Commissioned by The Architecture Centre, Bristol, 'Underfall' is part of Dodds' ongoing series of public works looking at the hidden social and political resonances of interstitial public spaces. Often overlooked or derided as 'wasteland' these edgelands of our towns and cities can become valuable, natural resources, rich in biodiversity once left to nature. For the project, local abseiling botanist and poet, Libby Houston, was invited to undertake a performative survey of the flora within one of Bristol’s Victorian dry docks, in front of an invited audience. Houston is celebrated for her botanical work in the Avon Gorge, abseiling the valley's steep slopes to gather information on the area’s unique vegetation – she is credited with the discovery of a new species of tree, the Whitebeam, Sorbus x houstoniae.
For 'Underfall' Houston was transported from her usual rural working environment to 'perform' in the subterranean, urban ‘cliff face’ of the dry dock walls as a botanical and conceptual comparison of the two sites. The industrial boatyard was found to be extremely diverse in terms of vegetation: a micro-climate had developed within the dry dock and 88 species of plants were documented in the one-day survey. Evidence of activity by major predators including birds of prey and foxes was also found.
Detailed results of the survey were made available in the gallery alongside field notes, scientifically mounted field samples and a video document following the working process.