Bound V-57 was a commission by invitation from Morton Arboretum. The conversation with them extends back to 2007 when the Director first contacted me. The Arboretum were interested in the ‘Bound’ project and wrote to enquire whether I could or would work with them. The Arboretum worked to conceive and fund an exhibition which was held between May – November 2011.
The commission was something I welcomed, to visit and work within an extensive collection and to be immersed in 700 acres of trees was a huge pull.
I was aware though that the project would ‘change’ the work. Previously ‘Bound’ was very much about living, working and travelling through Wales and a way of examining place. It questioned issues of land ownership, of boundaries – it drew communities together. It was though also a project about drawing attention to the overlooked and to celbrate form and our relationship with trees and to make people think about these wonderful life forms. The trees were often on local routes and seen/glimpsed from a distance. This was the first time a work has been so accessible and public. 80,000 visitors came to the Arbortum and most could come within a few metres of the tree.
The Arboretum placed all the works very close to the visitor centre, which I initially struggled with – I wanted there to be a sense of adventure that the work would or could be discovered and be used as a way of exploring deeper into the collection. However the tree I worked with honed the work for me. The tree was a Chinese Cork Tree and was to be culled. The species was invasive and seedlings were colonising and threatening to become a problem. A few years previously the Arboretum had taken out the female trees from the series but three of these remaining tees were beginning to fruit and to change their sex. This was fascinating to me. I was acquiring knowledge and understanding things I did not know were possible and I was impressed by nature’s tenacity and versatility. There was also an interest in binding here with the binding associated with China’s past – the at of foot binding and also its human rights which been questionable with regard to female children.
Another positive aspect that the changed environment gave me was to further develop thinking around and to be able to work in amore obviously controlled environment – most of the ‘natural’ environment has been shaped by man and the arboretum is avery tamed and obviously manmade environment. I was naturally interested in the work behind the scenes at the arboretumn and as a place for the care, conservation, research and education around trees. I am aware as humans we take many things for granted and I think it is important to remember places such as the arboretum are so much more than places for recreation and enjoyment. They are involved in protection, in research, in development – in some ways the arboretum is a living museum. It is of very real interest to me – to read a landscape properly and know that most landscapes near humans has been shaped and adapted by us – that this is a very manmade environment.
As humans we take many things for granted and I think it is important to remember places such as the arboretum are so much more than places for recreation and enjoyment. They are involved in protection, in research, in development – in some ways the arboretum is a living museum. It is of very real interest to me – to read a landscape properly and know that most landscapes near humans has been shaped and adapted by us – that this is a very manmade environment.
I chose to use yellow cloth and this decision was made at the same time I made my site visit in August 2010. The tree is a Chinese Cork and yellow is an important colour to the Chinese – it represents the earth element. Yellow, corresponding with earth, is considered the most beautiful color. The Chinese saying, Yellow generates Yin and Yang, implies that yellow is the center of everything. The colour would fade well and hopefully be pleasant until the end of the show.
The work was completed in April 2011 during an incredibly cold April. I worked for a week from 07.00-15.00 with an operative and finished the work in one week. All the cloth had been prepared back in Bristol and shipped over – to save time and also surprisingly it was cost effective as well. I stayed on site very much within the elements and appreciated the flora and fauna even if the weather at 2 degrees was colder that I would have cared it to be.
Morton Arboretum: In their words ‘The Morton Arboretum brings together 11 local, national, and international artists for an extraordinary outdoor exhibition, which opened on May 20, 2011. These artists will draw inspiration from our tree-filled landscapes to create an unprecedented collection of sculptures. Each piece will be set in a specific outdoor location that highlights the work itself and presents the Arboretum landscapes in a new way. The exhibition will encourage you to think about trees as living presences in our lives and appreciate nature as a powerful inspiration’.
The Morton Arboretum’s living collections represent one of the most comprehensive collections of woody plants in North America. Throughout the Arboretum’s history, it has acquired plants from 40 countries in the northern temperate zone of the world. The collections today include over 222,000 live plants representing nearly 4,300 taxa. Specimens are arranged according to five groups: taxonomic collections (e.g. elms and oaks), geographic collections (e.g. trees and shrubs from China), special habitats (e.g. Plants of Acid Soils), horticultural collections, and collections of rare and endangered plants.
The collections are displayed in beautiful landscape settings and are designed for both enjoyment and educational purposes. Plants are selected for their ability to perform well in Northern Illinois’ challenging climate of hot summers and freezing cold winters, as well as for their adaptation to our soils. The collections represent a diversity of plants from around the world and here in the U.S. Additionally, 90 different kinds of plants on the grounds are considered threatened or endangered on state, federal, or world lists.