Floating forest artistic act of remembrance - and symbol of hope


Beth Derbyshire, Wheatley Fellow at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD), presents The Rootless Forest (2012). Comprising a mini-forest made of real trees and soil planted onto a converted canal hopper, the mobile sculpture will travel the canals of Birmingham and the Black Country from August to October, with associated events at Ikon Gallery, New Art Gallery Walsall, BIAD and Edible Eastside . 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 Rootless Forest is a mobile artwork, a mini-forest made of real trees and soil planted on a boat that travels at walking pace along the Birmingham and Black Country Canals. From The Rootless Forest we hear recorded stories about passage, change and home, told by families from the UK military, and UK Afghan communities in Birmingham. The soundscape is a collaboration between artist Beth Derbyshire and voice director Tara McAllister-Viel.

New insights into neighbours

Beth Derbyshire, lead artist of the project, said: "The Rootless Forest broadcasts stories placed within this slice of archetypal British landscape serving as a reminder that these military and refugee families are among us, just as their voices emanate from the embedded speakers. As audiences bear witness to their neighbours' histories, they may gain new insights into those they share the city with.

"The Rootless Forest connects its themes of memory, voice and landscape via an intersection of nature's constants; soil, woodland and water and from the public forest estate and canal towpaths - open access land where everyone has a right of way. The Rootless Forest and its context becomes an emblematic place, framing memories through its figurative ecology."

Project to reach 250,000 people

Professor John Butler, Head of School at BIAD, part of Birmingham City University, 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 ofexcellence that elegantly fuses high quality art with public engagement."

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