7 Dec 2016
David Turley’s installation recalls the creation of a forest, inspired by the true story and lived experience of a forestry worker in 1947. Turley’s source material is faithfully documented in a diary from that year, found in a suitcase he purchased at a deceased estate auction in Australia. Amongst the ephemera from this man’s life, the diary carefully records his daily activities in post-war Britain; he plants 10,162 trees in Orlestone Forest in Kent that year. Turley has crafted two gallery benches milled from a tree felled in Orlestone Forest. They are copies of a Martin Visser bench owned by the artist and originally designed as gallery seating for the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. From here we are invited to reflect on Turley’s paintings as records of his time – his daily practice.
Image: David Turley, Jerwood Open Forest exhibition 2016, installation view. Image © Hydar Dewachi
28 Nov 2016
Artist Keith Harrison has been awarded a major £30,000 commission through the 2016 edition of Jerwood Open Forest; established by Forestry Commission England and Jerwood Charitable Foundation, with support from Arts Council England. The project seeks to contribute to a national discussion around how contemporary artists engage with the environment today, presenting forests as a rich and immersive platform for bold and ambitious works.
Keith Harrison’s project Joyride will be realised at Cannock Chase Forest in Autumn 2017 where he will ceremonially release a clay replica of a Rover 75 down a specially constructed roller coaster style ramp, providing a pertinent commentary on the rise and fall of car manufacturing in the area. Inspired by Harrison’s upbringing in the heavily post-industrialised Black Country, the performative sculpture will bring together industrial and recreational forces within the forest, aligning the urban and natural environment on a monumental scale. Both relevant and reminiscent, Joyride frames the rich and historical relationship between car and landscape in a contemporary context, through which it has the potential to resonate and engage with an extremely diverse audience.
‘The opportunity to realise a project which links the former Rover factory at Longbridge, Birmingham where my mother and grandfather worked and Cannock Chase, a wilderness we visited regularly as a family whilst growing up in the Black Country is immense. The work will see the social and environmental impact of the car in forests and the demise of automotive manufacture collide.’ Keith Harrison
The winning commission was selected by a panel of leading practitioners and project partners including: Katherine Clarke, artist and founding partner of muf architecture/art; Neville Gabie, artist; Shonagh Manson, Director, Jerwood Charitable Foundation; Hayley Skipper, National Arts Development Programme Manager, Forestry Commission England and Dr Joy Sleeman, writer, curator and lecturer.
‘Keith has demonstrated an uncompromisingly strong artistic vision throughout the development of his proposal. His investment in research, technical considerations and palpable connection with both the chosen site and themes being explored have been unwavering. We are very much looking forward to working on realising this ambitious project with Keith.’ Hayley Skipper, National Arts Development Programme Manager, Forestry Commission England
Born in West Bromwich in the Black Country, Keith Harrison studied Ceramics at Cardiff School of Art and Design before completing his MA in Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art in 2002. He has exhibited widely across the UK and realised large-scale works for public galleries and Museums including the V&A, Camden Arts Centre and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. In 2011, Harrison exhibited multimedia installation Float at Jerwood Space, London, commissioned as part of the biennial initiative Jerwood Makers Open.
The Jerwood Open Forest exhibition continues at Jerwood Space, London until 11 December.
Images (from top): Keith Harrison, Jerwood Open Forest exhibition 2016. Photo © Hydar Dewachi; Keith Harrison, Joyride, Research and Development drawing, Jerwood Open Forest 2016, courtesy of the artist; Keith Harrison with a prototype of Joyride at Cannock Chase Forest, film still © Steve Gammond; Keith Harrison’s prototype of Joyride, film still © Steve Gammond; aerial plan of Joyride event site, courtesy of the artist.
Keith Harrison discusses Joyride, a film by Steve Gammond.
28 Nov 2016
These days, whenever the label ‘tree-hugger’ gets bandied about, it isn’t normally intended as a term of endearment. The very idea of wrapping your arms around a trunk’s gnarly girth has come to be read as misplaced love, an excessive show of emotion, verging on the hysterical and unhinged, rather than a powerful symbol of the protective embrace, or as a show of greater ecological concern for our planetary future. And the fact that tree-hugging was a practice begun by peasants in rural India, who employed it as a tactic of non-violent protest against unforgiving tree-felling policies? Well, this origin story from a distant resource war seems to have been relegated to the history books.
But calling yourself a ‘tree lover’? Well, that’s a different matter altogether. Surely we’d all self-identify as one of those. To claim intimacy, attachment and affiliation with particular trees is one of the strongest structures of feeling we share with our forebears from centuries past. In fact, as I write, public votes are being cast across the Home Nations to select a ‘Tree of the Year’. “And my personal favourite?” seeing as you’re asking. From Scotland’s shortlisted half-dozen, without doubt it’s the ‘Bicycle Tree’ in Brig O’Turk, Perthshire, so-called because of its slow-growth habit of consuming bits of scrap metal. The two-centuries old sycamore having sprouted through the last remains of a blacksmith’s workshop, so legend has it. When every tree lover’s ballot has been counted, each national winner will be entered into a cross-continental competition, leading eventually to the crowning of Europe’s finest specimen. To contemplate the opposite sort of attitude – turning your back on trees – offers only the bleakest of prospects. ‘A culture is no better than its woods’, warned W.H. Auden’s verse, with great portent and finality.
Poetry is one thing. Contemporary art another. “Not always to everyone’s taste”, seems a reasonable enough way to summarise its mixed reception among the general public. Though arguably, we’re becoming increasingly sophisticated interpreters of forest landscapes where plain timber is transformed by a seasonal or site-specific installation of artworks, or community woodlands temporarily enchanted by theatrical displays of sound and light. Nowadays, it’s far from unusual to encounter sculptural art in some bosky glade, or to enter a wood after nightfall voluntarily so as to watch its canopy of leaves illuminated and re-tinted. Or, to cup an ear as amplified sounds estrange the pine-needle crunch of footfall as you pass through a coniferous plantation.
