Irish artist Katie Holten has been making work about trees and nature for some time, including drawings of New York street trees recorded as if in a daily diary. Her latest work is an ambitious artists book, About Trees. She has created a font based on her drawings of 26 different species of tree, and used these to translate a wide range of texts about trees. These texts include bits of Borges, a piece about the Irish tree-based alphabet known as Ogham, Robert MacFarlane on lost words about trees, and Ursula Le Guin. Rather than try to make these texts readable, the tree-letters are arranged on the page as a dense forest, so you ‘can’t see the wood/words for the trees’.

Here is a great interview about the project, on Asymptote which in itself is well worth a delving read.

This extracted quote explains how the texts she has read have enabled an ecological way of knowing to emerge in her own mind, to be represented symbolically in the book.

“I think of the book as an archive of human knowledge filtered through branches of thought. It traces a shift in consciousness from anthropocentric thinking to a contemporary realization that our way of life has probably created a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. The book maps the move from Darwin’s “I think,” written beside his sketch of the tree-of-life illustrating human consciousness as the highest step on the evolutionary tree, to Eduardo Kohn’s “How Forests Think,” an anthropology beyond the human. The writings of Bruno Latour and Timothy Morton have been useful for me to understand my own work and current thinking around object-oriented ontology, which puts things at the center of the study of existence.”


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