Aboutface - The fallen birch sings under a whisper (2019)
This audio-visual piece explores the sonification of the communications of fungi, using the tuned sound of fallen leaves from Tidemill Garden, a cherished community garden soon to be demolished. Articulating the complex symbiosis between mycelium (fungus), Trees and the local residents, all working together for the benefit of the local ecology.
Mychorrizal fungal networks underground operate like a wood-wide web, allowing trees to communicate, share food to the sick and care for the overall health of 90% of land plants. This network requires decades of being undisturbed to develop. During recent studies, research has even highlighted that cut trees stumps can be kept alive by other trees through the redirection of sugars, facilitated by the fungal networks.
74 healthy trees, many over 10m high including maple, apple and silver birch, with amenity value of over £1million pounds, are due to be felled and be replaced with 2.5 metre less-mature trees. These replacements will not have established the hypogeal networks that support all land plants, and creates a huge loss of canopy cover. A Tree's ability to provide ecological benefits for humans such as air purification and urban cooling, are intrinsically connected with canopy size, so the loss of canopy size is the most relevant qualification of environmental impact; approximately, 2.4 million tones of carbon is absorbed by London’s trees, with an estimated value of £147m (Valuing London’s urban forest: results of the London i-Tree Eco Project. 2015)
Lewisham council state that there is no way to proceed with the housing scheme and keep the garden, even rejecting an already pre-demolished site in New Cross. Lewisham Council cites that the reason to sacrifice Tidemill Garden is to satisfy urgent need for social homes, however the majority of proposed new homes have been declared as London Affordable Rent, 63% higher in rent cost that existing council tenancy, alienating the most impoverished driving local gentrification.
'I’ve made clear that I will do everything in my power to protect London’s green belt and green spaces from development. To grow sustainably we need ‘good growth’. That means making sure all Londoners can share our city’s prosperity. It also means ensuring our economic success generates the resources we need to protect and enhance our environment'
- Sadiq Khan (greener city fund 2017).
After this statement, the Mayor of London’s made the decision not to take over Lewisham Council’s planning decision concerning the Old Tidemill Garden Development, irrespective of LLAAM Len Duvall stating 'A reconfiguration of the scheme was proposed by the Save Tidemill Campaign Group and would have delivered the same number of units and saved the community gardens'
Since Oct 2018, the Tidemill site has employed 24hr security; activists have estimated that eviction and security costs now have exceeded an additional £1 million pounds of taxpayer’s money
This conceptual art is a protest to Lewisham council to revaluate the true socioecological and economical cost of Tidemill's demolition, obtaining more comprehensive arboricultural theory and using CAVAT amenity valuation as used in the i-tree study, to reconsider the destruction of this vital source of mental and physical well being.
Thanks to Save Tidemill Save Reginald, please support their efforts:
Full research and a short essay below.