Half a century of arts-driven developments, self-consciously styling the nation’s public forests as artful places, is itself a cultural achievement worthy of notice. At its best, forest art challenges us to consider what we might mean by cultural landscapes in the British tradition. Moreover, the programming, curating and exhibiting of forest art can also happen at a distance from the physical settings that serve as inspiration or sites of inquiry. These emergent and distributed geographies now encompass the gallery as display space, and digital communities connecting through web and social media. Perhaps all this effort and enterprise merits a new descriptive category, one that would line-up with existing standards for landscape artistry: like the picturesque, sublime, gothic and romantic. Myself, I’m putting my wager on the ‘curatorial’ movement.
However well-deserved these congratulations, we metropolitan moderns would do well to recall some of the entirely ordinary ways in which arboriculture continues to take artful expression, often without much more than the most local of announcements.
Take tree carving: a once commonplace countryside custom, of which there remains plentiful evidence, visible on trunks nationwide. It might be possible to picture an example from memory. Two sets of letters cut out of the bark, your own initials and those of your childhood sweetheart. A tender coupling held together with a + sign, framed by a heart shape, shot through with Cupid’s arrow.
Now, digging your pocketknife into a tree’s soft flesh will strike some as a less then courtly way to show the intensity of your feelings; but then, urban graffiti has its sworn enemies too. Myself, I’ve always been rather taken by this desperate urge to proclaim that the love you share will be everlasting. Old carvings convert your nearest neighbourhood copse into an arboretum with a difference, where the amateur tree-sleuth can swoon a little at the thought of secret assignations under the boughs, or decipher local love-lives from a free-standing archive, open to the skies. And as middles broaden with age, stretching and warping these dating declarations from younger days, the calligrapher-cum-critic might detect a mirroring of process-based durational artwork.
Woodland aesthetics that emerge out of the unintended, or folk-art which arrives as a by-product of functional utility, has always had its place. And of late, it’s found a fashionable niche too. None more so than the traditional pastime of chopping, stacking and drying wood. Lars Mytting’s Hel Ved [Solid Wood] – a bestselling handbook in his native Norway, and breakout literary success in English translation – celebrates the expressive simplicity of the well-built pile. The author’s search for shapeliness in form opens out into an account of culture and climate operating in tandem. In Mytting’s Scandinavia, practical skills with tools, wood and heat ensure that renewable energy reigns supreme, and a seasonal round of activities keeps family pride well-kindled.
Whether commissioned, curated, crafted, carved or cut, tree-loving art of all kinds is a welcome presence in today’s cultural landscape; be it bike-eating trees, dating vows from yesteryear, enough dry wood to deliver a household safely at the other side of winter, or contemporary practitioners’ visual, sonic and performed works. And may it also mean clinging to a tree for the sake of dear green life. Yes. Yes more. More please of all this arbor-amour.
Hayden Lorimer – Chair of Cultural Geography, University of Glasgow
Film stills: Jerwood Open Forest 2016 © Steve Gammond
25 Nov 2016
David Rickard collaborates with contemporary English poet SJ Fowler through the installation Returnings; a dialogue between artist and poet, the forest and the architecture of our everyday environment. Rickards’ central proposition is that we are perpetual inhabitants of the forest, surrounded as we are by the timber widely used in architecture and furniture; through our day-to-day interaction with our built environment we all inhabit the forest. Returnings is presented in the gallery through the creation of a new work which couples words and objects, developed from a memorial bench that has finished its lifespan within a civic park where it provided a place of rest and reflection.
For their Jerwood Open Forest proposal Returnings is scaled in response to the setting of a timber production forest. A cyclical work is proposed. A circular walk of a mile through the forest, marked by upright timbers that have been reclaimed from a deconstructed building and returned to the forest. Each timber marker will be inscribed with a single word, forming a poem through the forest that has no beginning and no end. Unearthing the everyday forest we inhabit through returning the source material to the site of production, the circular walk marks this continuous cycle, on a landscape scale.
Images © Hydar Dewachi
15 Nov 2016
Magz Hall’s Whispering Trees present the forest as a site for the transmission of our dreams. Hall is fascinated with the early history of radio, including its military use, General Owen Squire the inventor of ‘muzak’ and the historic use of radio in forests to warn of forest fires. Hall invites exhibition audiences into a specially constructed dreamspace to listen to the recollections of anonymous dreams; both our aspirations and recollections from our subconscious. As we relax we are transported into another landscape through these intricately recalled and constructed soundscapes.
Hall’s proposal for Jerwood Open Forest invites the public to contribute to a bank of dreams, whereby participants of all ages record their hopes, fears and desires recalled and collected in a forest recording dreamspace. This dream bank would be curated by Hall and transmitted as a series of soundscapes for forest visitors to discover amongst the trees. Hall invites us to find the frequency and tune in to transmissions broadcast from the trees themselves. Hall has designed a new form of tree based radio transmission, offering the public Goodman’s radios to tune into while they gather for a radio picnic or simply to listen to the broadcasts. The forest itself becomes the site of recording and reflection as well as the technical transmitter of our dreams.
Right: Magz Hall with her installation at Jerwood Space, London. Image © Hydar Dewachi
11 Nov 2016
Drawing on the performative potential of one-to-one human encounters, Beinart’s proposal for Jerwood Open Forest is a journey into the forest to meet multiple narrators, who would present interwoven stories that transport you to different eras and places. Having researched our cultural experience of forests and trees, Beinart taps into generational knowledge – asking what we choose to remember and pass on, and how this shapes our actions. Stories ranging from the tale of a unique whitebeam, 1990’s road protests, Victorian plant hunters, and replanted post-mining ‘Pit Woods’ would come together, drawing common threads from disparate narratives. Beinart reflects on the sense of time forestry connects us with, as one generation sows a seed, only the next can see to fruition.
Right: Rebecca Beinart pictured with her Ceramic Vessels, shown as part of the Jerwood Open Forest exhibition at Jerwood Space, London (2 November – 11 December 2016). This emotive piece is a distillation of Rebecca’s Research and Development period. Photo © Hydar Dewachi.
1 Nov 2016
Now in its second edition, Jerwood Open Forest is an artist-centred initiative established by Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Forestry Commission England. The 2016 exhibition examines art in the environment and its potential to facilitate experimentation and engagement. The show is a distillation of five selected projects, which have been explored throughout a six-month period of research, development and mentoring.
Rebecca Beinart, Magz Hall, Keith Harrison, David Rickard and David Turley have expanded upon their original proposals to produce new bodies of work spanning installation, film, ceramics and performance. Whilst projects are diverse in terms of process and materials, they are united by themes such as loss, legacy and transformation.
