Felix Kalmenson was in residency at Jupiter Woods in July 2017. During this time he expanded on his research at the Kew Gardens Archives, the National Archives and the Telegraph Museum Archives.
His investigation traced the extraction, propagation and dispersal of plants and plant knowledge throughout the British Empire’s colonial botanical garden network. The research focuses on the narrative and instrumentalisation of Gutta Percha, a resin producing plant indigenous to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, which was established into plantations from the mid-1800s to the 1950s. The unique resin produced by Gutta Percha provided the necessary material in the insulation of submarine telegraph cables, which prior to the fabrication of synthetic plastics was a key commodity of the empire. The telegraph system itself became an important and necessary aspect in the coordination and administration of Britain’s global empire and so played a key logistical role in the expansion and maintenance of the colonial system. Gutta Percha and its exploitation among other botanical commodities also vastly restructured the biospheres, economies and communities of the nations that hosted them.
The residency culminated in a screening event and artist talk. Follow related content.