With Love. From an Invader.
A visual-audio piece (view in full-screen with headphones for the best result)
Project concept: Yan Wang Preston
Photography & film: Yan Wang Preston
Soundscape: Monty Adkins
37 minutes 14 seconds
‘With Love. From an Invader.’ is the start of a long-term project investigating the complex connections between landscape representation, identity, migration and the environment. For this piece, Yan Wang Preston walked to the same love-heart-shaped rhododendron bush at Sheddon Clough, Burnley, Lancashire, UK, from 17th March 2020 to the 16th March 2021 at the frequency of every other day. A photograph of the rhododendron was taken each time, in identical manners, always at half an hour before sunset.
Monty Adkins, a composer of electronic music, joined her walks many times. Together they collected environmental sound samples in the area: the wind, rain, snow, leaves rolling, bark rubbing, ice cracking…the pheasants, owls, lamb, sheep, robins, blackbirds, curlews, cuckoos, geese and magpies…the bees… The resulting music piece and the time-lapse of the 182 still images of the rhododendron form the ‘backbone’ of ‘With Love. From an Invader.’
The music piece has been released on Crónica.
In the form of a physical exhibition, the piece is envisioned to be a multi-panel visual-audio installation. Other possible visual panels may include animal footage shot by two infrared cameras placed in the area; a ‘badger-eye’ view and a ‘bee-eye’ view of the rhododendron bush. Together they form an obsessive and embodied exploration of a contested land throughout the course of one entire year and the cycle of four seasons.
The preview here is the Spring section, 10 minutes.
Rhododendron is chosen for the project for many reasons. Introduced to the UK by colonial botanists in the late 19th centenary as an ornamental plant, it is now often seen as a non-native and invasive species by ecologists. (It is a particular species, R.ponticum, that is invasive.) Many of the rhododendron species currently grown in Britain are originally from China, Preston's motherland. Living as a foreigner in a country going through Brexit, Preston feels a strong personal connection with such foreign plants. They remind her of her homeland as well as the complex perceptions around nature, national identities, landscapes and migration.
The area, Shedden Clough at the outskirt of Burnley, was an open-cast limestone mine 400 years ago. Nearly 200 years ago the local landowners planted rhododendron and beech here, in an effort to change it to a hunting estate. Now it is an ‘ecological wasteland’, colonised by these non-native plants and by sheep-grazing farms. Hidden in the heartland of the South Pennines, the local landscape is simultaneously post-industrial and post-colonial. Yet the ecology can also be said as being cosmopolitan. This particular rhododendron tree happens to have a natural shape of a love heart. An alien species sending out love---it can be a rich metaphor to anchor Preston’s investigation towards the above-mentioned issues around landscape and identity.
The repetitive photographic act over a year allows nature to run its own course. And this has been the year of the global crisis caused by COVID-19. More than two million people died from the virus during the project. A natural disaster has also become a political issue, in which racial tensions re-surface over and over again. Yet the rhododendron carries on with its own rhythm of growing, flowering, seeding, and growing again. The art piece is therefore becoming a space --- a context for us to consider such political issues within the context of nature. The fact that this nature is made of unwanted species further complicates the issues at hand.