In Autumn 2023, artist and researcher Alice Ladenburg led a group workshop at East Quay, in which participants were invited to reflect on their personal relationship to specific trees. The group shared stories, discussed interweaving connections and plotted the location of their chosen trees on a digital map.
Leaves of Watchet - Collecting leaves, telling stories, and using mapping to engage with the natural world in Watchet.
Leaves of Watchet began with each participant collecting a few leaves from a tree that held a special meaning for them, or just one that they found particularly beautiful. Before the workshop, they did some research about the botanical, historical, geographical and mythological information of the species.
Everyone came together at the workshop, sharing stories behind the chosen leaves, and using Google Earth to pinpoint the exact location from where it was taken. Each leaf sample was then named and given a geo-coordinate. Whilst the leaves were accurately mapped onto the detached viewpoint of a satellite image, they were infused with new meaning by how they were described. Some participants shared childhood memories, their feelings of connection to nature, or recent and past life changes. A clear shared element was the deep sense of home everyone had, and the significant role a tree can play in their lives.
We then discussed how to document and present the specimens, thinking about how personal perspectives can be included, and how image and text can be combined. We looked at: cyanotypes by Anna Atkins (1799-1871); a botanical visual encyclopedia by Lourdes Castro (1930-2022); text works by Richard Long (b.1945); the medieval Voynich Manuscript (early 15th century); and Victorian scrapbooks.
Then prints of the leaves were made. We used black ink and rollers, to ink up the leaves and press them into paper. Although everyone used the same materials, the leaves were all sorts of different shapes, sizes, and textures, so the results were very varied, but all beautiful. After the ink had dried, the participants wrote on their prints; text ranging from memories and myths, to facts and figures. The resulting work was as varied as the participants themselves, but was also unified - each served as a kind of portrait of a single tree, from a particular time and place.
To physically bring this idea together, a collaborative print was also produced, with everyone making a single print on a shared piece of paper, each handwriting the precise geo-coordinates of where they collected the leaf from. This print represents and embodies the broader workshop concept and process, presenting a series of single leaves chosen by individuals living in and around Watchet, demonstrating how a seemingly small engagement with the local surrounding environment can be so meaningful.
Text written by Alice Ladenburg
The workshop was by Alice Ladenburg, an artist and researcher based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Her practice combines auto-ethnographic research with scientific methods to foster a deeper and more nuanced understanding of our planet in a period of environmental crisis. Over the past fifteen years, Alice has been developing art-science research methods and modes of presentation, often working collaboratively and across disciplines - from physics and ecology to computer science and geography. Find out more here: Alice Ladenburg
Thank you to the following people for participating:
Hazel Barron, Sara Summers, Georgina Towler, Melanie Deegan, Catherine Heard, Charlotte Mann, Gill Hall, Dot Kuzniar, Millie Laing-Tate