Electric Bloom

SDNA:             Artistic Direction
Concept & Design

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Over 200 years ago Hackney was a cultural destination for visitors around the globe, home to London’s textile industry and the largest botanical hothouse in the world. Electric Bloom has been exploring this incredible hidden history by working with the local community and council for six months, curating workshops across art, film, animation, music, spoken word, textiles and garden design with renowned creatives including musicians Peter Adjaye and Randolph Matthews and leading spoken word artists PolarBear and Raymond Atrobus. Electric Bloom culminated on September 12th, featuring creative works created by residents and artists, permanent and temporary light installations, an immersive app-led trail and the premiere of an original Electric Bloom music composition by Rowland Sutherland and Orphy Robinson performed by emerging musicians from Hackney. Taking place at night, the trail will journey through the artworks located at heritage landmarks, with audio stories shared by local residents reflecting Hackney’s past, present and future. The Electric Bloom trail will be free to attend, centering around St. John’s with installations on Morning Lane, Churchwell Path, St Augustine’s Tower and more. The app will be available to download on the 10th of September. An exhibition displaying pieces from the Electric Bloom workshops is also now open at Sutton House. 

Unbeknownst to many Hackney has a long history of driving innovation in botanic and textiles, leaving a legacy that can be seen throughout the streets and buildings of the borough and further afield to parks and gardens around the world. In the 18th century the Loddiges family built the largest hothouse in the world, creating a tropical rainforest in the heart of Hackney. The green fingered pioneers were responsible for bringing sights from destinations people could only dream of, introducing exotic species to this country for the first time including orchids, rhododendron, rhubarb and hummingbirds. Hackney’s textile roots are just as impressive. By 1900 it was home to hundreds of factories and workshops and employing over 15,000 people.

Electric Bloom has been working to bring the Hackney community together and strengthen connections to this rich heritage with a series of workshops over the past few months. The workshops have been open to Hackney residents, curated by SDNA in collaboration with creative producer Clare Moloney and led by an eclectic mix of artists including Noel Basualdo, Annie Goliath and Fabrications founder Barley Massey, filmmakers and animators Rozi Peters and Zsolt Balogh, garden designer and City Scapes founder Adolfo Harrison, musicians Peter Adjaye and Randolph Matthews, and spoken word artists PolarBear and Raymond Atrobus.

Works produced in the workshops inspired a series of temporary and permanent digital lighting installations created by SDNA, that  illuminated Hackney Central as part of an immersive trail that took place in the evening on September 12th. On the same evening renowned local musicians performed an original composition created especially for Electric Bloom by multi-instrumentalists Orphy Robinson and Rowland Sutherland and supported by PRS for Music.

Artists from SDNA, Valentina Floris and Ben Foot designed two permanent lighting installations in collaboration with Hackney-based artists whose work features tropical plants. Illustrations of palm leaves designed by acclaimed designer Anna Glover appears in a permanent projection on Churchwell Path, while 17th Century style intaglio etches from Kew Gardens’ trained ‘modern classicist’ and Chelsea Flower Show perennial Bryan Poole, was animated and used in a permanent projection on Morning Lane. St Augustine’s Tower was illuminated for the trail and images of costumes created through a workshop led by carnival group Tropical Isles appeared in multiple projections displayed at St John at Hackney Church, a perfect backdrop for carnival performers celebrating the start of Hackney One Carnival.

Visitors to the Electric Bloom trail were immersed in visual spectacle and sound. An Electric Bloom app was created by audio and visual artist Joel Cahen, taking participants on a voyage of discovery through the installations and historical landmarks of the borough. The app  featured the hidden histories and memories shared by those that live there along with thoughts on the current regeneration of the area recorded over the summer and extracts of spoken word created by local 16-25 year olds. Lighting, projections and historic landmarks throughout the trail was accompanied by a soundscape created by Peter Adjaye with Hackney Voices Choir and the Bell Ringers of St John at Hackney Church.

Electric Bloom is led by digital artists SDNA and the London Experimental Arts Project in collaboration with creative producer Clare Moloney and project artists Anna Glover, Annie Goliath, Adolfo Harrison, AJ Kwame, Barley Massey, Bryan Poole, Joel Cahen, Noel Basualdo, Orphy Robinson, PolarBear, Raymond Atrobus, Rowland Sutherland, Rozi Peters, Tropical Isles and Zsolt Balogh.
Electric Bloom is supported by the London Borough of Hackney, the Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the PRS and the Greater London Authority. We would like to thank our project partners Hackney Archives, Hackney Historic Buildings Trust, Hackney Society, London Metropolitan Archives, Morningside Children’s Centre, and St Johns at Hackney, SPACE Studios, Sutton House and Trelawney Estate Resident’s Association.

Electric Bloom was kindly supported by the Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the London Borough of Hackney, the PRS and the Greater London Authority.

For more information check the Electric Bloom website
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