DEFINE Visual Research – Challenging Perceptions

Yesterday I went to see Among the Trees, an exhibition at the Haywood Gallery.

“By turns poetic, adventurous and thought-provoking, this group exhibition explores our relationship with trees and forests.

Among the Trees transports us around the world – from Colombian rainforests and remote Japanese islands to olive orchards in Israel and a 9,550-year-old spruce in Sweden.

By drawing attention to the beauty, scale and complexity of trees and forests, the 37 artists in this exhibition turn our vision of the natural world on its head, inviting us to see it with new eyes.

Whether exploring the way that trees – with lifespans much longer than our own – challenge how we think about time, or revealing how they are intimately entangled with human affairs, these artists enliven and expand our appreciation of these remarkable organisms.”

“Many of the artists in this exhibition highlight those characteristics in order to engage us in an exploratory process of looking. Subverting traditional depictions of the natural world to help us see familiar forms afresh”
Hugh Hayden

Hugh Hayden makes sculptures that ‘remix’ nature to make you look at it in a new way.

“If I can transform how you think about something as ubiquitous as a tree or a piece of wood, perhaps that’s a way in for me as an artist to change the way you think about larger, more conceptual ideas.”
Eija Liisa Ahtila

There were several pieces in there that were trying to show us trees from a different perspective- Eija Liisa Ahtila made a ‘portrait’ of a tree by filming it in sections, and presented these in one long panoramic film. The size of the tree was emphasised by rotating it 90 degrees, because there was no way it would fit in a room vertically. 

“It also deals with the limits of recording technologies that we use to create images of the world around us. In particular, it addresses the difficulty of perceiving and recording other living beings through methods invented by humans, which record and reproduce our human perspective of the world.”

Gary Oak, Galiano Island, 2012, by Rodney Graham

Photos by Rodney Graham and Robert Smithson showed upside-down trees- Graham showed a photo of a tree upside down, referencing the use of a camera obscura in an attempt to talk about ‘man’s skewed experience of nature’. Smithson literally inverted a tree and then took a photo of it, drawing attention to “the structural similarity of a tree’s branch and root system”

Robert Smithson, First Upside Down Tree, 1969

Exhibition Guide is here:

I’m not planning on inverting any trees but I like the idea of showing overlooked things in a new way.

Today I came across this ‘Fashion Show in a Box’ designed by M/M for Loewe.

Designed as an alternative to a fashion show in response to the pandemic, the box aims to give an insight into the concepts and inspiration behind the show, which fleshes it out in a way that a lookbook never could. I really like the multi-sensory experience that it creates – textures, colour palettes, photos, even a mini cardboard record player with a soundtrack on. There is also a pop-up version of the set.

Now I’m thinking about what Nature-in-a-box would be like – how would I represent the experience of being in the woods for example? I know that shielding is technically over, but it could be something to be enjoyed by people who are still housebound (because of COVID or something else).