Injurious Effect - Public Art for University of Bristol


Injurious Effect (Working Title)

Handmade Wardian Case (wooden terrarium) and stand, plants and sound piece featuring local histories of the Gas Works through headphones

Ellie Shipman, 2022
Case and stand fabricated by Jack Stiling, Stiling's Workshop


Injurious Effect (WORKING TITLE) is a new public artwork commissioned by Bristol Digital Futures Institute at the University of Bristol to be on permanent display in their new innovation hub housed in the Victorian Gas Works on Avon Street. The artwork explores the relationship between innovation and societal change prompted by the history of the gas works, through a sculpture and audio piece featuring interviews with local residents and historians.

The artwork consists of a hand built Wardian Case, a tall terrarium-like wooden crate used for transporting plants in protected environments across the British Empire during the 1800s. The Wardian Case is a symbol of innovation and all the possibilities and impacts it can bring. It inspired the artwork through the history of the gas works researched by Dr James Watts who writes:

“It was recommended by some horticultural experts to give plants the protection of a Wardian case (used for transporting plants from across the globe) if there was a gaslight in the room. Gas was associated with air pollution which posed a constant threat to horticultural activities. “The fumes, or products of combustion, of coal-gas have a more injurious effect upon plant-life than anything else,” wrote B. C. Ravenscroft in his handbook Town Gardening (1883).”21”

Avon Street Gasworks and Bristol’s Gas Industry
A Bristolian history of innovation with lessons for our digital future

Fear of the new, of change and hidden or unseen implications have always gone hand in hand with socio-technical innovation. The artwork invites reflection on the past, present and future of innovation in Bristol through the symbol of the Wardian Case, alongside an audio piece featuring interviews with Garry Atterton, local historian and founder of the Barton Hill History Group and interview with local residents and group members; Pete Insole, Principal Historic Environment Officer for Bristol City Council and founder of Know Your Place; Dr James Watts, historian and researcher of the Gas Works history alongside historical interviews from Bristol residents provided by Bristol Museums.

The artwork will be installed in October 2022.