As artist in residence for January 2018 at Pinea-Linea De Costa in Rota, Spain I conducted a sonic and visual study of the forests. I spent everyday within the woods searching for hidden sounds using various microphones and recording methods. I also developed a method of taking bark rubbings as a visual record, starting off using paper and graphite and then moving in to mouldable metal, sandpaper and pastels.
Many dune areas in Spain have been destroyed or altered. The main cause has been the increase in tourism, which resulted in the extraction of sand for construction activities and the building of hotels, houses and boulevards. The dunes found here in Rota have been afforested with Pine trees, as a solution for avoiding sand dune drift on to arable land. The area was planted in the beginning of the 20th century, which in our terms may seem like a long time ago, but in forestry terms this means it is still a juvenile ecosystem.
Whilst one cannot deny the good intentions and positive impact of dune conservation and forest cultivation I fear it is a shallow solution to a deeper problem. Trees from ancient forests live in complicated family networks, built up over centuries, supporting each other and communicating important survival information in ways we are only just really beginning to understand. Trees in replanted and manmade forests have been denied the time to establish these intricate networks, they are surrounded by an illusion of community, trapped in lonely isolation, communicating only with themselves. We have, perhaps subconsciously, resurrected these forests in the image of ourselves. I see reflections of modern urban society in these woodlands, people moving through crowds, surrounded by strangers, only engaged in their own secret sonic world, shrouded by headphones.
So after ripping up the majority of european ancient forests, burning them for warmth and power, building our houses out of them, surrounding ourselves with their beautiful corpses we now try reconstruct them with the delicacy and intricacy of a clumsy child. It is theatre scenery, made to look real but backstage, under the surface soil we can see the roots of the illusion. It is a diorama of nature, a theme-park for humans to enjoy, being led along defined paths as we have become accustomed to being herded through shopping malls and department stores, our free choices being constantly and subconsciously manipulated.
Like a flimsy bandage being placed over the gaping wounds of compulsive self-harm, replanted and manmade forests are better than doing nothing at all but to really heal our planet we must look for deeper solutions and let alone what we are lucky to have left.
The sculpture and soundscape I have created in reaction to this are designed to highlight the communication isolation experienced by the pine trees in the forests of Rota. The viewer is invited to step inside the trees armour and listen to the secret sonic world within.
Research references – The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben
The Songs Of Trees – David George Haskell
Sand Dune Inventory Of Europe – Dr J.P Doody