This is a story about a crowd-gathered forest. The particular artwork in this Inspiration story ‘happened’ in 2009 but it’s actually continuing, The trees gathered are still growing and the tree-planting art practice by the artists is still evolving. The Walking Forest was a work by Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol. It was part of 100 Days of activism in the lead up to Copenhagen COP15. It related to events that explored slow travel, organised by Sustrans and Platform. Platform created an installation in the Arnolfini, intended to inspire dialogue and creative activism events. The Walking Forest was part of this installation.
People were invited to collect saplings not likely to thrive in their current position, for example, being too close to a mature tree or in a site earmarked for development. People were asked to uproot them and to bring them to the gallery by any means of slow transport, to support the intentions of the Sustrans enquiry into slow travel. (This explored how it is possible and desirable to carry people and goods without motorised transport.) The sapling-bearers were also asked to note the history of the trees, where they had originated and why they needed to be saved. Later the slow-moving trees would then move on somewhere else to be planted out, fulfilling the title The Walking Forest. The planting afterwards was in partnership with Bristol Trees, and part of the BBC Breathing Places initiative in their challenge to plant a million trees within one hour.
The Walking Forest was one of several projects by Ackroyd and Harvey which involve the seeding and planting of trees inspired by Beuys’ work 7000 Oaks. Another ongoing work is Beuys’ Acorns which sees a variety of activities nurturing saplings from acorns taken from some of the trees Beuys planted in Germany.
One of these Acorns activities was their event called Art Will Change the World in July 2012, part of the Southbank’s Festival of the World. This was a conversation with a range of experts on things like photosynthesis and photographing trees. It was at this event that I hatched the idea of this Beuysterous initiative. Seeds beget seeds…