When we began this work, we refined ideas about a ‘Critical Forest Art Practice.’ How do we contribute to the to the potential for a tree or forest community to prosper in an age of environmental change. Can we reveal empathic interrelationship between people and trees in urban and rural settings? Can we embody ideas or experiences that effect or reshape perception and normative value? We then began work to experience and know the forest, while reflecting on the opportunities and challenges the arts and humanities face when working in a historic forest reserve. After two months a tension that emerged after the first ‘all partners’ meeting in the forest. In essence everyone present was told that the Black Wood is accessible, but any changes that would result in additional interest or footfall in the forest were forbidden. (At this point in the creative inquiry, we had hit what we call the muddle point.)
For clarity it is important to state that physical access is not prohibited. Nonetheless there is tension around access issues between the community and Forestry Commission.
What we began to understand was that the problems of ‘public access’ or ‘public awareness’ were couched in discomfort with anyone that wasn’t a scientist, being on that ecologically sensitive forest estate. The culture of scientific conservation, which had been embraced (by Forestry Commission visionary Gunnar Godson) to protect the Black Wood from the shifting winds of the Forestry Commission itself, had slowly (and without malice or intent) become a force that excluded all other social and cultural interests. Working closely with our partners we needed to find a way establish an artistic and cultural discourse that might compliment the dominant ethos. We planned a two-day workshop to explore the critical-creative potential that the arts and humanities might bring to the scientists and managers who had protected the Black Wood for the past forty years. Going in everyone agreed that the first rule of thumb was no harm could come to the Black Wood.
You can read the blog about workshop here soon.
You can read the workshop programme here.
You can read the final report to the partners soon. (March 2013)