Check out this fantastic time lapse video of our green roof being installed last autumn. It’s a great way to see how everything came together to become what hopefully will be a very green space.
Archive for January, 2011
I’m Matthew Denniss and I am a freelance Exhibitions Technician. I was asked in April 2010 by Mary Griffiths, the Curator of Modern Art at the Whitworth to install a piece for her show The Land Between Us. The piece is called The Forked Forest Path (1998) and is by the Danish artist, Olafur Eliasson. It is owned by the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne and they lent it to the Whitworth. Unlike most loaned artworks, this piece has to re-created from scratch every time it is shown. We were given an artists agreement, which gave some us some instructions as to what sort of space should be used and how the piece should look. I worked out we would need about 2000-2500 trees.
A large number of the trees came from a Thurstaston Common, a National Trust site on the Wirral. The National Trust rents out some of its land to tenant farmers and at Thurstaston, they had an area that had been used to grow Spruce for use as Christmas trees. About eight years ago, this land was cleared and pioneer trees soon grew into an unmanaged forest. Pioneer trees such as silver birch and sycamore are the first trees that will populate a cleared piece of land. They will self-seed (plant themselves) and they can live in poor soil where other trees, such as English Oak or Elm cannot. The National Trust wanted to use this land for tenant farmers again and the site had been earmarked to be cleared in December 2010. Ordinarily, the trees would have been felled and then burned or chipped and would have seen no further use. They brought the felling date forward to June so we could use them.
All of the remaining trees were bought from a coppicer. These trees were cut from a managed forest in North Yorkshire. This forest is a commercial enterprise, so every tree that was cut would have been replaced.
Usually when working on a show, the key factor is time and you are given a deadline that will loom over you. You aren’t usually in the position to think about the environmental impact or the sustainability of the activity. From my point of view, the important things were: the show opened on time, it wasn’t too stressful and the curator seemed to be happy. Olafur Eliasson talks a lot about the importance of taking responsibility for your own actions. I tried to be responsible in my approach to this piece and I kept track of where the trees came from, why they were there and what would normally be done with them. It seemed especially appropriate to try and think about the environment given the nature of the piece. I think with this installation, Eliasson is trying to prompt questions about our relationship with nature and our behavior when we encounter it. I think he also tests the possibilities, boundaries and limitations of the site in which the work is placed.
So what will happen to the trees once the exhibition comes down? When we were preparing the trees for installation, we had to spray them with a water-based insecticide called Constrain. This is widely used in museums and galleries as insect damage presents a huge problem for the conservation of objects in their collections. The insecticide contains a chemical called permetherin and whilst totally harmless to humans, it can be harmful if released into the environment. As a responsible public institution, we will be sending the trees off to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.