Sempervivum Rickshaw

Sempervivum Rickshaw is a multidisciplinary project bringing together artists and scientists around the theme of Sempervivum, known also as – houseleeks, hens and chicks…
Through exhibitions where scientific and artistic works are mixed, the ambition of this project is to share visions that are complementary to bring a complex and varied understanding of these plants to the public. Sempervivum incites us to observe them, question our perception, and understand their functioning to help us think about the world and climate change.
Each exhibition linked to the project is unique and co-constructed with different participants depending on the “stops” of the Rickshaw.
Consisting of an initial core, the project is enriched as it travels to new locations, growing each time with additional artistic and scientific contributions.


Germination 2019
Jane Le Besque visited Franck Poly, a Sempervivum cultivator in Vienne, France. From Franck’s extensive collection of several hundred hybrids and parental plants, she planted 40 different taxa and nothotaxa, a total of 1800 on her green roof. Jane began painting Sempervivum portraits and initiated Sempervivum Rickshaw.
Scientists and artists contributed to the project modeled on the rosette form of Sempervivum, roots, and clones of the central rosette, inspiring connections between science and art and giving rise to new ambitions and collaborations.
Sempervivum Rickshaw was the subject of a first exhibition, during the CoVID years, at the University Hospitals of Geneva, followed by invitations to the Botanical Garden of Munich-Nymphenburg, Germany curated by Thibaud Messerschmid, a scientific curator at the Munich-Nymphenburg Botanical Garden.


Geneva University Hospital (HUG), 2021
Munich-Nymphenburg Botanical Garden, 2022/2026


Our intention of bringing Sempervivum Rickshaw to the public is multi-faceted. Firstly we aim to take visitors to the exhibitions on a journey to discover the attributes of Sempervivum through the eyes of artists and scientists; secondly to illustrate how Sempervivum are a gauge indicating current changes within the Natural World; thirdly to bring to the public’s attention the benefits of Sempervivum – historically, currently and in the future.
An exhibition on Sempervivum that is both artistic and scientifically documented allows a holistic approach to the theme. We aim to encourage an alternative way of understanding the issues raised in the exhibition through sensitive artistic and aesthetic experiences. We hope to provoke a change in thought and facilitate a deeper understanding of the issues raised.
Plant species living at high mountainous altitudes are particularly vulnerable to global warming. Besides being unable to withstand increasingly high temperatures, species from lower elevations migrating to cooler platforms compete for soil and colonise where other species had grown before. We aim to demonstrate in our exhibition that what we see nowadays is not the first time the climate shifts and that instances of past climate change have shaped biodiversity and have driven life to extinction and prosperity at the same time.
Through hybridisation, natural and artificial (through cultivation in the greenhouse and by A.I. artificial intelligence) we comment on reality and future mathematical botany. The vastly different speeds of evolution are made apparent, highlighting the impact of human technology on the fragility of individuals and species.