Jerwood Open Forest seeks to contribute to a national conversation about how contemporary visual artists engage with the environment today, and debates around critical practice and art in the public realm. The exhibition builds upon the impact of the 2014 initiative, which saw two major new commissions realised including Hrafn: Conversations with Odin composed by Chris Watson and produced by Iain Pate along with spherical sculpture Cosmos by artist duo Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt).
“Jerwood Open Forest provided us with a rich opportunity to push our practice in a new direction, take risks and challenge ourselves. We had a brilliant support structure and the resulting work, for us, will be a great legacy” Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt)
As part of Jerwood Open Forest, one of the five artists exhibiting at Jerwood Space, London this November will be selected for a major new £30,000 commission to be realised next year in their proposed Forestry Commission England location.
For exhibition event details, please click here.
21 Oct 2016
‘The Forest of Lost Trees’, is a proposed performance. A performance in which stories are told in a forest. Lots of stories, true stories, stories that other people have told me, that I have dug up from history, that I have elaborated from archive, that I’ve intuited from a tree stump. Stories that are remembered and spoken aloud.
As I make the performance, I will be writing. But in writing, I am thinking about speaking – whose turn of phrase is this? What is it like to remember these words? Are the words important or will the story be told a different way each time, the teller telling in their own way?
This summer, I spent four days in Edinburgh on a DIY retreat led by writer and performer Season Butler, along with five other artists and writers. During our time together, Season introduced us to different tools for writing, and we played with writing at different times of the day and night – watching how our not-yet-awake brains, our tired-and-wired brains, our post-lunch brains produced language. I learnt a lot in those four days, from Season’s calm and purposeful guidance and the exercises she set for us, and from the ideas, text and language shared by everyone in the group – such as sean burn‘s ability to deconstruct and remake meaning just in the way he reads aloud. Punctuation disobedience.
During the retreat, I tried working with some material for this project. I spent some time with William Lobb, the Victorian plant hunter who left rural cornwall to become a star collector for the famous Veitch nurseries, supplying ‘exotic’ plants to decorate gardens – rarities that are now familiar. But I realised I didn’t know what kind of gun he would carry, let alone how to load it. So I got stuck at the first hurdle when trying to write the story of Lobb shooting down cones from monkey-puzzle trees in the Aracauria forests of Chile. I realised I needed to do the research before writing and self-consciously started googling muskets.
We talked a lot about history and memory in various forms, each of us attracted for different reasons to the questions Season asked to frame the retreat: ‘When should we conserve and when should we allow things to degrade? How should we remember and what should we forget? Are there elements of our archive that could benefit from tampering, tweaking and interfering?’
I noticed myself drawn to text that has a physicality to it, that exists alongside imagery, or is spoken in performance or film, danced text, text that could act as a score… one of my favourite moments of the weekend was a list of collectively generated instructions for writing.
I started thinking about a ‘script’ for the performance.. but there’s something that seems quite fixed in scripted text. I remember giving a talk at a conference years ago. I was co-presenting with the brilliant Jane Trowell from Platform. We were talking about activism and radical education in gallery spaces. I read part of the talk that she had written and tripped over the word pedagogy. We talked about this afterwards, about needing to find the words that come out of your mouth comfortably when speaking in public. In ‘On Performance Writing’ Tim Etchells describes the process of taking a script and developing it with performers: ‘a growing, generative process of improvisation, negotiation, discussion, more writing and eventual fixing. A kind of speaking that becomes writing’.
I’m interested in making a script that acts as a ‘score’ – and working with narrators to find the final form of the stories. I’ll be experimenting with this idea in a performance at the Jerwood Space alongside the upcoming Jerwood Open Forest exhibition.
Monday 14th November (6.30 – 8pm), Jerwood Space, London – Rebecca Beinart, David Turley, David Rickard in conversation with Tom Overton. This event will be followed by a performance devised by Rebecca Beinart.
29 Jul 2016
So far my search for a forest has been headed simultaneously in two very different directions. Firstly, for a growing, photosynthesising cluster of trees, a forest in the current tense and secondly for a building with timber bones, a forest in the past sense. Eventually these two will come together, but for now they are poles apart.
The living forest will be a plantation, established and grown for the eventual yield of its timber and Kielder Forest has been identified as the prime candidate – an expanse of 600 square kilometres of forest stretching across the northern half of Northumberland.
In parallel there have been conversations with demolition contractors, with names like Titan and Redhammer, and the hunt is on to establish how we can find a suitable building that will form the fabric of the installation. It will be a timber structure that has come to the end of its functional life and is ready for a return trip to its place of origin.
Carved into the surfaces of the beams and boards will be words. One word on each piece, which together form an expansive poem with no beginning or ending; a meandering narrative that flows through the circuitous journey that the timber has taken. The voice of these words will be S J Fowler, a contemporary English poet that has agreed to collaborate on the creation of ‘Returnings’.
Now there are fragments; a forest, a hunt for a building and words. There’s still a lot to do before these fragments combine to form a work.
20 Jul 2016
I have been following a ‘Men of the Trees’ diary which documents a man planting trees in 1947. I found it in Perth, Western Australia. It is the record of a forestry worker, working in Orlestone Forest, Kent in 1947. I have been exploring ways to work with the potential of this narrative, developing a project that considers the parallel generation of a diary and a forest, seventy years ago, and how my own interaction with both might impact and connect with a contemporary and future experience.
In visiting Orlestone and accessing forestry planting maps I have been able to locate remaining trees that were planted in 1947. Most were destroyed in the Great Storm of 1987 or have since been cleared.
In the diary the worker plants a total of 10,162 trees, tallied daily over a five-month period. 10,162 trees planted as a future resource. At the same time he is recording his daily life; taking baths, going to church, going to the cinema, visiting his mother and family in London.
I am interested in the everyday in relation to the monumental and how scale impacts on our interpretation of value and legacy. I have been considering the potential for my project to follow this diary by engaging myself in a similar situation. I have been looking into the possibilities of planting trees at Orlestone, what kind of trees are being planted and what planting as an act might mean today and for the future.
Trees are often planted as memorials, in remembrance of significant events or as dedications to lost loved ones. There is an understanding of a tree as having a life beyond the scale of our own. A diary is written in acknowledgment of its future audience. I am interested in how this project might explore the documentation and recording of time and how we perceive and measure significance.
