Unearthing the tangled history of botany, plant use and ownership


What does it mean to patent something that has been grown and used for thousands of years?

What are the ethics of ‘owning’ a plant?

In 2022, Trigger embarked on a radical, far-reaching process of research and development.

Meeting with Indigenous elders, academics, scientists and artists, we heard stories and learnt the complex histories of botany, plant use and ownership.

Patenting of seeds and biological products is a widespread practice, rooted in the capitalist Global North. Often it takes place at the expense of Indigenous peoples.

This widespread practice resembles something close to modern day colonisation.

This research process has led us to develop Ground, which will be premiering at Brighton Festival in May 2024.

“I will take away the vision of the food forest that we couldn't see in order to plant the farm that we can't sustain.”

-Sharon W

Project story

Part one

Ideas & research

This research process began in February 2022, with a series of online conversations.

We brought together artists and academics from Australia, Canada and the UK. Together, we explored the tangled history of plant use and ownership. The conversations were reflective, meditative and collaborative. They were facilitated by NESTA Innovation Fellow and published author and researcher Wanjiku Nyachae 

In October 2022 we were joined by esteemed artist Christine Urquhart (Girl/Footprints on Water) as we travelled to Melbourne, Australia for a residency at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Here we deepened our understanding of biopiracy and the ethics of plant ownership.

Our research continued back in the UK, where in November 2022 we spent a week at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank and National Trust House Nymans with writer and academic Zakiya McKenzie. We learnt about the preservation and gathering of seeds, and made plans to turn this research into our next major project.

Creative Team

Creative Director
Angie Bual

(The Hatchling/PoliNations)

Carl Robertshaw

(Ellie Goulding/Bjork)

Christine Urquhart
Contributors and collaborators

Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, James Nguyen, Amy Torabi, Professor Tim Entwistle (Director), Daniel Robinson & Miri Raven UNSW, Glen Walton, Darrin Verhagen (RMIT).  Zakiya McKenzie, Kew Gardens, Elinor Bremen (Senior Research Lead - Seed Conservation), Ed Ikin (Director), William Millikan (Seed Conservation), Alice Cathcart (Botanical Horticulturalist), Jo Wenham (Propogations and Collections), Sharon Willoughby (Head of Interpretation). National Trust, Pam Smith & Emma McNamara. Special Thanks to Vandana Shiva


Royal Botanic Gardens (Victoria & Melbourne), National Trust, SummerWorks (Canada), Millennium Seed Bank at Kew's Wild Botanic Garden Wakehurst, Take Me Somewhere


GROW R&D is funded by British Council as part of the AU/UK Season & Sub Saharan Africa fund, New Conversations Fund, Bristol + Bath Creative R+D Here + There and Arts Council England.

Keep exploring


Curious passersby can peer through letterboxes to discover objects contributed by our neighbours.

Curio project story