Phytology

Phy·tol·o·gy - n. The study of plants; botany.

An action-research project around wild plants and urban space in the heart of East London


Phytology Medicinal Field, East London
Open weekly Friday & Saturday, 10am til 5pm
April — September 2014

Over the next two years Nomad in association with Cape Farewell and the Teesdale & Hollybush TRA present a research base project called Phytology.

Phytology is an action-research project bringing together artists and botanists to explore the ecology & medicinal properties of wild plants and weeds common to derelict and undeveloped urban sites. The partnership of artists and botanists will seek to create a fresh language in which to challenge perceptions of the value of un-manicured growth, revealing practical biomedical usefulness, and suggesting a wider eco-connectivity.

The project aims to question ideas of value, and in particular the perceived low value of common weeds and plants. It will do this by its context, stressing the apparent incongruity of a meadow in such a place. The meadow itself will have been developed from a planting scheme devised by ethno-botanist Dr. Peter Giovannini, using common plants chosen for their biomedical potential. The project will also investigate the relationships among peoples perception of herbal medicines and their contemporary & historical role in society.

The scheme will draw on scientific information articulating the biomedical properties of plants such as nettle, dandelion, sage, presenting an alternate version of work generated by units such as Kew Gardens Sustainable Uses of Plants Group and Chelsea Physic Garden. The plants medicinal potential and biomedical value qualities will be re-visioned by two artists who will use the contemporary language of street art and graphic illustration to reach new audiences not necessarily attuned to both botanical & biomedical information. The combination of different insights – the precision of scientific research with the exploratory approach of artists – offers a partnership that will be robust as well as powerful.

Phase 1

Phase 1 will see the designing & planting of a medical meadow that combines qualities of an urban physic meadow, natural laboratory and pharmacy in a empty building site in Bethnal Green, East London. The planting scheme will focus on plants that are common to derelict urban sites, possessing contemporary & historical biomedical properties. The meadow will be accompanied by the production of a site-based illustration & graphic renderings commissioned by two contemporary artists.

Phase 2

Phase 2 will see the commissioning of contemporary visual artists to develop new works exploring key themes and ideas held within the meadow site.

Phase 3

Phase 3 will follow the natural life of the meadow for a full growing year, with talks and site-based lectures being recorded and uploaded onto the Phytology website. The Phytology outreach programme will focus on site visits, talks and local community workshops, plus a project-based website. The website will include biomedical context, plant profiles, an archive of national and international biomedical research-based projects.

The team will be lead by Michael Smythe, Caitlin Elster, Colin Nightingale, Naseem Khan, Melissa Thompson, Dr Peter Giovannini, Talya Baldwin & Vhils. Volunteers are welcome as well; please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested.