In a City of Flowers is a holographic and interactive video installation, inviting viewers to gently place their hand within small wooden shelters and hold a butterfly. It consists of a series of 12 houses, each hosting a different British butterfly – some thriving, some vulnerable or extinct in the UK and some migrating species.
The small wooden houses resemble bird or insect houses found in people’s gardens, whose aim is usually to offer shelter and care for our local species. Here in the installation, the houses act as as a metaphor – by placing the butterflies within human-style houses, the work questions what “home” is to them. Most of our British butterflies are in decline, as their local habitat, pollution, change in climate, and light pollution affects their homes – places where specific plants offer them the food and shelter they need.
Each house in the installation hosts a delicate holographic video of a butterfly, reflected in its centre like a ghostly and ungraspable apparition, and visible through the narrow peep hole. The larger hole beneath allows people to place their hands within and cup the reflection of the butterfly, a tangible yet absent image, giving them a sense of intimacy and fragility, as well as initiating a call for care and responsibility.
Some of the butterflies presented in the installation are extinct in the UK, such as the Large Copper and the Black Veined White, some are still thriving, such as a Cabbage Butterfly well known by gardeners, and some are migrating species that come and go to follow fluctuations of our Earth’s climate, such as the Painted Lady. It is fascinating to observe that butterflies are closely linked to plants and some will solely feed on specific species. They are a reminder of how important it is to keep our urban and rural spaces packed with local plants and wildflowers.
The work will tour to various public locations from Autumn 2023, and with it the aim to make people more aware of our responsibility in caring for wildlife.
Production was supported by arts organisation Rule of Three. Consultations about butterflies took place with Widnes Greenhouse and Butterfly House, and the charity Butterfly Conservation.