Edwina was invited by Stour Valley Arts to be the artist in residence in King's Wood, Kent between 2002-04. The residency was funded by the Arts Council of England and the Esmee Fairbairn Trust.
Arboreal laboratory consists of three intertwined gallery installations, which resulted from a two-year residency at King’s Wood in Kent. The work consciously relocates a rural experience to an urban setting, and refers to displacement and longing.
The artworks were developed from a series of eight experiments conducted in the woods, which explored sound, scents, vision and time. It also involved a temporary artwork in the Woods themselves.
'Entering the Jerwood, you immediately encounter Edwina Fitzpatrick’s Arboreal Laboratory: In mythology the Gods always smelled good. Four glass vessels on Perspex plinths, rather gorgeous structures that present a dilemma: it would be satisfying to touch them but a single fingerprint would blemish their radiant transparency. Stepping to and back is inspired by other pieces here but Fitzpatrick’s sculpture also dramatises a psychogeography of presence and absence, like buildings that have survived multiple manifestations, seen countless lives pass through. There’s something political about the way that as a group they begin to envelope you. Standing before them it’s possible to feel quite exposed. They can be experienced as metaphors for political or ecological systems, as beautiful, compelling objects in themselves and in relation to each other, or both. Typing at night, one imagines them in the black, blue deserted Jerwood.'
Experiments in scent
In mythology the Gods always smelled good
The installation title references the god Pan, who as the primordial renegade, smelled bad. His animal presence was dismissed by Rene Descartes, and our relationship with the green environment irrevocably changed as a result of this.
The installation involves four seemingly empty glass vessels (half alembic, and half perfume bottle in style), presented on clear plinths.
The vessels contain four scent moments in King’s Wood across the seasons, and were created in collaboration with Quest International using headspace technology (a highly sophisticated device which analyses and allows synthetic replication of smells). The results of this were combined by a perfumer, Dominique Le Lievre.
The ‘viewers’ release the scent by moving past the vessels.
The emphasis of this part of the project was on longing, on the invisible as opposed to the intangible. It also involved synthetically recreating the natural environment, and collapsing the annual cycle of seasons into a single space and time.
Experiments in sound
The title refers to the fact that forests are designed as enclosures for animals, yet they cannot contain birds. The installation was a sound piece of birdsong – there were no visual components at all – and drew on research into why birds sing. Birdsong is also a good indicator of the overall health of a woodland. It is mostly produced by small birds that have to expend a huge amount of energy in producing the volume of sound required to transmit through the trees. Birds cannot sing unless they have sufficient food to eat.
The 12-minute soundtrack, each minute equals a 24 hour cycle over a month of the year. It is a condensed and idealised bird opera over an anual cycle, and operates as a time-map of bird movement and migration.
Photosynthesis: The process that plant life uses to convert sunlight and Co2 into nutrients and oxygen
Experiments in time and space
This scented book acts as a record of Edwina's experiments. The ring-bound continuous format allows the book to open at any of its four sections, echoing the continuum of the seasons. FitzPatrick investigates the sounds and smells of the forest and poses the questions of the musician and scientist.
It features a text by writer and curator Paul Bonaventura, ‘Why do artists want to make the invisible visible?’
Publisher: Stour Valley Arts.
Artist: Edwina fitzPatrick.
Texts by: Edwina fitzPatrick, Matthew King, Paul Bonaventura, Dr Robin Clery.
During the residency it became apparent that grey squirrels (introduced to England a century ago), were devastating deciduous woodlands by stripping the bark in order to access the trees sap. Without sap, a tree cannot produce leaves or transpire. They are also driving the native red squirrels out of the southern parts of England, and diminishing bird populations by eating bird’s eggs.
The triptych links the two other installations, and takes their premise further by looking at trees to explore the contradictions and complexities of current ecological and political debates relating to woodlands. Sap and chlorophyll are used as metaphors for the symbiotic nature of woodlands, and our complex relationships with them.
The soundtrack involves a symphony of three different types of birdsong:
- One is stretched (apparently birds interpret song at 3 times the speed that humans do, so are able to distinguish complex readings of the call/song).
- One is in human real time - i.e. how we normally hear birdsong
- One is synthetically created using a mobile phone
Each video is a different length so that the each version of the birdsong soundtracks and visual narratives are perpetually re-evolving.The mobile phone birdsongs were created in collaboration with composer, Matthew King.
A female and male (Adam and Eve?) dressed as red squirrels plant an apple tree. The introduction of an apple tree to an English woodland is not unusual –historically it is a by-product of a forester's or charcoal burner's lunch.
As many of the arboreal laboratory experiments explored the borders of visibility, the only permanent sited work that Edwina wanted to add to King's Wood was another tree. Who would notice another one? The answer to this was that the resident fallow deer did. They immediately realized that the Wood's biodiversity had been added to, and promptly ate it.
Transpiration: The process by which plants release water vapour as part of photosynthesis
Kingswood: A Context
This book marks and celebrates 10 years of Stour Valley Arts in King’s Wood. It is not just a linear history but looks at the place, King’s Wood, its history, its geography, how the forest developed, the people who have lived and worked there over the centuries and the context in which Stour Valley Arts and all the artists work.
Publisher: Stour Valley Arts.
Featured Artists: Richard Harris, Dominique Bailly, Chris Drury, Hamish Fulton, Susan Derges, Edwina Fitzpatrick, Rosie Leventon, Peter Fillingham.
Essays by Jenny Uglow, Doreen Massey, Joy Sleeman
ISBN: 0 9535 3409 x