Perhaps it is somewhat ironic that a building complex like The Barbican, named after a Barbecana— a fortified watchtower; a structure built from fear and paranoia, should go on to house a space such as The Barbican Conservatory: a space that arguably personifies peace, escape and tranquility, within it. Lying amidst seemingly endless tonnes of layered, moulded and sculpted raw concrete, The Barbican Conservatory is the closest thing to paradise that the city offers, housing hundreds of rare plants, exotic fish, insects and apparently even birds, all amongst the office blocks, tourists traps and congestion zones that hem, fence and line the city.
Continuing within the lineage of series Titan Arum (2013), The Barbican Conservatory explores this vibrant and sacred place within an alternative lens; one that too is colourless, amplified and distorted by visual errors like shadows, grain and underexposing, that warp, invert and yet sanctify the space as if from a parallel universe. Alongside this too is the examination of the human presences within that animate it from a voyeuristic distance. Ultimately, there is something spectral, haunting and transcendent about the resulting images, working against the familiarity to present an alternate beauty.
In light of global events, the series too highlights the importance of such spaces, but also specifically the importance from the perspective of the visitor. What do people truly seek when they visit The Conservatory? Can one truly escape the pull of the city within this extraordinary place? Is it, like innumerable things in a capitalist society, just another thing ripe and ready for exploitation, aspiration and desire? What is its place, within a world in which true, authentic travel is a luxury, thwarted by red tape, paranoia and ever-changing bureaucracies?