‘Barcode: FB184’ © Philippa Lawrence

A temporary site-responsive piece at Vinnells, Mortimer Forest, Ludlow, March 2011 for the Arts Council of England’s Rural Commissioning Programme through Meadow Arts.

Barcode: FB184 is a work that draws attention to the nature of this unique and special Forestry Commissioned managed woodland. The forest at Mortimer is especially interesting in its mix of ancient woodland and new planting. There are areas here that are widely accessible and other places that have a sense of timelessness and offer the wanderer a perspective of the limial and the potential for transformation – these deeply wooded areas have a profound impact upon our psyche. Our folklore and fairytales abound with descriptions and metaphor related to the forest.

The area chosen was an enclosure of young oak trees approximately 80 years old that will be individually felled to provide wood for the building industries.The barcode on these trees is the same and is taken from hardwood doweling, in its uniformity it draws our attention both to the individual nature of the individual tree and the mass consumerism of it as a crop in the rendering of it into a single unit.

Rationale: My relationship with trees is one built upon a close and easy physical proximity.  In childhood one of the ways I spent summer days was in climbing trees. I have an abiding respect for trees, aware of their deep place in our human psyche. Human kind has a deep and profound connection with trees and our relationship with them is deep and unequivocal. We are dependent on them as the lungs of the earth. Through them we breathe, by them we are sheltered – they heat us, feed us, enchant us – but it is vital we do not romanticize our relationship with trees but instead choose to acknowledge and respect their importance to us and to protect them.

Until recently I would have considered that as a nation we have and do value the ancient woodlands that still exist, but recent governmental decisions which outraged so many was to sell of and privatize these swathes of land  I have a fear of a further manicured and ring fenced, controlled  land – where can we find a land that can represent the psyche – the wild and dark and uncanny within ourselves if we don’t have spaces that can also make us feel the otherness of things and of place?

‘Barcode: FB184’ is a work that is both aesthetic and cerebrally stimulating, which has the potential to open a door into issues of commodity, of the place of ‘trees’ in our lives and the value we place on our woodland. Wood is a material we seldom talk about as being irreplaceable, we live in a paper hungry world where the real value of the source material or the efforts required to obtain the raw material is not especially considered or valued.

Process: To enlarge barcodes associated with a wood products, scaled up and translated into black and white striations of cloth wound around the trunks of living oak trees.

We abuse land because we regard it as commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. Aldo Leopold

A landscape is the land transformed, whether through the physical act of inhabitation or enclosure, clearance or cultivation or through human perception ‘Place’ by Tacita Dean & Jeremy Millar

Books such as ‘Place’ by Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar invite the reader to question and engage in an understanding and a definition of place, space, of site, environment and of habitat.

We may not have an immediately clear definition of these states and what they mean to us individually but collectively they are of importance and we should know where our and their boundaries lie. This is an enquiry that I attempt to address, and is being explored in my most recent research.