Arnolfini opens a major group exhibition including artists, writers, filmmakers, and composers

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Arnolfini opens a major group exhibition including artists, writers, filmmakers, and composers
Ai Weiwei Palace, 2019. Cast iron 141 x 250 x 195 cm, 55 12 x 98 38 x 76 34 in. Ai Weiwei, Roots series, 2019, Cast iron sculptures.

BRISTOL.- This Summer Arnolfini welcome visitors to celebrate what lies above and below the forest floor with Forest: Wake this Ground, a major group exhibition including artists, writers, filmmakers, and composers from across the globe: Rodrigo Arteaga, Mark Garry, Alma Heikkilä, Eva Jospin, Jumana Manna, Zakiya Mckenzie, David Nash, Maria Nepomuceno, John Newling, Rose Nguyen, Ben Rivers, Ai Weiwei, and Hildegard Westerkamp.

Building on our renewed understanding of the restorative power of nature, the exhibition draws upon the richly woven layers of the forest habitat. Exploring the accompanying stories, myths, and folktales, passed down between humans over centuries, Arnolfini will invite visitors to share and create their own ‘forest tales’ responding to just some of the multiple languages, materials, and processes used by artists in the show.

At the heart of many of the artists’ practice – spanning a range of ages and nationalities – are acts of exchange, collaboration and connection. Works recycle, reuse and repurpose resources, reflecting the process of decomposition and regeneration that characterises the forest floor. Through this discovery of the forests’ ancient rhythms, audiences will be gently encouraged to look at the impact of both fellow-man and the changing climate upon nature and the world around us.

As connections between artworks are untangled – including cast iron sculptures, film, sound, poetry, drawing and installations made from soil, cardboard and charcoal – there will be opportunities with which to dig deeper into the exhibition’s rich themes, such as language, ancestry and stories of decay and renewal.

Forest: Wake this Ground’s wider public programme will encompass live performance, film, family events and creative workshops held throughout the exhibition, culminating with Salvage Rhythms during the final weekend. An ongoing work which uses live performance, sound, film, text and collage, Salvage Rhythms explores what humans can learn about how the other critters, organisms and intelligences we share this planet with come together in hidden, surprising and dynamic ways. Arnolfini will be home to the longest iteration of the performance yet – a total of three hours - with audiences free to come and go throughout.

Further information about artworks included in the exhibition can be found below:

Chilean artist Rodrigo Arteaga deals with topical issues around absence and presence in his vast burned drawing series Monocultures, documenting the radical change in the forest floor, resulting from a major, government backed planting of the Monterey pine tree, now threatening many indigenous species. A new commission by Arteaga will also be made in response to local woodland on residency in the UK.

Irish artist and composer Mark Garry’s film An Lucht Siúil (The Walking People) looks at the relationships between land, movement and ownership through richly intertwined songs sung in both English and Shelta (the language of Irish travellers). A work first shown in his solo show Songs and the Soil.

Finnish artist Alma Heikkilä, whose work Flashing Decaying Wood, is made in part from pine wood, mycelium and alder flower ink, recreates the microscopic world beneath our feet, physically decomposing on the gallery floor.

French artist Eva Jospin’s towering and immersive sculpture Forêt Palatine, made from recycled cardboard, reflects the multiple material lives that have sprung from the rich resources of the forest. Its fantastical almost mythic depiction also hauntingly forewarns us of the possibility of their disappearance.

In her 2018 documentary, Wild Relatives, Palestinian artist Jumana Manna explores the tensions between human need and natural resources. Through the journey of seeds and the migrant women responsible for their replanting, the film tells the story of the Arctic’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Language and soil lie at the heart of Bristol-based Zakiya McKenzie’s poetry, including Soil Unsoiled (originally commissioned by the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust in collaboration with Khady Gueye) and Primordial Mother Speaks for Herself. McKenzie examines whose bodies belong to the forest, tracing her own ancestral threads to shine a light on racial inequality in rural spaces, bringing new timbre to the forests’ many narratives.

The ideas behind British artist David Nash’s ever-growing charcoal drawing The Family Tree 1967 to 2019, evolve like the trunk of a tree, that thickens and strengthens from the energy provided by each branch, providing a catalogue of decades of practice working with wood in multiple forms.

Intertwining her own ancestral threads, Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno’s complex woven sculptures utilise traditional craft and basketry techniques, reminiscent of plant and organic structures. A new woven-straw installation has also been commissioned which will be completed on site through ceramics made by Arnolfini’s community partners.

John Newling extracts soil from the ground to reveal the history of his own leaf-strewn back garden in Ground; language from the cores and a newly commissioned work, The Night Books burning forests, made from pulped texts, coal dust and crushed charcoal. The work physically released carbon through the process of making, re-enacting the exchange that lies at the heart of the forest floor’s survival.

Rosa Nguyen’s fragile ceramic and glass sculptures incorporate both living and dead botanical forms. Drawn together in a new installation the artist explores the ‘above and below’ of nature through hand-made porcelain, soil and hand-sized ceramic roots.

Ben Rivers’ film Look Then Below looks to the future, journeying into a subterranean world. Shot beneath the Mendip hills and ancient woodland in Somerset, the film reimagines a future in which the full impact of environmental damage inflicted by man is felt.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s monumental upended ‘roots’, cast from the ancient and endangered Pequi Vinagreiro tree (found in the Bahian rainforest), reflect both the uprootedness of arboreal species and the displacement of people.

Canadian composer and sound ecologist Hildegard Westerkamp’s Beneath the Forest Floor was recorded in the old-growth forests of Canada’s Carmanah Valley in 1992. This creaking sound work transports the stillness and peace of these ancient forests to Arnolfini, asking us to consider if these trees still stand today.

Forest: Wake this Ground also marks the start of Arnolfini’s renewed approach to sustainable practice that will see an increased focus across all activities and the implementation of a new sustainable action plan.

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