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Every month I try to post an ‘inspiration’ – about the work of artists who explore trees. Please do tell me about any who should be covered here.

This time it’s a duo called Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, prompted by their new exhibition about trees opening at Edinburgh College of Art called Eden3: Trees are the Language of the Landscape (more details at the end of the post). This is an on-going series of sculptural works with trees that provides an experience of photosynthesis through sound. They will also present Caledonia-Tomorrow, following their expeditions to different forests resulting in the development of ideas and artefacts that explore a critical forest-art practice.

Collins and Goto are environmental artists working together since 1985. They are interested in changing ideas about all aspects of environment, nature and society. With training and experience in art, design and planning they explore questions of aesthetics, democratic discourse, freedom and empathy in relationship to people, places and things.

They met at the San Francisco Art Institute, they worked from that city for many years before becoming visiting professors then research fellows in the Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University; where they directed Nine Mile Run (1997-2000) and 3 Rivers 2nd Nature (2000-2006). These were social and environmental artworks developed within a research structure. Outcomes included ecological restoration, new public spaces and changes to land use policy; as well as new networks supporting regional artist-practitioners.

They have lived and worked in the UK for over seven years and in Scotland for the past three years. Until recently they have both been immersed in academia and have both completed PhD’s dealing with art and nature in theory and practice. Reiko’s thesis is focused on trees, exploring possibilities of empathetic communication with forests, as diverse communities.  They returned full-time to the studio in 2012. Speaking recently about their work on the Caledonia project they have said:

Scotland is an amazing place to be right now with the newest national parks in the world, a 2006 policy projecting 25% forest cover and 2003 laws that provide the public with the right to access Scottish land and waterways. The ‘how’ the science of forest development ad management is clear; the values and the ‘why’ are less so. Where science works from the general to the specific to clarify ideas and approaches the arts and humanities work from the specific to the general, generating critical imagination and experience that clarifies and reveals emergent aesthetic and ethical virtues.

They believe that the relationship between forests, cities and culture in Scotland can benefit from rural and urban forms of critical forest-art practice. They are not interested in ‘art in forests’ but rather the idea of art as interface with forests or correspondent to forests with an impact on public ideas, experiences and human values.

The work that inspires them includes Alan Sonfist’s Time Landscape in New York City (1978), Beuys’ 7000 Oaks and Tim Stead’s Axes for Trees which established the concept and practice of community woodlands in Scotland (1987).

Their question is: how do we extend this genre to questions of the 21st Century with the anthropocene era challenging moral responsibility for all living things, and climate change forcing a radical rethink of life on earth? As Bruno Latour put it during his recent Gifford lectures we must all come face to face with what it means to become ‘earthbound’. Reclaiming the forms, imaginaries, meanings and cultural values of the Caledonian and Scottish rainforests through art practices with others – might be one step forward.

Here’s an interesting post by Chris Fremantle that covers Collins & Goto’s work, in an event about the work of artists and how CO2 can be made less abstract.

More about the current exhibition:

The artists collaborated with Chris Malcolm, Sound Design

The Tent Gallery, in Art Space and Nature

Edinburgh College of Art Evolution House
University of Edinburgh, 78 Westport,
Edinburgh, EH1 2LE, Scotland
Phone: 0131 221 6000
Hours: M-F 12 to 5pm or by appointment.

Exhibition – April 22 to May 25, 2013
Opening – Thursday April 25, 6 to 8 PM

Artist’s Talk – Thursday May 16, 6 to 8 PM

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