The Floating Forest to transport 100 living trees from Birmingham to Walsall

By Mark Sheerin | 21 August 2012
Colour photo showing a model of trees planted on a barge
A model of the 15-tonne barge as it should soon appear on West Midlands waterways© Beth Derbyshire
Exhibition: The Rootless Forest - Beth Derbyshire, Wheatley Fellow, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Birmingham and the Black Country, August 31 – October 6 2012

West Midlanders should be warned about a coming spectacle that could unbalance an unsuspecting stroll along one of Birmingham’s many tow paths. Artist Beth Derbyshire is planting a small forest of trees in a canal hopper full of soil.

The sculpture will weigh 15 tonnes, float and, unlike most arboretums, be in constant motion. It is said to be inspired by Birnham Wood, which Shakespeare buffs will recognise as the wood that moves around in Macbeth.

But although this may have been a starting point, the Rootless Forest has a floating theme tethered to the war in Afghanistan. Its dislocation reflects the lives of displaced Afghans in Birmingham and the improbable fact that American troops on tour there have planted 70,000 trees.

That might be a bit galling when you reflect that Green party candidate and trailblazing social artist Joseph Beuys only managed 7,000. But these were oaks in Germany, where there is a less urgent need for greenery.

Testimonies from both servicemen and refugees will be broadcast from the floating forest, and locals will be able to catch up with the boat and its accompanying programme of talks and activities at key locations.

The 100 trees will finally be planted at New Art Gallery Walsall.

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