CuratorSpace Artist Bursary #18: Helen Mather & Anna FC Smith

Helen Mather and Anna FC Smith are a collaborative duo with independent experience of solo shows and leading workshops. They started collaborating in 2020 on an ACE funded project where they developed a community engaged exhibition with a programme of events and activities which continued throughout the lockdowns.

"In our collaborative practice we explore social and political history through socially engaged activity, seeking learning, reflection, and connection to contemporary lives. Our project is inspired by 19th century working-class Botanical Societies formed of passionate self-taught naturalists. We are looking to develop ideas around how their model can offer a fresh approach to tackle the climate emergency.

Self-taught working-class artisans applied scientific method where there was limited literacy and no expectation for them to pursue learning. Observing, and finding wonder in their urban environment, they forged a sense of combined purpose - their locale was both their laboratory and art school. They shared books, read to each other; shared and identified specimens, and undertook communal walks, communicating knowledge through drawings, creative and factual writings, conversation, and gardening.

We are interested in developing alternative spaces for learning, co-creating, and disseminating knowledge. In both urban and rural environments, we want to inspire local groups into creative action through observing, documenting, and communicating changes in these spaces, fostering a sense of ownership and agency in the context of the climate emergency.

Our ambition is to create modern Botanical Societies in towns and cities around the North-West of England. Through different co-created approaches to observing, documenting, and sharing, we would like to develop communities of informed activists, facilitating a range of creative responses, driving outcomes through relevant knowledge, observation, and a passion for their local environment. These societies would elevate understanding and engagement with the environment and collaboration between communities, lasting beyond our intervention."


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