Rastapasta. Imagined properties included healing and making people calm to giving bees energy, making you fly or giving the ability to see in the dark once consumed. One plant allegedly communicated telepathically with others to discuss and plot against humans.
Existing weed specimens were given to pupils in sealed envelopes, which became more exotic as their partners drew what they imaged from spoken descriptions of the original. Human-plant hybrid species were created as the children drew blind portraits of one another on leaf shaped backgrounds. These evolved into imaginative masks made from paper shapes of human and plant characteristics.
Outcomes from these workshops will include a Herbarium publication and two large billboard images of the pupil’s work launched in Corby later this year, plus opportunities for the general public to participate and consider the town from the perspective of urban plants.
The Chimera Plantarium is generously funded by Northamptonshire Community Foundation’s Leslie Church Memorial Fund. Commissioned as part of Xylophobia, Fermynwoods Contemporary Art’s new two-year programme funded by Arts Council England. Named from the fear of wooden objects or forests, Xylophobia addresses issues of place and belonging which go to the heart of community feelings of exclusion from both the art world and woodland spaces.