London’s Kew Gardens is currently hosting a new exhibition called Queer Nature, which showcases installations centered around the diversity of nature. The exhibition takes place within Kew’s Victorian glasshouse Temperate House and consists of four installations.
One of the featured installations is House of Spirits by American artist Jeffrey Gibson, his largest UK commission to date. Suspended from the glass ceiling, this colorful fabric installation is adorned with botanical illustrations and writing influenced by Gibson’s perspectives on queerness and nature. Gibson drew inspiration from New York’s ballroom scene and the work of artist and gay rights activist Derek Jarman.
In an adjacent room, garden designer Patrick Featherstone presents Breaking the Binary, a temporary garden display created in collaboration with the Kew Youth Forum. Featherstone transformed the layout of the space to accommodate curving flowerbeds, showcasing plant species that challenge traditional classifications of male and female. This installation aims to explore the complexity and variety of plant reproduction and challenge societal norms.
Featherstone also commissioned transgender illustrators to create informational boards as part of Breaking the Binary, highlighting the relevance of transgender identities in a time when discrimination against trans people persists. By questioning what is considered “natural” or “scientific,” Featherstone encourages visitors to challenge established attitudes.
Another installation in Queer Nature is Queer Voices by London-based designer Adam Nathaniel Furman. Furman created an immersive space within two octangular greenhouses in Temperate House. Fabric pieces, hanging five meters from the ceiling, feature a pattern inspired by various plants, including those with connections to queer history. The installation also includes video interviews with LGBTQ+ scientists, horticulturists, historians, artists, and writers.
Kew Gardens also enlisted artists LiLi K Bright and Ama Josephine Budge Johnstone to create Reverberations, two spoken word pieces played throughout Temperate House.
In addition to the exhibition, Queer Nature will host events including cabaret performances, drag shows, and talks. The exhibition aims to draw attention to the diversity and inspiration found in nature, allowing visitors to find strength in embracing nature’s variety rather than conforming to societal expectations.
Recent projects celebrating and exploring LGBTQ+ identities include Furman’s design of a “queer monument” for the Commonwealth Games and an atlas featuring 90 LGBTQ+ spaces from around the world.
Queer Nature will be on display at Kew Gardens from September 30th to October 29th, 2023. For more information about architecture and design exhibitions, events, and talks, visit the Dezeen Events Guide.
Follow mindesign on Instagram: @mindesign.it