28 Jun 2016
I want to re-engage with a sense of technological enchantment so intrinsic to the early radio experiments that make up part of my research interests. My Jerwood Open Forest proposal develops from Tree Radio, a project I worked on at an ‘Art for the Environment’ residency at Yorkshire Sculpture Park last year. I transformed an oak tree at the Sculpture Park into a micro radio station; a transmitter embedded into the tree relayed the tree’s reactions to light, motion and moisture via sensors and probes in the tree’s canopy.
These were heard as a series of fluctuating electronic tones that visitors can tune in and listen to via their own personal radios or mobile phones with an FM receiver while in the vicinity of the tree. Although Tree Radio was produced on a small budget, it allowed me to experiment with the notion of the transmitting tree and put it into practice – many valuable lessons were learnt in working with electronics outside.
The work I am developing for the Jerwood Open Forest commission is aptly called Whispering Trees. As part of this new body of work, I am developing an interactive trail of radio transmissions throughout the forest whereby members of the public will record their own secrets and dreams into simple radio hardware disguised within a tree. This will enable individual trees to whisper visitor’s reveries to one another.
General George Owen Squire, the U.S. Army’s Chief Signal Officer and incidentally the inventor of Muzak, back in 1919 described how “[all] trees, of all kinds and all heights, growing anywhere—are nature’s own wireless towers and antenna combined” (1919). He called this “talking through the trees.” He used trees as antennae through which to pick up radio signals for the army.
I plan to replicate this process but also use the trees to send out a radio signal. I love the idea of actually hearing people sharing dreams via the trees and am inspired by an early surrealist radio programme of Robert Desnos in 1937 La Clef des Songes [The Key of Dreams] which invited listeners to submit their dreams for interpretation and dramatisation, encouraging highly poetic responses. Desnos wrote that an invented radio dream delivers the same secrets as a real one. I would like visitors to be playful with this idea and treat the installation as a platform for ‘social dreaming’. The intention is for this to be a collective experience, a kind of living sound gallery whereby visitors hear, share and respond to each other’s dreams.
For me, this project is about highlighting radio’s resilience, which means using robust, waterproof and solar powered radios and transmitters. My initial research focused on technological aspects of the project – I have been looking into a range of alternative power sources as well as tracing bespoke radio transmitters and recorders for the installation. I have teamed up with Pocket Radio who produce small brick like transmitters for use across war torn Syria; this is a particularly inspiring project that highlights the diverse use and importance of radio communication in areas of conflict. I will be collaborating with the Pocket Radio team to produce a bespoke transmitter for the forest. Together, we are developing a recording unit for the trees that will connect to the modified pocket fm transmitter. This will be solar powered, waterproof, tamper-proof and with an antenna system for FM and 3G.
Bedgebury Pinetum appeals as a site for the installation as it has the tallest pine tree in Kent, Grand Fir (Abies grandis), a pine tree normally found in the US which I am sure the US Army will have used as antenna. The Grand Fir is native to America’s Pacific coast and the Rocky Mountains, first discovered by David Douglas in 1825, it was latterly introduced to Britain in 1830. The tallest pine tree at Bedgebury was planted in 1840 by Viscount Marshall Beresford, former owner of the Bedgebury estate and a Field Marshall in Wellington’s army. It measures 167 ft in height (51 metres), 131cm in diameter and over 30 cubic metres in volume. This was adopted by Kent Men of the Trees, a charity for all ages and genders that was started in Canterbury, where I live. They are a society “of tree lovers working to create a universal tree sense and encourage all to plant, protect and love trees everywhere” with a focus on engaging children. I would like my project to reflect this ethos and I am passionate about starting a ‘Women of the Radio Trees’ group for all. I brought my son and his friend (both seven) to see the Pinetum and it was insightful seeing the forest from their perspective. It certainly is a magical place to explore and I have spotted some great potential sites for my installation.
24 Jun 2016
Pictured is one of a series of developmental models being produced as part of current research for the proposed live event ‘Joy Ride’ to be situated within the Cannock Chase Forestry Commission Estate. As a child I was a regular visitor to Cannock Chase driving out in the family Austin Maxi, the nearest wilderness to the housing estate in West Bromwich where we lived. The car continues to be the main mode of transport to the area and the work acknowledges the contrasting day-time, night-time vehicle use of forest sites at the edge of urban conurbations. The prevalence of stolen cars abandoned and often burnt out in woodland areas continues to shock; a brutally transformative and nihilistic act.
I am looking to source local clay as a diy version of the clay/wax composite used for automobile design prototyping to produce a full-size clay version of the Rover 75, the last car to leave the production line at the Longbridge car plant in Birmingham. A monumental ramp would be built to launch the clay car as a public event at the Tackeroo site within Cannock Chase Forest, investigating the possibilities for the ramp to be made from a scaffolding system influenced by the bamboo constructions found throughout India & Asia, early wooden rollecoaster rides and factory conveyor belts.
Ideally the event would take place at dusk and like a drive- in movie the public would be invited to witness the event through and in their vehicles with the attending cars illuminating the event through their headlights. I am currently looking into the possibility of recording the release of the car and subsequent collision using the same stop frame technology as employed in crash test photography and also the capacity for the car stereos in every vehicle to pick up and amplify the sound of the crash.
22 Jun 2016
I meet Nikki Morgans, the Recreation & Community Ranger at Leigh Woods in the late afternoon. This woodland, just outside Bristol, was gifted to the National Trust in 1908 by George Wills, a tobacco magnate. The Forestry Commission bought an adjoining section of land in the 1940s, at the time described as ‘devastated woodland’ having been largely felled during World War II – this has since been restored and is now a beautiful forest with SSSI status.
I was drawn to this site because it’s got some unique and threatened species in it – several whitebeams that are endemic to the Avon Gorge, including the Bristol, Wilmott’s, and Houston’s whitebeams. It also includes an area named Paradise Bottom – a remnant of the Leigh Court garden designed by the famous landscape gardener Humphry Repton for Philip John Miles in the 1810s. Miles made a fortune from investing in ship building at the height of the slave trade. Paradise Bottom was a picturesque pleasure garden created to impress guests and lead to a vista of the river Avon. Another example of colonial legacies and grand design in a landscape we admire today.
