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.