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”

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;…
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;…

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…”