Nikki takes me for a walk around Leigh Woods pointing out the veteran and monolith trees, ancient yews and small leaf lime, in between more recent plantings, and tells me about the management of the woods. This is known as PAWS (Plantation on Ancient Woodland) – and although timber is still the main source of income for these woods, as with many Forestry Commission sites of this kind, there’s a move away from clear felling – instead ensuring continual cover. They deliberately keep a tangled undergrowth – it’s good for wildlife and ensures there are trees of different ages ready to fill gaps as mature trees are felled. As we walk around I notice a lot of coppicing, which Nikki says is good for wildlife and produces a crop for local woodworkers. Trees make a tunnel over the path – an aerial walkway for dormice. We emerge into a more open section of the site where there’s a fantastic view over the Avon Gorge and Clifton suspension bridge. The cliff is where the whitebeams flourish – making their home on the perilous rocks.
Paradise Bottom has a very different character – following a valley towards the Avon, you can see some of the original 19th century plantings: impressive redwoods, the ubiquitous rhododendron, and the evergreen Fulham Oak. Deeper into the valley the woodland has been carefully designed in the Picturesque style to feel ‘natural’. The air is full of the scent of wild garlic and the evening sun slants through the lime leaves. Lovingly brought back from dereliction, Paradise Bottom is a reminder of how cultural ideas have shaped our understanding of nature.
22 Jun 2016
Westonbirt Arboretum is an international visitor attraction and you can see why. This beautiful and extensive arboretum includes an incredible collection of trees, building upon the original plantings of Robert Holford, a wealthy Victorian. Holford was part of the mid 19th-century boom in plant imports – as gardeners and botanists raced to find, grow and display exotic plants. Influential nurseries and collectors such as Holford sent Plant Hunters out to remote parts of the world – the booty of which is still evident in the arboretum today. I’m interested in this period of history and the relationship between British Imperialism, exploitation of people and natural resources, and changing landscapes both in Britain and the countries occupied under colonialism – and started to explore this in more depth through the Imagined Geographies project.
At Westonbirt I meet with Dendrologist Dan Crowley, who explained his role in the arboretum – identifying trees, and researching and growing new acquisitions to add to the collection. We talk about major threats to forestry today – disease, habitat loss and climate change. Forest Research works on all of these threats, carrying out long-term living experiments into different species resilience and adaptation, and the 2050 glade at Westonbirt is trialling new species. Due to the huge diversity of the trees in the arboretum, there are around 100 species growing in this part of rural Gloucestershire that represent trees listed on the IUCN red list. Dan shows me where to find some of these – the elegant Paperbark Maple, an Algerian Pine, the unmissable Giant Sequoia and the Wollemi Pine – known as a ‘fossil tree’ due to its comeback from supposed extinction.
Dan points out to me that the period of Victorian plant collecting has multiple legacies – one of them being the incredible Millennium Seed Bank project at Kew that is preserving plant seeds from around the world as ‘an insurance against the risk of extinction in their native habitat’. I am reminded of an image from the 1970s post-apocalyptic film ‘Silent Running’ – where a man and his robots float around Saturn in a spaceship equipped with giant geodesic domes, attempting to save the only remaining specimens of terrestrial plant life.
I tell Dan about my project, and the search for stories of lost trees. He comments that it’s a surprisingly morbid take on trees and forests – for him trees are uplifting. I ponder this as I walk around looking at some of the remarkable organisms that have been growing here for 150 years, whose ancestors come from all corners of the globe, and most of whom will outlive me. It brings me back to the idea that loss and care are intimately related, and that there’s comfort to be had in a life-form that will witness many human generations. I realise that some of the trees I’ve seen today might represent species on the brink, but they’re survivors. The final tree I visit before leaving is a Ginkgo Biloba. A familiar plant, I had not realised it’s endangered in the wild – nor how resilient it is – Ginkgo trees survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
10 Jun 2016
The layering of histories in the landscape interests me. My project explores loss and memory – in relation to specific trees but also the wider landscape. Doreen Massey, reflecting on a woodland, writes of ‘places as meeting places; of people, of histories, of the flows and movements of myriad nonhuman things. In that sense places do not come fully formed … rather they are intersections, and as such must be negotiated.’ (Kings Wood: A Context).
Birklands is an amazing example of this meeting of human history, natural history and a place formed through ongoing negotiation. Steve Horne from the Friends of Thynghowe group shows me round the forest, pointing out ancient woodland, boundary stones, broadleaf plantations established in the 1880s by the Duke of Portland, and the remnants of Victorian plantings along an avenue that would have lead to the ‘Russian Hut’ built to entertain powerful guests on hunting trips to the forest. Steve shows me a picture of the famous ‘Shambles Oak’, which was an immense ancient tree, famed for it’s connection with Robin Hood. Described in an 1883 magazine, near the end of it’s life: ‘This monarch of the forest is carefully chained, and sustained, like a paralytic, with crutches and supports, so that the traditional monument shall be allowed to escape the fate Lucifer, “to fall and never to rise again”’. All that’s left where this oak once stood is an iron ring, it’s metal support structure having outlived it – my first lost tree.
We approach what appears to be an unremarkable looking hill and start to follow a circular ditch, tracing a ring on the hillside. As we walk through the trees and emerge onto the open hill top, Steve explains that this is Thynghowe – a rare archeological feature dating back to the 9th century – and talks about the sense of place he experiences here. This ring would have been highlighted with light sand – visible from a distance – and marked a meeting place. In Old English and Icelandic languages ‘Ting’ or ‘Thing’ means a governing assembly. At a Viking Thing the free people of the area would develop laws by negotiation, apply these laws to local issues and resolve disputes. Steve explains some of the features of a ‘Thing’ that could pre-date elements of modern democracy, including an assembly of 12 elders and the ‘lawspeaker’ who memorised the laws of the land – an entirely oral tradition. I think about this in relation to performance and storytelling – the directness of an oral account and what it means to bear witness.
8 Jun 2016
Last week I visited forests in the Sherwood area looking at Forestry Commission sites as part of initial research for my Jerwood Open Forest project. My starting point is a search for ‘lost’ trees, but the forests are full of tangential paths.. they lead to stories eventually but by a circuitous route.
