A mini-forest made of real trees and soil planted onto a converted canal hopper is due to travel the canals of Birmingham and the Black Country.
The Rootless Forest is a mobile artwork conceived by Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD) fellow Beth Derbyshire, which will tour the region’s waterways from 31 August to 7 October. Along its route the boat will moor at Birmingham’s Brindleyplace and Eastside districts and at Walsall Wharf next to the New Art Gallery Walsall.
When fully constructed, The Rootless Forest will weigh 15 tonnes, with 100 trees up to 3 metres tall planted along its 16 metre length. The trees are all native to the UK and include alder and birch. Donated by Walsall City Council, they will be re-planted in Walsall Arboretum once the project is complete.
During the journey, the boat will broadcast recorded stories from people affected by the current Afghan conflict, including UK military personnel who have served overseas and Afghans who have settled in Birmingham as a result of war in their homeland. The people interviewed, who have asked to remain anonymous, were introduced to Beth Derbyshire and collaborating artist Dr. Tara McAllister-Viel by The Royal British Legion and the charity Afghan Action. As The Rootless Forest moves slowly along the water, its continual motion poetically echoes these accounts of displacement and relocation.
Beth Derbyshire, lead artist of The Rootless Forest and Wheatley Fellow at BIAD, said: “The Rootless Forest is a living sculpture which moves at walking pace along the canals. Although it will be a spectacle in its own right, it is also an artistic act of remembrance for those affected by conflict. As the UK is due to withdraw from Afghanistan imminently, I see it as a memento of hope for the British public and newcomers to Britain.”
Professor John Butler, Head of School, BIAD, said: “This is a unique opportunity to imaginatively bring together a rich and diverse partnership that connects communities across Birmingham’s sectors. The School of Art seeks to operate and support these communities through the platform of art and design. This is an exemplary project that will reach over 250,000 people and fits with our aims as an organisation to externalise our works and practice to the communities of Birmingham that we exist within. We are delighted to be hosting Beth Derbyshire as the Wheatley Fellow and we feel this is a project of excellence that elegantly fuses high quality art with public engagement.”
Lead artist Beth Derbyshire has previously exhibited at The Eden Project and Selfridges. In 2005 her acclaimed project Message involved 45 veterans of World War II, The Falklands, Gulf War and other conflict signalling messages by semaphore from HMS Belfast to Horseguard’s Parade in London, marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
The Rootless Forest is accompanied by an education programme, Offshoots, provided by New Art Gallery Walsall, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and sampad south Asian arts. A series of free downloadable packs are available from www.therootlessforest.com with lively activities for all ages.
In addition, a series of artists’ talks and events will take place to explore the themes of the project, presented in partnership with Cathy Wade, Lecturer at BIAD. Beyond the Pale will bring together artists, curators and galleries in locations throughout Birmingham and Walsall.
A hand-printed newspaper, The Forest Express, distributed across Birmingham and the Black Country captures the themes and ideas associated with the project.
The Rootless Forest is supported by Arts Council England, Birmingham City University, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, The Canal & River Trust, Centre for Fine Art Research, Ikon, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall Council and The Wheatley Bequest Fund.
Other partners include Afghan Action, Birmingham City Council, Brush Strokes, Canal Boats Birmingham, Edible Eastside, sampad south Asian arts, The British Legion, Tree Design and Action Group.
For more information and full schedule visit www.therootlessforest.com
The Rootless Forest public events:
The Rootless Forest moored at Brindleyplace, Birmingham B1 2JF
Friday 31 August – Sunday 9 September, Thursday 13 September & Wednesday 19 September
Open daily 11am-6.30pm – Free
The Rootless Forest Launch Party
Canal Walk, 4.30 – 5.30pm
Beyond the Pale: In Conversation, 5.30 – 6.30pm
The Rootless Forests Official Launch Party, from 6.30pm Saturday 8 September
Edible Eastside, Warwick Wharf, 122 Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B5 5RS
Join The Rootless Forest as it begins its journey along the West Midlands canal system, followed by an In Conversation event with Beth Derbyshire, Wheatley Fellow at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and lead artist of The Rootless Forest; Dr Tara McAllister-Viel, Head of Voice at East 15 School of Acting; and Cathy Wade, Lecturer at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design.
Beyond the Pale: Film screening at The Spotted Dog, Digbeth
Thursday 27 September
The Spotted Dog, 104 Warwick Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B12 0NH.
Part of a series of events developed in partnership with Cathy Wade, lecturer at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, investigating the themes of boundaries and occupation – Free
Beyond the Pale: In Conversation at Ikon Gallery
Friday 14 September
Ikon Gallery, Brindleyplace, Birmingham
Ikon hosts the third Beyond the Pale talk, in association with The Rootless Forest, bringing together Tim Eastop, Arts Development Manager, Canal & River Trust; Beth Derbyshire, Wheatley Fellow BIAD 2012; Kate Self, Learning Co-ordinator, Ikon; and Cathy Wade, Lecturer at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and founder of Edible Eastside. This panel discussion explores canals and inland waterways as places for adventure and cultural export. There is also the opportunity to visit The Rootless Forest which will be moored in Brindleyplace. To book a place please call Ikon on 0121 248 0708.
The Rootless Forest moored at Walsall Wharf (outside New Art Gallery Walsall)
Thursday 20 September – Sunday 7 October
Open daily 10am – 5pm
Beyond the Pale: In Conversation at The New Art Gallery Walsall
Saturday 6 October
Beth Derbyshire, Wheatley Fellow BIAD 2012 and Sue Ball, Media and Arts Partnership, discuss the potentials of landscape and waterways in framing memory and creating monuments to events and human resilience.
Tuesday 16 October, 6-8pm:
Symposium: Birmingham Institute of Art and Design.
Beyond The Pale is debated as a strategy for curatorial and interdisciplinary practice with contributions from Yasmeen Baig-Clifford, Director of Vivid Projects; Mona Casey, MA Contemporary Curatorial Practice, Course Director, BIAD; Professor Johnny Golding, Director Centre for Fine Art Research and Cathy Wade, Edible Eastside.