Friday, 11 May 2012

We are extInked at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (12/05/2012 - 29/07/2012)

100 endangered species, 100 original illustrations and 100 tattooed ambassadors are bought together for a unique social experiment in arts and ecology.

Manchester based arts collective Ultimate Holding Company have created a unique response to species loss in the UK through drawing, photography, video and tattoo art. The results of the project will be shown for the first time in Scotland as We are extInked; an exhibition opening at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on 12th May 2012.

We are extInked began in 2009 as part of the celebrations to mark the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth. Ultimate Holding Company identified 100 rare or endangered species in a collaboration with major conservation organisations. The selected species, all indigenous to the UK, were then meticulously reproduced as original pen and ink drawings by artist Jai Redman. At an open exhibition of the drawings, the public were invited to become an ambassador for a species. Out of the 500 who applied, 100 were selected and tattooed with their species at a special event over three days.

We are extInked brings together for the first time the original pen and ink drawings, documentary footage and extraordinary photographic portraits of the ambassadors created on a rare 19th century camera by Anatomy Projects. The artists’ work will be shown alongside specimens from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Herbarium collections and documentation of the progress of the 100 volunteer ambassadors as they work to protect and advocate for their species.

The exhibition launches at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on 12th May 2012 and will be located in the Gateway Gallery. It has been programmed to coincide with Scottish Biodiversity week. As part of the exhibition, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will also host two family weekend events celebrating the extInked project and promoting conservation within the local area. 

Elinor Gallant, Exhibitions Officer at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh commented: “We are extremely pleased to be hosting the ‘We are extInked’ exhibition. It is an exciting project and a great example of how conservation and species loss can inspire action in the most unusual and creative of ways."

Jai Redman, Creative Director at Ultimate Holding Company commented: "UHC are delivering exciting contemporary visual arts projects that have a real social impact. This is the latest of our projects to challenge people to seriously question what it means to be committed to an environmental cause, and what role the artist plays in inspiring change."

We are extInked runs until 29th July 2012.  The project is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and MIRIAD. Touring partners include The Manchester Museum, Smiths Row, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Rugby Art Gallery & Museum. With special thanks to The People's Trust for Endangered Species, Buglife, The Marine Conservation Society, The Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Highland Tiger: The Wild Cat and The Royal Zoological Society Scotland.

- - - - - 

For further information about the exhibition and the weekend events please visit or


We are extInked is an exhibition of extInked, a participatory arts and ecology project launched in 2009 by Ultimate Holding Company.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is one of four venues that will host the exhibition between May 2011 and November 2012. The exhibition will reach a wide public across the UK and inspire and encourage audiences to protect the flora and fauna surrounding them. As the exhibition travels the UK it will constantly change in response to the work of the ambassadors and the status of the species that it features and the location it will be exhibited. Each venue will host educational activities and public events to inspire and promote interest and action around ecology and conservation. Many of these activities will be led by the ambassadors in conjunction with ecologists, educationalists and artists.

The tour will document the legacy of the project from its inception in 2009, through to the current work of the ambassadors. The primary focus of the tour will be to showcase the work of the project’s ambassadors providing audiences with a unique insight into the potential for art and socially engaged practice to explore and influence UK efforts to prevent species loss.

The extInked project was presented in proud association with the assistance of The Marine Conservation Society, Buglife (The Invertebrate Conservation Trust), The People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Anatomy Projects and Leeds Based tattooists Ink Vs Steel. It was supported by Arts Council England grants for the arts and MIRIAD.

extInked was identified as one of the RSA’s Arts and Ecology project highlights of 2009.

Twitter: @extinked


Ultimate Holding Company is a creative social engagement project, artists collective and design studio. It has operated at the junction of visual art design and socio-political activism since 2002. UHC’s process driven ethos seeks out co-production and public collaboration, looking to encourage new connections to the arts through social solidarity.

The portfolio encompasses self-initiated and commissioned works, each employing a mix of real-world research, performance and intervention, interconnecting skills from a wide range of traditional and contemporary disciplines. Most famously the artists imprisoned 9 volunteers in a faithful recreation of the U.S’s Guantanamo Bay internment facility ‘Camp XRay’. UHC artists have provided the creative lead on a large-scale government funded environmental awareness project in Wythenshawe and carried out residencies and periods of engagement in Barrow-in-Furness, Leeds University and Liverpool (extensive public engagement exercises on behalf of Liverpool NHS PCT).

Based in Manchester, UHC is becoming recognised as one of the North West’s most exciting socially engaged arts organisations.

Ultimate Holding Company, 2nd Floor, Hotspur House, 2 Gloucester Street, Manchester, M1 5QR.
Tel: +44 (0) 161 238 8523
Twitter: @UHCstudio


Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, John Hope Gateway, Arboretum Place, Edinburgh, EH3 5NZ.
RBGE press office - Sandra Donnelly on 0131 248 1037 or Shauna Hay on 0131 248 2900
Visitor enquiries: T: 0131 2482909
Twitter: @TheBotanics
Open: Open daily 10am – 6pm.


Anatomy Projects is a collaboration between Gavin Parry and David Penny, the pair have been working since 2005, making photographic portraiture using a 19th century studio portrait camera. Initially, the drive for the project was simply to re-build the camera, make it functional and experiment to see what kind of images it would make, if any. After a period of trial, error and persistence this unique photographic process has grown to a point where the camera becomes an essential part of the investigation into contemporary photographic portraiture. The artists have been collaborating with UHC over the past two years creatively documenting art projects such as extInked and EXAM.

In November 2009, they were commissioned to create a collection of portraits of the one hundred Ambassadors. The intention was not to make a documentation of the tattoos but to create a portrait of the individual, as part of a shared experience of the social experiment. Anatomy Projects continue to collaborate with UHC as an important project partner moving forward.



Photos of the Artists, Ambassadors and artwork are available on request.

For further information please contact:

Kate Houlton - Touring Exhibition Co-ordinator, Ultimate Holding Company.
Tel: +44 (0) 161 238 8523