Community Ranger Amy Chandler kindly takes me on a tour of her beat – which includes ancient fragments of Sherwood Forest, 20th Century conifer plantations, and several ‘pit woods’ – new woodlands planted on reconditioned colliery tips. Ollerton Pit Wood is now a green hill rich with wildlife, with young plantations growing up – it’s hard to imagine how the landscape looked 20 years ago. Amy shows me a photo from the mid 1990s and it strikes me this landscape is undergoing a reverse process to other energy-rich areas, such as Tar Sands in Canada where the boreal forest is being destroyed in large areas to access oil.
As we drive between sites, we talk about trees, diseases, forestry research and history. Amy tells me more about the origins of the Forestry Commission, which was initiated as a response to a huge loss of forests in the timber-hungry First World War. She also tells me about Sherwood Forest and the reason certain trees and woodlands have survived. Many of the ancient woodlands that still exist were protected as royal hunting grounds and are still the property of the Nottinghamshire Dukeries. So there’s a relationship between aristocratic pleasure grounds and the conservation of ancient woods. As Amy points out, humans have always used forests, and it’s this land use that shapes what we see today. As commercial forestry was introduced from the early 20th Century we began to see new plantations both on open farmland, but also overlaying older forests. In between the neat rows of conifers you still see wonky oaks. Amy has a pragmatic explanation for their survival – the ones that got left behind are the ones that weren’t seen as useful.
The following day I meet Amy and her group of regular volunteers at Birklands Wood. We join them for some ‘rhodey bashing’ as they call their committed battle with rhododendrons that creep through the forest – a remnant of an enthusiastic Victorian Duke’s planting scheme to impress his guests. From prestige planting to pest. At this time of year the bright purple flowers act as beacons marking out our foe. It’s hard work digging them out and seems to result in me falling over a lot… on my back underneath an uprooted rhododendron, I think how rich and various a forest can be.
22 Apr 2016
Tuesday 19th April was a very exciting day. A vast amount of discussion, planning, writing and fundraising goes into an initiative like Jerwood Open Forest. Then there is the incredible open call selection process which is a fantastic opportunity to review almost 500 artists’ proposals from across the UK. Having made the final selection, we invited the five participating artists (Rebecca Beinart, Magz Hall, Keith Harrison, David Rickard and David Turley) to the forest for a team workshop.
We met at Alice Holt Forest in Hampshire, the site of Semiconductor’s first ever public sculpture ‘Cosmos’. This gave us the perfect opportunity to meet with Ruth and Joe from Semiconductor and hear about their experience of the first edition of Jerwood Open Forest and reflections eighteen months on. Hearing first hand from artists who had been through the Jerwood Open Forest process was the best possible way to introduce this year’s artists to the research and development phase. Of course we got to visit ‘Cosmos’ and see how it has settled into its site. Joe led us along his favourite route to the sculpture, which was a great chance to see the variety of trails and trees at Alice Holt Forest. After two winters, ‘Cosmos’ looks incredibly striking and yet natural in its setting.
Artists also had the opportunity to meet Julian Williams, Visitor Centre Manager at Alice Holt, who worked closely with Ruth and Joe on ‘Cosmos’. We had a further insightful talk from Dan Harvey from Ackroyd & Harvey. As well as years of experience making ambitious public works and challenging our understanding of the environment through their pioneering practice, Dan was a selector for the first edition of Jerwood Open Forest so knows the process inside out from both perspectives. Dan generously gave advice and support relating to developing proposals, budgets, partnerships and public engagement. It was a master class for us all.
Everyone’s research and development phase will differ significantly, as each artist develops their own lines of enquiry and research at locations across the country. These moments of coming together to plan, discuss, reflect, question and learn from each other’s experience will be key milestones in the creative process. This a very exciting point in the initiative; we are delighted that the research and development phase has now commenced and naturally we are very excited to see where this leads.
6 Apr 2016
From an excellent response of almost 500 diverse and ambitious proposals, five artists have been selected to develop proposals for a major new £30,000 commission.
Rebecca Beinart, Magz Hall, Keith Harrison, David Rickard and David Turley will each receive a £2,000 research and development fee with which to expand on the concept of their proposals, test feasibility and explore potential sites within England’s Public Forest Estate.
Each artist will benefit from a six-month research and development period and take part in a group exhibition in November at Jerwood Space, London. In addition to being supported by the teams at Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Forestry Commission England, they will attend a programme of developmental activities as a peer group including workshops and advisory sessions alongside one-to-one mentoring sessions. The artist selected for the commission will be announced towards the end of 2016.
For this second edition of Jerwood Open Forest, artists from across the UK and within 15 years of beginning their practice were once more invited to submit bold, broad-thinking proposals that explore the potential of forests as a site for art. The initiative contributes to a national conversation about how contemporary visual artists engage with the environment today, and debates around critical practice and art in the public realm.
Top right: David Rickard ‘Star Gazer’ (2014)
Bottom right: Keith Harrison ‘Joy Ride Drawing – Ramp Yellow 1’
26 Jan 2016
A film offering a round-up of the first edition of Jerwood Open Forest – including Semiconductor’s commission Cosmos and Chris Watson and Iain Pate’s sound installation Hrafn. Hayley Skipper and Shonagh Manson look ahead to the 2016 initiative.
The deadline for submitting proposals is February 1 2016, 5pm.
To enter please visit:jerwoodopenforest.org
23 Jan 2016
Chris Watson, in collaboration with producer Iain Pate, was awarded a major commission in the first edition of Jerwood Open Forest. Their multi-channel sound installation, titled Hrafn: Conversations with Odin, featured the remarkable, and seldom witnessed, conversations of thousands of ravens returning to roost. The installation was set-up in Kielder Water & Forest Park in Northumberland, immersing audiences in this eerily beautiful sound world at twilight. Chris shares some thoughts on his involvement in the initiative:
“Hrafn, the Jerwood Open Forest Commission which Iain Pate and myself created for Kielder Forest was only achieved as a result of a remarkable collaborative effort between all parties. This started with an ambitious and unique proposal, making an R&D pop up version for the Jerwood Space and the final commission realised over three nights at a special stand of conifers near the community of Stonehaugh in the heart of Kielder Forest.”
The deadline to enter the second edition is 1 February, 5pm.
