Rescued Rhododendrons (Production Stills), 2000 Sonnenschein,
Plečnik Union, 2000
Rescued Rhododendrons (Production Stills) consists of five
colour photographs. The images document a journey made earlier
this year from the north of Scotland to the southernmost tip
of Spain. The journey inverted one made in 1763 by a Swedish
botanist, Claes Alestroemer, who discovered Rhododendron Ponticum
growing in the hills between Gibraltar and Cadiz. Alestroemer,
a student of Linnaeus, was the first person to introduce this
Rhododendron into cultivation in Britain. Since then the plant
has become endemic in Scotland and is now considered a weed.
The project began with a request to make a public work for
a piece of protected heath land in Scotland. Discovering that
a number of Ponticum plants, encroaching on this fragile "Scottish
ecosystem", were to be destroyed, Starling set out in his
red Swedish estate car to return these plants to their ancestors.
Similarly concerned with geographical shifts, Sonnenschein,
Ljubljana 2000 is one of an ongoing series of works already
exhibited in Reykjavík and Malmö. The starting point for this
work is a small man-made hill built by the pioneering aviator
Otto Lilienthal in the 1890s. Lilienthal used the hill to
launch his experimental gliders and died in a crash during
one such flight in 1896. (A copy of one of Lilienthal's gliders
hangs in Ljubljana's Brnik Airport.) Starling makes regular
pilgrimages to this hill in Lichterfelde, Berlin, to harness
solar power in a heavy battery. The battery is then transported
by plane to various locations around the globe, creating a
web of connections back to the notional birthplace of aviation.
The power is then used, for as long as it lasts, to illuminate
a lightbulb, a fleeting tribute to Lilienthal's legacy.