‘the rootless forest’ by beth derbyshire
beth derbyshire: the rootless forest
the new art gallery walsall canal basin
september 20th through october 7th
open daily 10am- 5pm
english artist beth derbyshire, known for her ambitious large scale installations, has conceived the ‘rootless forest‘. the monolithic artwork
is a mobile, floating landscape – a bonafide mini forest made of real trees, planted in a barge that travels at walking pace along the
british birmingham and black country canals. the piece also introduces the element of sound, tackling the concepts of adjustment,
homecoming and relocation told by recorded stories of two families from the military and UK afghan communities in birmingham.
the work is informed by the moving forest, birnam wood, in shakespeare’s play macbeth – it cites the warning given to macbeth that
‘macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until / great birnam wood to high dunsinane hill / shall come against him’. the motif of birnam wood -
which primarily represents a prophetic device – becomes an act of disguise and discord.
the artist discusses the importance of the shakespearian reference:
‘shakespeare dramatically explored trees as strategic devices and the forest ‘as a habitat for multiple voices, which occupy a
transitional space – literally and metaphorically – between the past and the future…’(1) and woods were also used to create an
emotional landscape.’ continuing this strand ‘the rootless forest’ broadcasts a new constituency of voices drawn from refugee and
veteran communities, making links between their pasts to their present in birmingham. birnam wood has become an image embedded
in british culture and collective imagination.
however in this project, the forest’s mode of conscription has evolved from a forest being borne on the bodies of the fictitious army
in macbeth to a forest that echoes contemporary voices from communities affected by conflict. ‘the rootless forest’ traverses the canal
network that once serviced birmingham’s industrial past and its route passes the famous gun factories of birmingham. birmingham and
the midlands is a region where troops are repatriated and injured troops are treated at the queen elizabeth hospital.
this indirectly creates an emblematic arc between birmingham’s history as a place of arms manufacture to its contemporary present,
a centre for military recovery.’
the work is informed by the moving forest, birnam wood, in shakespeare’s play macbeth
the piece replicates a real forest
preparing the barge
the barge travels at walking pace along the british birmingham and black country canals