“We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.”
Leonardo da Vinci (circa 1500’s)
Trees, whether the tenacious street trees or mighty forest redwoods, are vital to life on earth.
Underfoot is a perception-shifting installation that quite literally shines a light on humble root systems – which some say are the true, slowly beating heart of trees – and puts them centre stage. This normally unseen, overlooked anchor of the ecosystem makes the world underfoot a poignant setting to encounter stories and questions about human’s relationship with nature.
Next time you look at a tree, pause to consider that half its ecosystem, half its carbon is out of sight.
Underfoot is a work in progress. I have been developing it since Autumn 2020 in collaboration with interactive designer Benji Bailes, with sound by Lex Kosanke. It is an intimate experience with vast possibilities.
The public were first invited to step ‘beneath the forest’ to experience a version of this installation at the E17 Art Trail, July 2021. Initial immersion in darkness and noise cancelling headphones helped disorientate the senses and bring the wonder of the underground to a 3x3m space.
The solo ‘performance’ lasted approximately 6 minutes. It put Bailes + Light’s new interactive sensing technology, OSCHII, to the test and enabled participants to set their own path.
An Arts Council England ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ grant in October 2022 has enabled a period of research, experimentation and collaboration with organisations including Soil Voices and Fungi Club started by Fat Fox Mushrooms.
I am currently working to take Underfoot on tour as the focal point of The Rhizosphere in 2024.
‘The roots, and the music and the interactive nature of the exhibit, inciting you to think and dance and reflect and wonder.’
‘Utterly absorbing. Unique.’
‘Getting to be somewhere there’s no other possible way to be’
Hidden Life of Trees – What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World (2017) by Peter Wohllenben. William Collins
Mushroom at the end of the World – on the possibility of life in capitalist ruins (2015) by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing. Princeton University Press
Understanding Roots (2015) by Robert Kourik. Metamorphic Press