In The Forest Something Stirred is an online exhibition featuring two new commissions, Treeline by Ruth Maclennan and Natural Error by Rodell Warner.
Co-commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and Forestry England, the exhibition is supported by John Hansard Gallery, University of Glasgow and Arts Council England and will be presented at John Hansard Gallery in March 2022.
Each focus on the flora and fauna of our natural landscape, and how it is being marked by climate change. Commissioned to coincide with COP 26, the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the two works highlight the precarity of species in the face of the decimation of the environment and the loss of biodiversity.
Treeline is a collectively made film compiled from hundreds of hours of footage of forests submitted by people across the world. From a patchwork of disparate individual contributions (sent in by scientists, ecologists, artists and members of the public alike), Maclennan traces a sinuous green line that stretches from the wild woods of North America to the rainforests of the Amazon to the copses of middle England and the scrublands of Africa, as well as myriad places in-between. Resembling a continuous horizontal travelling shot, Maclennan’s infinite panorama of trees is a vivid reminder of the swathes of green that continue to encircle and nourish the planet, and a powerful emblem of the shared resources and shared futures that bind people together. A paean to the beauty and majesty of trees, Treeline also echoes something of their form — putting out exploratory feelers, then drawing material from multiple sources to create an enveloping, overarching structure that is considerably more than the sum of its parts.
Natural Error is a series of digital animations created from glitches in computer code. Each of these fleeting micro-sequences, ghosting up like fireflies from the surface of the screen, is of a creature (or other element from the biosphere) that is currently classified as endangered — by the encroachment of man, by rising tides and temperatures, or by habitat disruption from extreme weather events. Among them are iconic species such as the Monkey Puzzle Tree, whose disappearance from the arboreal environment is a symbol of the wider decimation of forest ecologies across the globe. But Warner also extends his gaze to other surroundings, in a bittersweet allusion to a biodiversity that is tragically being lost. Haunting harbingers of a freakish, out-of-control future that may make people see the error of their ways, Warner’s chimerical agents of disruption also offer hints that it may need a radical, counterintuitive reboot to repair the damage being done. His animations of creatures, such as the White-Tailed Eagle, that have been re-introduced to the wild offer a glimmer of hope that this can occur.