Commissioned in 1992 by the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol for the Trophies of Empire touring exhibition, Terra was a walk-through world map, consisting of 14 floor-based lightboxes. They showed plants which have been introduced into Europe over the last 500 years as they are in their original habitats. These images were taken from tourist board brochures of ex-European colonies.
A terrarium occupied the territory that is Europe on the map. It contained living specimens of the plants depicted in the lightboxes.Terrariums were used to transport and cultivate plants from different parts of the world, which would not survive outside this micro-climate. They are sealed units, requiring only daylight to keep the plants alive as the oxygen they produce is converted into Co2, and water.
They are visual contradictions – on one hand they present apparently lush growth to the viewer, but at a deeper level they are unhealthy environments which stunt the growth of plants and arrest cross pollination and natural development. As such they are metaphors for fixed ideas and trapped communities – historically through slavery, and within contemporary Europe as ghetto-ised communities with limitations governing their freedom of movement within and without the EU.