For further details and to apply please click here.
19 Jan 2016
Shonagh Manson, Director of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, and Hayley Skipper, Curator of Arts Development at Forestry Commission England, talk through the call for entries stage.
Deadline for entries: 1 February 2016, 5pm.
11 Jan 2016
Joy Sleeman studied History of Art at UCL and has a PhD from the University of Leeds, Department of Fine Art. From an early stage in her career her approach to research and teaching has been informed by working with artists and in a Fine Art context. Sleeman has taught at the Slade since 1995. Her research embraces aspects of the histories of sculpture and landscape and these two areas of interest coalesce in her work on the new forms of landscape art that emerged in the 1960s, often referred to as ‘Land Art’. Land art, and most particularly the work and contribution of artist in Britain, is the area of research with which her work is most consistently associated and she has published numerous articles, chapters in books and essays for exhibition catalogues related to this area. Sleeman’s work on land art includes a major exhibition, Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-1979, co-curated with Nicholas Alfrey (Nottingham University) and Ben Tufnell (Independent curator and gallerist), with the Arts Council Collection and Hayward Touring. Since 2000 she has been a member of the editorial board of the Sculpture Journal the leading academic journal for research in sculpture. Earth Re-Alignments: some European aspects of land art is Sleeman’s ongoing research project, funded by the AHRC and graded as ‘outstanding’.
7 Jan 2016
Hayley Skipper is Curator of Arts Development for Forestry Commission England, leading the national Forest Art Works programme across art forms throughout England. She is responsible for developing and commissioning new public programmes and initiatives for forest environments, artists and audiences including co-founding Jerwood Open Forest. She also directs the sculpture programme in Grizedale Forest -The UK’s First Forest for Sculpture. She has initiated and delivered numerous collaborative and public projects, as curator, independent artist, through artist collective SpRoUt and in her former role with The Engine Room, an international research centre for knowledge transfer at the University of the Arts, London. She is firmly committed to all forms of collaboration, engagement and education, holding a Double First in Fine Art Sculpture, Masters with Distinction in Fine Art, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design and a PG Cert in Teaching and Learning in Art and Design in Higher Education, University of the Arts London.
3 Jan 2016
Shonagh Manson is Director of Jerwood Charitable Foundation, a leading private grant-making foundation supporting artists across art forms in the UK, and of Jerwood Visual Arts, a national exhibition programme which commissions and presents work by early career artists and tours across the UK. With the Jerwood Charitable Foundation she has founded and co-founded numerous initiatives including the national Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme, the Jerwood/FVU Awards, Jerwood Makers Open, Jerwood Open Forest and the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards. Previously, Shonagh led the Wellcome Trust’s arts funding programme; was General Manager for producers Fuel and produced international touring and education projects with artists Mark Murphy, Gecko and Peter Reder; and worked in fundraising and participation at Battersea Arts Centre. She holds a First in Art and Visual Culture from UWE, Bristol and a Masters in Arts Policy and Management from Birkbeck, University of London.
30 Dec 2015
Neville Gabie was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1959 and has an MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art London 1986-88. With a background in sculpture, his practice has always been driven by working in response to specific locations or situations caught in a moment of change. Highly urbanized or distantly remote, his work is a response to the vulnerability of place. Recent projects include a residency with the Cabot Institute, Bristol University, a Leverhulme funded project working with a multi-disciplinary approach to climate change research, an eighteen month residency in response to the whole construction site of the 2012 Olympic Park commissioned by the Olympic Delivery Authority, subject of a recent publication Great Lengths 2012 Cornerhouse, 2012 and a British Antartic Survey residency at the Halley Research Station Antarctica, as part of the artists and writers programme. Gabie’s Map Project involves ongoing research based in Richmond, Northern Cape, South Africa. Gabie is represented by the Danielle Arnaud Gallery, London and his work is included in the collections of Tate Gallery and Arts Council England.
26 Dec 2015
Katherine Clarke is Director and Co-Founder of muf architecture/art, which was established in London in 1995. The practice has an international reputation for its site‐specific research driven public projects, which negotiate between the built and social fabric; between public and private spaces. muf architecture/art has pioneered innovative projects that address the social, spatial and economic infrastructures of the public realm. They have been nominated for and won numerous prestigious awards in recognition of their ground-breaking work, including the Swiss Architecture Prize, Public Realm Architect of the Year (BD Architect of the Year Awards), Landscape Institute President’s Award, Public Realm Architect: RIBA Award and Camden Arts Centre: Art for Architecture Award. Their ambitious project Villa Frankenstein was commissioned for the The British Pavilion at the 12th Venice Architecture Biennale and publications include This is What We Do: an muf manual.
22 Dec 2015
Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Forestry Commission England have announced the second edition of Jerwood Open Forest, with support from Arts Council England.
Peter Heslip, Director of Visual Arts, London area, Arts Council England, said: “We are excited to be supporting Jerwood Open Forest once again, and I look forward to seeing how artists will respond in new ways to bring more people across the country to enjoy great art, and foster a deeper engagement with the environment.”
Read the full article on the Arts Council website here.
18 Dec 2015
“Jerwood Open Forest provided us with a rich opportunity to push our practice in a new direction, take risks and challenge ourselves. We had a brilliant support structure and the resulting work, for us, will be a great legacy.”
In October 2014, Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt), permanently installed their spherical public sculpture, Cosmos, at Alice Holt Forest in Surrey.
The second edition of Jerwood Open Forest is now open for for entries.
For further details and to apply please click here.
17 Nov 2015
The second edition of major commissioning initiative Jerwood Open Forest
The forests are open for ideas
Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Forestry Commission England announce the second edition of Jerwood Open Forest, an exceptional opportunity for visual artists to propose ideas for a major new £30,000 commission to be realised anywhere within England’s Public Forest Estate, supported by Arts Council England.
There is no brief. This is a call for bold, broad-thinking proposals that explore the potential of forests as sites for art, both in and about the environment.
