falling / fallen / felled
Staffordshire St, 47 Staffordshire Street, London SE15 5TJ
Thu 9 November – Sun 12 November 2023
falling / fallen / felled is the first exhibition to emerge from an ongoing collaboration between artist Kirsty Badenoch and me. The project explores the overlapping languages of forests through experimental site-responsive approaches to walking, writing and drawing.
The exhibition showcases new work across large-scale drawing, paper-based sculptural installation, photography, text, sound, and a new collaboratively produced artist book. Together, these works address the ecological and political significance of ancient woodlands as sites of entanglement between multiple human and nonhuman bodies and voices.
In March and April 2023, we spent time living and working across two sites of remnant ancient woodland in Scotland: Abernethy Forest in the Cairngorms and Beinn Eighe on the west coast, instituted as the UK’s first ever national nature reserve by a government act in 1951. Subsequently subjected to shifting management strategies, and bordered by some of the largest privately owned estates in Scotland, Beinn Eighe crystallises many of the oldest and most pressing problems affecting how power (mis)shapes relationships between people and the land.
The majority of the works were produced near Beinn Eighe. There, Kirsty eschewed the celebrated landscapes of the nature reserve to set up an improvised studio without permission in a small privately owned forestry plantation. Working on large paper skins across the forest floor, she made use of a range of tools and materials, including branches, mosses, inks and artificial fertiliser. In a process designed to foreground the relinquishment of control, the drawings were left out, often overnight, to be subjected to chance processes of nonhuman agency: rain, gravity and the occasional hungry slug.
The resulting works are abstracted engagements with urgent political questions, including property ownership, borders, access, extraction and resistance. In rethinking what might be meant by ‘working the land’, each piece is also a powerfully expressive response to the site and to personal memories and relations.
Coinciding with the exhibition is the publication of To an island in a loch on an island in a loch, a collaborative artist book that includes drawings, photography, contextual project information and a mythological forest tale, The Ballad of Gida and Lutea.
A second chapter of the exhibition is planned for Edinburgh, Scotland in February 2024.
The project has received support from the Architecture Research Fund, UCL Bartlett School of Architecture, 2022.