We were handed a plain white card that said -
Gallery@49 had a break during the month of August, like all good galleries, but in its goal to support the regions artists they handed the keys over to Reading based artist Jo Thomas to use the gallery as a research/residency space. Jo is currently researching ‘Presencing Place: the knowing and shaping of place through expanded arts practice’ as part of her PhD at Oxford Brookes University. I joined Jo and others on one of her planned walks around Bracknell town centre to discover the natural life tucked away in the urban spaces. We were guided around by Marlies Boydell, Biodiversity Officer for Bracknell Forest Council, for a close inspection of the public green spaces on the fringes of the town centre.
Many, many years ago I remember learning a few of the names of the wildflowers that seem to appear from nowhere. Now days I can identify a dandelion, the bramble of the blackberry, a California poppy, but not much else so it was interesting to learn about the 'Bladder Campion', 'Cocks Foot', 'False Oat Grass', and 'Birds Foot Trefoil' that has two common names - 'eggs and bacon' or 'Grannie's toenails'! I never knew so much variety was in the verges we pass by, and that it's not only the breeze and the birds that bring in the seeds but imported soil.
Jo has been gathering maps, making drawings, video and sound recordings, and gathering input from the passing public as to their thoughts about the town which is still struggling with a long promised regeneration. Her time in the gallery and her walks around Bracknell town centre provide the input to feed her artistic research, it may be awhile till fruition of her sense of this place, it will be interesting to see where it takes her.