notes_30 An Art of the Forest, Lockdown May 2020 #HeygateLegacy

Danh Vo, Photographs of Dr. Joseph M. Carrier 1962–1973, 2010
Installation view at the South London Gallery, 2019. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Nick Ash

London’s Urban Forest; an Art of the Ongoing

By Guy Mannes-Abbott 23 May 2020

It’s the third Urban Tree Festival in London and I’ve been asked to write about what it means to celebrate and make art from a tree or trees in the South London Gallery’s world [for* the SLG; thank you! LINK]. I take the latter territory to have been tagged by William Blake, long-term resident of Lambeth’s Hercules Road, between the dark satanic mills of endlessly churning capital at Blackfriars Bridge and trees on Peckham Rye which hosted the angels of his creative resilience.

What is a tree, though? It’s an ontological question I’d like to prune into handy shape so that we can attend to the intangible qualities which enliven and expand more recognisably concrete ones. The tree as a rooted object is a marvel, of course, but it is so much more than that on multiple ecological, political, and cultural registers; smells and ‘looks’, rhizomatic roots and crowns, as well as an embedded commons. London is now formally classified as a continuous urban forest, which adds another dimension to its ambient realms, remembrances of things past and unlikely future hopes.

My first association is with Danh Vo’s landmark survey exhibition at the SLG in September 2019, and the related show at Marian Goodman Gallery. Common to both was the timber from a plantation of Black Walnut trees gifted to Vo by Craig McNamara, son of Robert the gung-ho Defence Secretary during the Vietnam War. When Vo acquired some of the latter’s effects to work with, Craig made an approach which grew into one of Vo’s many miraculous friendships. Art critical responses to the work lingered on the woody odours in both galleries, and I remember a tangy encounter with a room dressed in walnut to display a collection of ambiguous photographs of Vietnamese men and boys.

Continue reading “notes_30 An Art of the Forest, Lockdown May 2020 #HeygateLegacy”

on a frieze review of ‘the country of the blind…’ with CAMP at folkestone triennial 2011

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2011 Folkestone Triennial

VARIOUS VENUES, FOLKESTONE, UK

Scroll down for review…

[NB Collaborations are a particular, demanding and beautiful form of work which I seem to have developed a taste for, at least in a visual art context and since 1997!

2011 was a year of varying forms of artful collaboration, each very special but none quite so intimate as this one for me; how it came about, whom it involves and the result of our efforts. To avoid the obvious-but-hideous potential problems of collaboration, a certain more or less unspoken [else endlessly detailed!] but deeply-shared approach to all-things essential is elemental. Continue reading “on a frieze review of ‘the country of the blind…’ with CAMP at folkestone triennial 2011”

on cabbage love; from gordon matta-clark to forest food

I’ve always felt there were many uses for a ‘Gordon Matta-Clark’ and can only approach life, especially urban life, as or through art in the broadest sense, that sense being not a Marxian one but a making something-from-nothing one. I’m [to a fault] less interested in exploiting my own having-made something-from-nothing -except to the extent of being able to make it in the first place and make something else subsequently! Only an idiot wouldn’t be interested in or cognisant of the abysmal world of surplus value, however there is a certain idiocy in being transfixed by it too…

One use for a Gordon Matta-Clark is to help think through the question of whether art can be food or food art. The answer is obviously in the affirmative but I have something quite specific in mind. Food, itself. As such. The piece that was also a place which was also a community-borne restaurant called Food, that is. Continue reading “on cabbage love; from gordon matta-clark to forest food”

response to masterplan pt one; did somebody say trees? evidently, we did…

CAVAT Southwark piloted CAVAT in 2008, but massively undervalued the Forest at £700,000 [and held to that figure in to Summer 2011, post Phase 1 demolition and destruction of trees] a figure which only emerged after long campaigning for it and the completion of a People’s CAVAT through winter 2010-11. The latter was directly inspired by a proto Forest School talk by Jim Smith of the Forestry Commission at Balfour Street in October 2010. The People’s CAVAT valued the entire Forest at 18 million, the part valued in the document above [‘the Heygate’] at about £15 million. Urbanforesters do not make cheap points!
Download LL’s CAVAT here;
http://www.elephantandcastle.org.uk/pages/consultation_dialogue/90/elephant_c…
Download Masterplan imagery/boards [caution most of the green around the park is private, two-storey podia; so look hard at and for detail!] here;
http://www.elephantandcastle.org.uk/pages/consultation_dialogue/88/elephant_c…

NB: reposted from original ECUF site [now defunct, content archived] 3 November 2011 with permission of its author. Continue reading “response to masterplan pt one; did somebody say trees? evidently, we did…”

on odes to mud, utopian dust and insurrectionary trees

Francis Ponge [still from French documentary]

Primarily, this is a brief advertisement for CB Editions‘s irresistible bi-lingual edition of the great Francis Ponge; Unfinished Ode to Mud, translated by Beverley Bie Brahic in 2008. It’s a selection from what she has translated as The Defence of Things and Pieces, some of the latter being their first appearances in English…

So, firstly, please get hold of a copy of the book from the publishing miracle that is CB Editions whom, it’s worth knowing, work on very short print runs. I have no links etc., but urge you to take up their current offer here, while getting hold of this beautiful selection and give copies to people that you wish loved you…

‘Unfinished Ode to Mud’ itself, is also an ode to the Resistance Continue reading “on odes to mud, utopian dust and insurrectionary trees”

on hosni, why change always involves force…

I’ll keep it brief, but isn’t it nice to see Hosni!

It seems so long now and I for one have been missing him. Of course his ‘former’ colleagues remain largely in place and there’s a long way to go to even begin to consolidate the revolution. But the break with the past is good, the rest we know will take blood, resolve and time…

Of course, the regime has been pushed to get this far, almost week by week, and that will go on until real change is achieved. Change only ever happens like this. When someone tells you that shouting, anger, protest, rebellion even defensive or strategic acts of violence never gets anyone anywhere, as autocrats large and small always waste their breath saying, well; laugh in their faces and press on…

I’m sure Fruit Store regulars know from your own experience that tired, jaded, reactionary, conservative, No-sayers always only ever respond to force -or anyway forcefulness- however boring it is to have to resort to it. In that respect there are continuities between Tahrir’s very expensively acquired and yet only partial freedoms and much less dramatic ones closer to home -and yes, I’m writing as an urbanforester  when I make that point [not that the extrapolation necessarily works the other way around, of course].

Anyway, hooray-hello-Hosni; lets see much more of you and yours in future and work painstakingly through your crimes to ensure that justice is seen to be done and change is institutionalised.

Meanwhile, check the current issue of Bidoun and it’s programme of summery Seminars at the Serpentine here.