Through a collaborative and responsive process of audio recorded interviews, workshops, sound design and relationship building, guided by creative generosity and care, I made The World In The Woodland museum.
This space imagines what meanings can be made a-new when we experience ourselves in multi-species webs of relation. Here, stories are a means of connection, reciprocity and repair and the woodland is a place where we can acknowledge the past, find presence and re-imagine the future.
The trail launched on 17th June 2023 as a live experience. Visitors on the trail were invited to listen to a constellation of voices, to explore the arboretum at their own pace and form their own connections to the trees. The audio features stories exploring different connections between people and trees at Tortworth and beyond. These stories are explored thematically in the audio. There were 8 corresponding banners, reflecting these different themes and featuring more information about the people and topics involved.
Interacting with the work
There were multiple ways that visitors interacted with the stories and trees and they were invited to find a way that suited them. Some visitors walked, some sat, some lay down on grass or found a space in a tree to perch. I continue to work with Tortworth to configure a freely accessible and free of charge way to listen to the audio onsite (I’ll update as this progresses).
Collaborating with researchers
I interviewed Tito Petipas, a Chilean researcher at the University of Bristol. His research focuses on the political ecology of Pewen conservation. The Pewen (Araucaria araucana) , also commonly known as the Monkey puzzle tree by English speakers, represents one of the last remnants of the ancient, and formerly widespread, coniferous family Araucariaceae in South America. Tito shared stories about the Pewen tree and Pewenche people and his perspective on how we in the UK might think about our own connections to the Pewen tree at Tortworth.
Collaborating with academics
I interviewed Térèsa Armijos Burneo, a lecturer in Natural Resources & International Development at the University of East Anglia. Térèsas research explores the relationship between humans and the environment, from a citizenship, human rights and environmental justice perspective. Térèsa shared stories about connections between plants, seeds and displaced people. Térèsa and I also ran an experiential workshop on understanding Tortworth as an eco-social space with staff in the lead-up to the trail launch.
Creative collaborations: Artists in Chile
I invited two artists who work in the Pewen forests in Chile to make a creative commission as an act of solidarity, care and repair. Consuelo Sánchez is a researcher and visual artist from South of Chile and Shakin Huaiquil Cariqueo is a Mapuche trans-female artist working in Chile. These artists made a video performance entitled Hermanx Pewen and Consuelo made a digital image. The video performance, a transcript of the audio and film stills and the digital artwork were featured on the trail.
About the artists
Consuelo Sánchez’s work questions hegemonic ways of thinking, feeling, and expressing the world, through the understanding of the relationship between bodies, emotions, space and place. Shakin Huaiquil Cariqueo makes multidisciplinary artworks that make visible the importance between body and territory for the Mapuche people, as well as questioning the historical violence towards indigenous people, emphasising the role of non-Mapuche societies in conflict resolution.
Hermanx Pewen artist statement
The audio of the film starts with a prayer which is spoken in Spanish and Mapudungun (the language of Mapuche people). The prayer acknowledges the presence of other forces in the forest and seeks to repair and symbolically reconnect the Pewen tree at Tortworth which was extracted from the other Pewen trees in Chile.
In the performance the artists use a long piece of white fabric, to wrap the trunks of the Pewen trees and merge their own bodies with the enormous trunks. This action symbolises the importance of cohabitation and preserving the vitally important connection between identity and territory. The second part of audio in the film is a reflection from the perspective of the Pewen trees, emphasising their ancestral heritage.
Collaborating with activists: Rosina
I invited Bristol based vocalist and activist Rosina Al-Shaater to make her own connection to the place and write a poem, entitled This Land, in response. Rosina reads her poem and explains her inspiration for the poem as part of the audio. The poem was featured in one of the trail banners and I invited Rosina to speak about the inspiration for her poem at the trail launch.
Collaborating with activists: Jon
I reached out to Jon Moses, a freelance writer and the organiser of campaign group Right To Roam. I recorded Jon share stories about the history of land dispossession in the UK and contemporary conversations around land reconnection today.
Collaborating with the Hawthorn group
I connected to people at the Hawthorn Group and volunteer sessions. I interviewed Anna, Clare and Ronnie to share what it feels like to be part of the Tortworth eco-social community. They discuss how the trees, plants, places and people at Tortworth come together to heal and strengthen us.
Collaborating with staff at Tortworth
Tortworth’s site manager Gary and Collections manager Jake collaborated with me and gave multiple interviews that revealed changing attitudes at Tortworth over time. Gary also shared his thoughts about working with plants and trees at Tortworth and Jake talked about the significance of trees in the present and future.