Dr Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s Pollinator Pathmaker is a permanent installation at the Eden Project, Cornwall exploring the vital role of pollinating insects in promoting biodiversity.
Pollinator Pathmaker asks visitors to view the world in a different way; from the perspective of plants and pollinators, and to take part in an international cultural campaign to help save bees and other endangered species of pollinating insects ‒ the first of its kind. There has been a dramatic decline in pollinating insects in the last 40 years due to habitat loss, pesticides, invasive species, and climate change and the artwork is a call to take action against this. In line with Ginsberg’s artistic practice, Pollinator Pathmaker uses technology to raise awareness of one of the greatest challenges facing the natural world. The commission also explores the story of the UK’s indigenous pollinators: their vital role, their current plight, and the plans and need for their conservation.
Pollinator Pathmaker has been developed in collaboration with Eden’s expert network of horticulturists, scientists and consultants. This includes the National Wildflower Centre which is based at the Eden Project, Eden’s master beekeeper Rodger Dewhurst and pollination experts including Professor David Goulson and Marc Carlton. Machine-learning expert and string theory physicist, Dr Przemek Witaszczyk of Jagiellonian University, Kraków, worked with Ginsberg to develop the algorithms behind the planting programme.
The growing work will make a positive change for pollinators and for the climate. Together, these insects pollinate many of our food crops, help the plants in our gardens and countryside to reproduce and flourish, and are a vital part of our ecosystems. While the dangers facing honeybees are widely publicised, they are not the only pollinators. In the UK for instance, over 250 species of bee including 24 species of UK bumblebee, one native honey bee species and many species of solitary bee play a crucial role in pollination, alongside flies, beetles, wasps, moths and butterflies. For Pollinator Pathmaker, Ginsberg was inspired by Eden’s core principles: encouraging a sense of connection, awe and wonder towards our natural world, and above all, giving us hope and agency to help protect it.
The living artwork at the Eden Project will comprise a new garden, designed, planted and optimised for pollinators’ tastes, using a specially designed algorithm and specially curated palette of plants.
Watch Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg discussing Pollinator Pathmaker here:
Green-fingered audiences can also be part of this unique artwork and create, plant and share their own garden and planting scheme, designed for bees and other insect pollinators, using the new website and algorithm at pollinator.art, an experiment developed in collaboration with the Google Arts and Culture Lab. It is hoped people will grow these in whatever space they have available - at home, fields, community gardens and more.
Using the website, audiences can use the artwork’s custom algorithm to generate their own unique planting scheme of locally-appropriate plants for bees and other pollinators, as a call to action to plant your own pollinator garden. The algorithm will create a planting design to support the maximum pollinator species possible, using plants from a curated selection of plants chosen for their benefits to pollinators. Users can see a 3D visualization of their unique garden bloom on their screen, created from paintings of each plant by Ginsberg, who has carefully researched thousands of species. The website has been developed by The Workers with visual identity by Studio Frith.
On the website, participants can also watch their digital garden change over the year, as flowers for different pollinators emerge in an animated seasonal view. A soundscape composed by award-winning sound artist Nick Ryan accompanies the work and audiences can explore how a garden might look through the eyes of insects. Some of the plants included on the site include endangered plants such as the Echium pininana, which is a rare example of a plant which produces nectar across the whole day. Another included is the Cynara cardunculus, a type of artichoke, which is a valuable source of nectar for bumblebees. The Stachys byzantina meanwhile, is a magnet for wool carder bees in particular.
Head to pollinator.art now to create your own garden.
The work has been originally commissioned by the Eden Project and funded by Garfield Weston Foundation. Additional founding supporters are Gaia Art Foundation and collaborators Google Arts & Culture.
Further editions of the garden will be sown across the UK and Europe, following the planting of the inaugural artwork in Cornwall.
I want to make an artwork for pollinators, not about them. We’re creating a digital artwork made from living plants, exploring how the audience of an artwork can be more-than-human, and asking how art can be useful in the ecological crisis. The Eden Project is the perfect partner for this interspecies art experiment and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with their experts and learn from them.
Dr Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
One of the deepest pleasures there is, is to be given the opportunity to commission someone you hugely admire to create something that you know in advance is going to give such great pleasure and insight to so many people. Daisy’s huge talent is to be an artist that understands narrative, aesthetics, science and…impact.
Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project.
In this video, Dr. Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg discusses the concept behind her upcoming pollinator project with Serpentine’s Curator of Exhibitions and Design, Rebecca Lewin.
Dr Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
Design & Research: Iman Raisa Datoo
Producer: Cecilie Gravesen
Algorithm: Dr Przemek Witaszczyk, Jagiellonian University
Website: The Workers
Identity: Studio Frith
Curators: Céline Holman, Misha Curson
Interpretation: Dr Jo Elworthy
Horticulture: Colin Skelly, Jane Knight
Beekeeper: Rodger Dewhurst
Press: Nicola Jeffs
The commission is part of the Eden Project’s three year project Create a Buzz, to communicate the story of the UK’s native pollinators: their vital role, their current plight and their restoration.