Rachel Gomme has a fascination with with plants beneath our feet

Join south London artist, Rachel Gomme on “Undergrowth” an investigation in to the natural growth amid the concrete, brick and asphalt of two of south London’s neighbourhoods. It provides a chance to reconnect with the natural within the city, and with the human body as part of nature.

From carefully planted trees and well-maintained flower beds to grass growing between paving stones or moss on a wall, nature is everywhere in the city, softening and subverting the angles and planes of the built environment.

Undergrowth is a celebration of disorder, of wildness, of anarchy. Rachel’s interest is in the plants that are growing in places where they’re not invited, or if they are invited, in ways they’re not invited to – plants that are breaking the rules.

These are what we generally think of as weeds: one definition of a weed is a plant that’s growing in the wrong place. And the big question there is – who decides what’s the wrong place?

We normally try to get rid of these plants, suppress them, but Rachel wants participants to celebrate their presence and their persistence.

I think there’s something in all of us that responds to their wildness – after all, we’re part of the same nature, we have some of that wildness in us – even if now it’s only the one foot that’s bigger than the other, or the bit of hair that will never stay where you want it to. And disorder, spontaneity, anarchy are the source of evolution: if it wasn’t for those maverick mutant genes, which eventually proved essential to survival, we wouldn’t be here now.

To find those the smaller “irrepressibilities of nature”, those tiny plants that push up in the cracks between paving stones, or survive on a layer of dust in the gutter, and make their own small, but still important contribution to the breathing of the city.

Despite our concerns with damage and danger and disorder, I think we need to value and celebrate their wildness. If I imagine a city entirely of brick and concrete and glass and stone, all grey straight lines, if I imagine a city without wildness, I have a feeling that something in us would be less alive.”

Undergrowth will follow a meandering route from Peckham Rye railway station to Denmark Hill on Wednesday 27 June 2012 from 6.15pm – join Rachel for a 90 minute walk. Places are limited and on-llne booking is essential – there is a modest charge of £12 per person, but if you bring a friend both you and they qualify for a £2 cash discount on the day.  Each participant will receive their own field journal to record their findings.

This is one of a new series of Wednesday After Work Walks produced by Andrew Stuck curator of the Museum of Walking at Rethinking Cities.

This article previously appeared on the Rethinking Cities website