Hanna Rullmann and Riccardo Badano‘s residency is dedicated to the development of their research project Something of the Sun.
“And there is something peculiarly of the sun, and of the East, in the many depths of the noon-lighted palm wood – the yellow, and the pale green, and the rich burnt sienna of the various foliage; the rough deep markings of the rich brown stem; and now and then the burning chrome of the fruit stalks hanging in profuse clusters out from the depths of central shade.” (A Day Among the Palms, Henry Alford, Bordighera, Italy, 1870)
In the imaginary of the northern Mediterranean coasts of France and Italy (the Riviera), the palm tree is an enigmatic main character. Lining the boulevards and stretching across the coastal hills in postcard-like fashion, it paints the picture of a landscape saturated with sunlight, reminiscent of the tropics to be found further to the South or East. Palm trees – as well as cacti, succulents and agave, equally emblematic of the semi-tropical French-Italian Rivieras – are ‘spillovers’ here: taken from South America, Asia and Africa, and introduced by 18th, 19th and 20th century colonial botanists and amateur explorers in the many botanical gardens that scatter the coast line, where they quickly spread beyond the borders of these gardens (both with and without intent). These botanical and scientific institutions were (and still are) so-called ‘acclimatisation stations’. Attracted by the Riviera’s particularly warm microclimate, colonial exploration and scientific knowledge production here converged in processes of acclimatisation: the introduction and subsequent circulation and trade of exotic plant species in Northern Europe.
With the arrival of these foreign species, the landscape transformed into an extension of an exoticised and objectified Other, cultivated in botanical institutions and constructed through colonial exploitation elsewhere as a means to gain economic, political and scientific control. Its Orientalist aesthetics invoked descriptions ranging from a Biblical promised land to a tropical paradise, and drew flocks of Northern European travellers who associated it with luxury, leisure and well-being.
Something of the Sun is a research and film project that explores the meanings of this acclimatised landscape in the context of its proximity to the French-Italian securitised border, as well as the increasingly changing climatic conditions. It investigates relations between European identity and landscape, addressing the making of the tropics, notions of artificiality and belonging, as well as nativeness and invasiveness. At the same time, the changing climate forces a re-contextualisation of processes of acclimatisation: what was once native might no longer thrive, and what was once exotic might soon belong. Shifts that evoke discussions around conservation, value and restoration, in which the Riviera’s botanical and horticultural institutions have a significant role to play. Through film, Something of the Sun focusses particularly on the aesthetics of this landscape to unpick the complex relations and histories that make and re-make it.