Fragile Earth: seeds, weeds, plastic crust

Elinor Morgan (Curator)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


In Fragile Earth: seeds, weeds, plastic crust Morgan’s research into creative responses to ecology and climate crisis manifested through an exhibition of artwork by 22 artists based around the world, including five new commissions, and artefacts from two public collections. Her curation of an extensive public programme continued her constituent curation, with community conversations informing the development of the research. Her place-based research resulted in a commissioned publication edited by Morgan.

Morgan’s research connects global exploitation of resources, trade networks and production of waste with the socio-economic and ecological context of the Tees Valley. The exhibition and public programme resulted from three years of intensive research foregrounding public dialogue between artists and ecology experts. Morgan was driven by the question of how a constituent-driven curatorial approach can develop personal agency and connectivity with issues of climate change. It was original in its context-specific approach in connecting local and global discourse. 
Morgan’s curatorial examination of colonial infrastructures, discourses in agriculture, botany, archaeology, innovative technologies and ecological conservation is underpinned by Donna J Haraway, TJ Demos and Kathryn Yusoff. Her research interrogated relationships between plants, animals and humans at a time of climate crisis, with theoretical texts, media reports, community consultation, local history collections, and artworks as materials. 
Morgan’s research into constituent-developed curation is at the forefront of museums practice transcending barriers between audience, expert and institution. Her innovative approach combined consultation with community groups through Design Thinking workshops with exploratory site visits with artists and research visits to international exhibitions. 
Her research into interdisciplinary collaboration is exemplified by new work produced between artist Diane Watson and Northumbria Water to highlight challenges in water filtration. Morgan brought artist Laura Harrington into dialogue with geographers and publics, resulting in new artwork, public site visits and a monograph introduced by Morgan. The public programme was shaped in collaboration with partners with remits in ecology, conservation and education. Morgan commissioned five works which have subsequently been exhibited elsewhere, and four pieces will join the museum’s collection. Morgan’s innovative approaches to interpretation included commissioning a 3D hologram and a publication on seven plant species by botany writer Helen Bynum as an alternative exhibition catalogue.  
Morgan’s multi-disciplinary and context-specific curatorial response to climate change has informed subsequent large-scale collaborative programmes. In 2019 MIMA led a successful bid for Borderlands, a Creative People and Places programme, and in 2020 led one of 30 teams shortlisted for Festival 2022. The conceptual foundations of both projects came from this research and both built on partnerships developed through Fragile Earth.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Fragile Earth: seeds, weeds, plastic crust'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this