Botanical Becontree by URIEL ORLOW

Botanical Becontree by URIEL ORLOWare three maps created as a response to a botanical survey exploring the gardens and stories of plant life across homes in Becontree.

Uriel Orlow responded to a commissioned botanical survey that charted the characteristics and conditions of the flora in Becontree. The work looked at the garden as a more or less controlled and layered microcosm that can tell us a lot about our relationship with the world. As a social space, it is shaped by multiple relationships of humans with each other and with plants.

Growing spaces have been central to the history of the area. Before Becontree was developed in the 1920s and 30s most of the land was market gardens and until now gardens and green spaces form an integral part of Becontree. Through this speculative project Orlow embarked on a multi-species conversation with plants and people on the estate by creating three botanical maps of the estate.

Through the rich variety of plant life found on the estate, the maps tell stories of global migrations, cultural history and botanical remedies. Looking at Becontree through the prism of plants, we can trace rich histories of global connections and migrations, discover food sources and healing remedies for the body, and encounter stories of traditional use or cultural significance. The maps are available free of charge at the Valence House Museum & Valence Library (Becontree Avenue) and the White House.

Uriel Orlow’s multi-disciplinary practice includes film, photography, drawing, sound and writing. He is known for single screen film works, lecture-performances and multi-media installations that take specific locations and events as starting points and bring together different image- regimes and narrative modes into dialogue. Orlow’s work is concerned with residues of colonialism, spatial and physical manifestations of memory, blind spots of representation and plants as political actors.

His projects include recently working for several months with a women’s cooperative in Lumata, south of Lubumbashi, DRC. The cooperative is growing the natural anti-malaria remedy Artemisia afra with the proceeds funding a collective health insurance for women’s cooperative themselves and their families. In 2018 Wishing Trees was commissioned and premiered by Manifesta 12 in Palermo, Italy, the multi-part work brings together three Sicilian trees that hold memories of significant events and people, connecting human histories and nature and listening to their reverberations in the present.

Commissioned by Create London, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund