the greenhouse

THE FOX GOT YOU - THE GREENHOUSE and EXHIBITION

"of plants lighting up the world"

The Fox Got You is an art and science project celebrating common plants at the origin of medicinal drugs (for an overview, go to the home page). The project started life as a photography exhibition, with at its heart a greenhouse. Typical greenhouses are miniature houses where everything is designed to make plants grow and flourish. Sunlight enters through the glass and is trapped inside as heat - the greenhouse effect - resulting in fast growth. Sunlight is of course what plants use to make food, through photosynthesis. A greenhouse is a sort of home from home for plants, a world away from the harsh natural environment, as long as gardeners are skilled enough to provide what they need.

Greenhouses have an old-fashioned air. They remind us of allotments, of people growing their own food and working with their hands. They bring some of the countryside to the city. But when they become huge glasshouses, vast structures filling out acres of land, producing tomatoes in automated high tech environments, they can also symbolise a world of exploitative labour and toxic pesticides. After all, greenhouses are man-made, an invention which enables plants to be brought to us and their growth controlled for our benefit.

There is no doubt that a greenhouse acts as a rich metaphor for our relationship with plants. The fact that it is also a real object, a genuine working environment, can only add power to its transformation into an artwork. In the exhibition, the greenhouse is a giant light box. It glows, radiating light instead of heat, allowing images of the plants to symbolically enlighten the space. The yew tree and autumn crocus are featured on one side of the roof and gable ends, the white willow and meadowsweet on the other, whilst the goat’s rue is on the door side and both common and woolly foxgloves are on the back of the greenhouse. These images have become a glowing robe wrapped around the metal frame, a tribute to the plants’ worth and the pleasure we get from them.

The greenhouse itself was bought by artist Françoise Sergy from greenhouses manufacturers. Translucent images of the plants were then printed onto the glass. The hand-made copper and LED light which stands inside the greenhouse and makes it glow, was designed and built by the artist’s partner, Michael Lipkin.

Françoise Sergy spent a long time collecting plant material for the six plants featured and learning about their habitats. She grew the plants from seeds, which for some was a fast process but for others - the yew tree and the autumn crocus - required two years before germination took place. She wanted to photograph the various stages of their anatomy from seedlings to maturity, and to show the different habitats where they grow wild, as well as in cultivation. For the wild habitats, she was able to go to the Jura mountains in Switzerland, where the autumn crocus is very common and where small yew trees grow in the forest undergrowth. The result of her work is a detailed portrait of each plant, showing its unique characteristics and personality.

On this website, each plant is featured on its own page, alongside the drug and medical condition which relate to it. There you will find a description of the plant and the history of the drug, as well as most of the plant images:

Françoise Sergy is both an artist and a gardener. For many years she worked as a dance and performance artist but photography has always been an important part of her practice. At the age of 40 she fell in love with plants and trained as a gardener. Working part-time as an artist means that her projects take a long time to come to fruition but she doesn’t mind. She enjoys the scientific grounding horticulture has given her, using it as another tool in her creative process.

In the past, she developed her own dance practice and feminist aesthetics. Plants are now her main focus - she finds them completely bewitching and wonderful to work with. Her aim is to reveal how important they are in our everyday life, even if we are not aware of this, and to celebrate them. However, she has also always been fascinated by the body as a subject and for the first time with The Fox Got You, she has been able to bring together several of her interests: plants, the body, illness, medical science. Working with such a range of specialists in each field has been a real pleasure for her.

Her previous project exploring our relationship with plants, called Hop, Stock & Bent, can be visited at hopstockandbent.co.uk. She also has her own website with information about her past and current artwork: www.francoisesergy.uk.

The exhibition at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Britain (summer 2015)

exhibition 1

The exhibition at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Britain (summer 2015)

exhibition 2

The exhibition at the South London Botanical Institute, London, Britain (autumn 2015). The greenhouse images are of meadowsweet and foxgloves.

exhibition 3

The exhibition at the South London Botanical Institute, London, Britain (autumn 2015). The greenhouse images are of the autumn crocus, the yew tree and goat's rue.

exhibition 4

Close-up of the greenhouse, exhibition at the South London Botanical Institute, London, Britain (autumn 2015). The images are of the white willow and meadowsweet.

exhibition 5

Close-up of the greenhouse, exhibition at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Britain (summer 2015). The images are of the autumn crocus, the yew tree and goat's rue.

exhibition 6

The Cancer and Yew series, exhibition at the South London Botanical Institute, London, Britain (autumn 2015)

exhibition 7

The Gout series, exhibition at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Britain (summer 2015)

exhibition 8

Aspirin and Platelets series, with the tablet computers and leaflet holders, exhibition at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Britain (summer 2015)

exhibition 9

The tablet computers and A4 leaflet holders, exhibition at the South London Botanical Institute, London, Britain (autumn 2015)

exhibition 10

Close-up of the plants botanical specimens, with text

exhibition 11

Close-up of the plants botanical specimens, with text

exhibition 12

Close-up of the hand-made book From Plants to Drugs

exhibition 13

Close-up of the hand-made book From Plants to Drugs

exhibition 14

Close-up of the hand-made book From Plants to Drugs

exhibition 15

Close-up of the hand-made book Visits to Biomedical Research Laboratories

exhibition 16

Close-up of the hand-made book Visits to Biomedical Research Laboratories

exhibition 17

Close-up of the hand-made book Visits to Biomedical Research Laboratories

exhibition 18

Woolly foxglove (Digitalis lanata): flower head in mid-summer

foxglove 1

Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) in early summer, Harris Garden, Reading University, Britain

foxglove 2

Common foxglove cultivars in Hyde Park, London, Britain

foxglove 3

A dissected common foxglove flower, showing the stamens, stigma and ovary

foxglove 4

Goat's rue (Galega officinalis) growing wild by the M11/M25 motorway junction, Britain

goat's rue 1

Goat's rue (Galega officinalis): close-up of a flower head in mid-summer

goat's rue 2

Goat's rue and other plants growing wild by a small lake, Wanstead Park, London, Britain

goat's rue 3

Goat's rue at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Britain. The woody structure has been made by gardeners to support the plant as it grows taller during the summer.

goat's rue 4

Yew (Taxus baccata): ancient tree, Kingley Vale Nature Reserve in West Sussex, Britain

yew 1

Old yew tree in the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Britain: one of the garden's original trees, planted in 1645

yew 2

Yew (Taxus baccata): close-up of male flowers about to open in spring

yew 3

Close-up of an ancient yew tree, Kingley Vale Nature Reserve, West Sussex, Britain (magical beast 3)

yew 4

Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale): the whole plant in flower, early autumn

autumn crocus 1

Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale): the fruit being pushed up by the leaves in late spring. Taken at Witton Lane Seeds, Norfolk, Britain.

autumn crocus 2

Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) in a grass meadow, Jura mountains, Switzerland

autumn crocus 3

Autumn crocus: a double flower cultivar in St James's Park, London, Britain

autumn crocus 4

White willow (Salix alba) across the lake, Burgess Park, London, Britain

willow 1

White willow (Salix alba): leaves in the autumn

willow 2

Mistletoe growing on a white willow

willow 3

White willow (Salix alba): close-up of bark with moss

willow 4

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria): close-up of a seedling

meadowsweet 1

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) growing in the artist's garden, Cambridge, Britain

meadowsweet 2

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria): a flower head in the autumn, with immature seed pods

meadowsweet 3

Meadowsweet growing wild by the Taillères Lake, Jura mountains, Switzerland

meadowsweet 4

The Fox Got You exhibition consists of a photography installation, interactive exhibits and wall mounted artwork. It includes all the images, interviews and texts presented on this website.

The photography installation includes the greenhouse and exhibits made of greenhouse ‘staging’, which is a type of workbench traditionally used in greenhouses. On the staging are dried botanical specimens of the six plants featured. These specimens are the only element of the exhibition which is not represented on this website. The artist wanted the plants to have a physical presence in the exhibition, something which is obviously not possible on a website...

There are two interactive exhibits: The first consists of hand-made books which visitors can open and read. They show the text and images presented on the following pages of this website: From Plants to Drugs and Visits to Biomedical Research Laboratories. The second interactive exhibit consists of tablet computers, with headphones, for visitors to listen to the project’s interviews. Also included are A4 leaflets for visitors to take, about the history of the drugs and the scientific institutions featured. These exhibits are presented on greenhouse staging benches.

The wall mounted photographs are grouped by series: Fox Heart, Galega and Metformin, Cancer and Yew, The Gout, Aspirin and Platelets. Some photographs are framed in traditional black frames, others are mounted onto foam boards. On this website, each series has its own page: Please go to the home page for more detail.

The exhibition toured to the following venues:

  • University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Britain (summer 2015)
  • South London Botanical Institute, Britain (autumn 2015)
  • Conquest Hospital, Hastings, Britain (spring 2016)
  • University of Bristol Botanic Garden, Britain (summer 2016)

Elements of the exhibition have been shown at:

  • Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, Britain (autumn 2015)
  • John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, Britain (Jan-Feb 2016)
  • Eastbourne Hospital, Britain (summer 2016)

The exhibition is available for touring (both the complete exhibition and elements only). For more information, please contact us: admin@foxgotyou.uk

The Fox Got You was conceived, researched and produced by artist Françoise Sergy, in partnership with clinicians, scientists and patients.

  • Individual images are available as prints: £40 / €50 for an A4 print, £50 / €65 for an A3 print ( plus postage costs).
  • Feedback is very welcomed - contact us at admin@foxgotyou.uk
  • For links to the organisations involved in the project, please go to the Links page.
  • Françoise Sergy has her own website with information about her past and current artwork: www.francoisesergy.uk

© Françoise Sergy 2016