Conversations with a Forest (catalogue)
For this wonderful collaborative forest residency I created a short film The Sigh and a forest installation for sound, light and moving image.
In the words of Richard Ashrowan:-
"Conversations with a Forest was collectively conceived in late 2020. It was in part a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with opportunities for screening moving image work in the real world severely curtailed. The ritual human gathering around films was no longer anywhere to be seen, nor was it viable. Our response to this scenario was to experiment with new ways of working, responding collectively to a singular thematic idea - Conversations with a Forest, while creating a project that did not rely upon a human audience. We wanted to challenge the anthropocentrism of so much film exhibition, and we wanted to challenge ourselves creatively in the same way.
The initial provocation was:-
“What might we, as artists, like to say and show to the trees, to the fungi, animals, birds, plants, the earth and rhizomes beneath the earth? What kind of conversations might be possible? Will this be an extended apology, a lament, or something more life affirming? What stories of our lives can we tell or show? How can we respond to the ecological, historical and social networks that exist in the forest?”
The main physical manifestation of this project was a happening in Ruberslaw forest in the Scottish Borders, over one extended weekend in Sept 2021. Ten new moving image artworks were presented to and within the forest over two nights. The forest, in its totality, became the ‘audience’. We kept the idea of showing our work to trees, not to humans, clearly in focus. A tiny invited audience of around forty human ‘witnesses’ attended over two evenings, with the installations ‘live’ for two hours after sunset each night. The works were scattered through the forest, on and off paths, and spread out over a considerable distance. Like a flush of luminous mushrooms, each one popped up different in personality, size and scale, yet somehow remaining connected to a deep network of relationships, both human and non-human."
Conversations with a Forest took place in a five-hundred acre woodland that lies between the villages of Denholm and Bedrule in the Scottish Borders. The site is dominated by the hill of Ruberslaw, a northern projection of the Cheviots and a prominent landmark over much of Teviotdale. The forest, with substantial hardwood plantations, is owned by the Bailey family who run a wildwoods camping enterprise across the site. There are three levels connected by well trodden paths: a high forest, a lower forest and a hub and walled garden below. Screenings took place inside the walled garden’s glasshouse with most of the artists’ interventions and installations situated in the middle forest and performances in the upper woodland.
Still from The Sigh (2020)