“We had an incredible selection of artists creating exceptional new proposals for the first edition of Jerwood Open Forest and we are thrilled to be able to invite artists to make ambitious new proposals in this edition of Jerwood Open Forest. The nations’ forests are incredible environments and we believe contemporary artists’ engagement with them is vital.” Hayley Skipper, Curator of Arts Development, Forestry Commission England
“This rewarding partnership with Forestry Commission England was instigated to open up unusual contexts in which artists could develop challenging new ideas and make work for audiences outside of expected artistic spaces. With carefully considered research support and resources on offer, we hope that this opportunity will be of value to a diverse range of artists from different practice backgrounds, including those who may never before have made work in such environments.” Shonagh Manson, Director, Jerwood Charitable Foundation
For further information and to enter please visit: jerwoodopenforest.org
11 Dec 2014
An interview with Shonagh Manson, Director, Jerwood Charitable Foundation, and Hayley Skipper, Curator of Arts Development, Forestry Commission England.
11 Dec 2014
A film documenting Chris Watson and Iain Pate’s Jerwood Open Forest commission at Kielder Water & Forest Park in Northumberland.
1 Nov 2014
Watching a seven ton truck carefully ease it’s way along a muddy forest track carrying a large portable generator made me realise the event Iain Pate and I had imagined and then planned for almost a year was actually going to happen.
Electricians, sound engineers, tree riggers and volunteers gathered at Stonehaugh and then made their way out into the forest and our technical area. Iain and I together with technical director Kamal Ackerie and spatial sound designer Tony Myatt all met up, studied the weather, donned our waterproof clothing and started work.
James Aldred, master tree climber and his team spent two days rigging twelve 30Kg speakers between 12m – 15m up in the canopy. This arrangement described a hemispherical array covering an area 100m by 80m. Tony then used laser measurements from the centre of the performance space to calculate the required time delays to create a natural sounding ambisonic acoustic space.
The systems and computer equipment were controlled from a trailer adjacent to the forest and as we aimed for the technology to be invisible this trailer was camouflaged using local materials and became known as the ‘stealth trailer’. The disguise proved very effective as from the forest performance space the trailer was invisible, and in low levels of light sometimes difficult to find…
Iain directed all the logistical operations, a role made much more challenging as there was no mobile phone service out in the forest so the village hall at Stonehaugh, a mile or so away, was the production base. The people of Stonehaugh were totally welcoming and supportive of the project, many of them acted as volunteers or offered practical support throughout the event. Their contributions really did make the piece progress smoothly and safely and Stonehaugh proved to be the perfect place to make the installation happen successfully.
The audience was drawn from across the country. I met people who travelled from Devon, Kent, Suffolk, Wales and the Scottish Highlands, many people visiting Kielder forest for the first time. Each evening the performance was booked to capacity. It was also important however to create a sense of individual experience and splitting the audience into six groups of fifteen people, each group with their own forest guide, achieved this. Using the small stone bridge by the entrance to the site as a portal into the world and lore of ravens also focussed the audience’s attention on tuning into the space and listening carefully. The forest location had a powerful influence on everyone who entered the site particularly so as the sun set and the sounds of hundreds of ravens returning to roost filled the canopy directly overhead. I was delighted to hear how transparent and seamless the installation blended with the sounds of the forest. ‘Hrafn Conversations With Odin’ fitted perfectly into that stand of conifers by the Warks Burn and it’s spirit will continue to reverberate around Kielder forest.
23 Oct 2014
Semiconductor have unveiled their first ever public sculpture at Alice Holt Forest. This significant new artwork is the culmination of more than a year’s research and development by Semiconductor who have collaborated with scientists from Forest Research, the scientific agency of the Forestry Commission.
The spherical piece is situated a leisurely 20 minute walk from the visitor centre and will be open to the public for years to come.
For more information about visiting Alice Holt: www.forestry.gov.uk/aliceholt
22 Oct 2014
The launch day has been a great celebration, not only of Cosmos but all the people and partnerships involved in the process for which there have been many. Walking to the site en masse from the visitors centre the sun came out and lit the ochre turning forest, once the ribbon had been cut people gathered around Cosmos and there was silent reverence as it worked its magic.
21 Oct 2014
A film documenting the development of Semiconductor’s Cosmos.
16 Oct 2014
We installed Cosmos today. We knew it wouldn’t feel complete until it was installed but we weren’t prepared for the overwhelming sense of calm it would bring. The work has an incredible sense of belonging to its location; our intention was always for it to feel like is was born of the forest in the sense that it was in many ways, with the data originating from there, but it is a very intangible demand to make of something and we could never be sure that it would achieve it. It really feels like it’s come home.
24 Sep 2014
Filming the fabrication of Cosmos is proving to be an intimate journey with both the work and the specialists we are meeting along the way. We’re getting a real feel of the material and also getting to see the work emerge and come to life. We’re just as fascinated to see how it is all done and meet the people behind it as we are to see this happening; we think Cosmos the making of movie is naturally going to share this excitement as it’s proving difficult to hide it.
22 Sep 2014
The deep velvet tones of early autumn colour the forest as we enter. Five of us today, forest guides, rehearsing the individual presentations the guides will give to their groups at three stages towards the piece.
Lewis introduces the forest and its role as a stage for the work, Sian adapts the details into her own style, engaging her group with the notion of the forest as a character. At the mid point Alex and Sarah describe something of the natural history of ravens and their status in Kielder. By the stone bridge and across into the world and lore of ravens I explain that from this point no more human words are spoken and what follows are the conversations which Odin heard in the halls of Valhalla.
1 Sep 2014
As well as covering the practical details of the roles for the guides I was keen for them to soak up the atmosphere in and around the site. The stand of trees is in an area bordered by a rising slope to the north and Wark burn to the south. This creates a particular and sheltered acoustic which is perfect for the presentation of a sound piece. The forest here also has its own characteristic signature sound which reflects the seasons; robins, wrens, crossbill, chaffinch, mistle thrush and blackbirds live here and in late October, across sunset, their voices will be joined by the arrival of the sounds of a large roost of ravens assembling in the canopy over head.
Photo Maggie Watson
29 Aug 2014
The bitter sweet autumn song of a robin was the first sign of the approaching seasonal shift in Kielder forest this weekend. Sarah, Sian, Lewis and myself, four of the six Hrafn guides, explored the walk into the installation site during the late afternoon. By 1700h the golden daylight was hitting the edge of a line of trees where, in around eight weeks time, an elliptical array of speakers rigged in the forest canopy will describe a surround sound stage for the presentation of the piece. Illuminated by this light a peacock butterfly soaked up some late afternoon warmth.