UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


The Secret Life of Plants

10 August 2011

The Broadcast Trials

STS Alumna Liz Haines and PhD student Matthew Paskins, together with Catherine Forrester, premiered The Broadcast Trials a devised immersive performance about the history of botany and people’s relationships with plants. The premiere took place on 6th/7th August at the Urban Physic  Garden in Southwark (http://www.physicgarden.org.uk/), a wonderful space which has played host to a range of workshops and performances throughout the Summer.

The team describe how they made the Broadcast Trials.

"After an introduction, an initial exploration of the garden, and a guided meditation, each member of the audience was given a card with either a story or an image from the history of botany on it – together with research notes, contextualising text and image. The cards ranged from personal recollections to fragments from old scientific journals, to journalistic accounts of agricultural capacity. We aimed to convey something of the pleasure and the puzzlement of studying history of science, the strange and sometimes sinister shapes which technical data adopts when we understand its social and cultural roots, and the personal voices which can be heard, sometimes faintly, through the most abstract material. The performances were testament to the wide accessibility of this kind of material, and of its potential to bring a wide audience to a more generous conception of the past, in both its richness and its squalor.

We invited the audience to write their own responses and to share the stories on their cards – and were quite overwhelmed by the creativity and attentiveness of the material which they produced, as well as by their wicked wit. We are currently working to make these available online."

What next?

The Broadcast Trials will return in the future: in the meantime, if you have any further questions about the event, or would be interested in helping to stage another performance, please contact m.paskins@ucl.ac.uk