- 10m high multi-coloured neon installation The Glowing Canopies from ‘Punjabi Liverpudlian’ British artist Chila Kumari Burman MBE – her largest individual neon work to date
- Series of figurative, human portrait sculptures by Joseph Hillier, carved from trees lost during Storm Arwen
- Giant robotic wood mouse forms part of interactive Wood Wide Web from Little Lost Robot, demonstrating relationship between trees, fungi and wildlife
- Tattoo by Geraldine Pilgrim highlights the critical role trees play in absorbing carbon
- Bespoke audio work from Hidden Orchestra & Tim Southorn immerses visitors in calming haven of music and woodland sounds
- Tree climbing workshops offer children chance to explore leafy canopies
- Live performances, pop-up food stalls and botanical cocktails in popular lates programme, Wakehurst Summer Nights
Image: Giant Wood Mouse, Little Lost Robot.
7 July – 17 September 2023; 10.00-18.00 Tickets on sale now at kew.org/rooted Included in day ticket price
£1 entry for recipients of Universal Credit, Pension Credit and other legacy benefits Wakehurst, Sussex
This summer, Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, celebrates one of the world's most recognisable and loved plants – trees. Vital to human existence, trees form the life support of the planet, from storing carbon and sheltering wildlife, to providing shade and being scientifically proven to ease stress. In recognition of the phenomenal power of these woodland wonders, Wakehurst has commissioned a series of award-winning artists to create a series of spectacular outdoor installations across the 535-acre site.
Forming Wakehurst’s largest summer programme to date, the eight installations capture a broad range of artistic practices, from sculpture to sound. Taking inspiration from Wakehurst’s varied landscapes and ecology, each piece will explore a distinct theme and allow visitors of all ages to explore new perspectives on nature.
Chila Burman brings her signature colourful style to the heart of the Wakehurst landscape in a new major commission The Glowing Canopies, celebrating the inspiring impact trees have had on her practice since childhood. The 10m structures form a joyful explosion of vibrant neon colours, accompanied by delicate creations in the shape of bees, illustrating the close relationship which exists between trees and invertebrates, and the threat climate change poses to them. The work forms Burman’s largest ever individual neon creation to date.
Acclaimed sculptor Joseph Hillier similarly reflects on the communication network hidden in nature in his series of human portraits carved from trees lost to Storm Arwen in Northumberland, in a considered effort to make art in a more sustainable way. The hand-crafted sculptures will sit upon plinths, creating their own network of quiet exchange, inviting visitors to contemplate their place in the wider natural world. Exposing once hidden decay, the work will also draw attention to the threat of fungal diseases that plague many tree species across the country, including ash dieback and Dutch elm disease.
Two further creatives draw inspiration from the incredible power of nature networks. Little Lost Robot, a not-for- profit collective of social practice artists create their own Wood Wide Web in a collection of interactive installations exploring the relationship between trees, fungi and wildlife. From a tree sap pump that sends vital nutrients and minerals through the trunk, to a bespoke sound piece hidden in coiled set of root-like structures, and a giant robotic wood mouse that can be fed mycelium pellets, younger visitors are treated to a stimulating new way of engaging with the natural world.
Hidden Orchestra, created by composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Acheson, returns to Wakehurst with a new immersive soundscape work Sonic Woodland IV. The audio work creates an enveloping sound experience using a bespoke system designed by spatial audio engineer Tim Southorn, coupling the sounds of the botanical forest with generative music, to create a living piece of music which is constantly evolving, reflecting the non-human timescales of the interactions which are constantly unfolding between plants, trees, and the underground mushroom networks in the woods.
Many works will respond to critical Kew science projects, creating installations that see art and science collide, highlighting how much there is still to learn about trees – from pioneering research to combat ash dieback, to the positive impact of woodlands on wellbeing.
Artist Geraldine Pilgrim in her newly commissioned work Tattoo explores the "dynamics of carbon" with an ancient oak tree created from recycled branches sourced from the grounds at Hatfield House. Emerging from limestone boulders etched with constellations and crystal stars, the trunk and branches are tattooed with the shadows of the absent oak leaves highlighting how not only carbon black was used for the first tattoos but also how this "King of Elements", carbon, is made from the interiors of stars.
Researching the most effective carbon-capturing plants and fungi underpins a major science research programme at Wakehurst, Nature Unlocked. Using Wakehurst as a ‘living laboratory’ scientists are collecting carbon data across different habitats and exploring the previously untapped powers of underground fungal networks, or mycelium. Mycelium forms a key material in Wild Stones, a collaborative architectural piece from creative studio La Succulente, artist Côme di Meglio and designer We Want More. Forming a drinks bar with a difference, the piece is made entirely from fungi. Kindly donated to RBG Kew, the striking bar will sit in the Wakehurst landscape, providing a space for people to dwell and connect, and ultimately will decompose and serve as a fertiliser for the soil.
Further installations include a new trail of scorched ash tree monoliths, the remaining trunks and stumps of trees felled as a result of the fungal tree disease, ash dieback. The reflective trail serves as a stark reminder of the rate at which the deadly disease is killing ash across the country, commemorating their loss, whilst also drawing attention to new hope in the pioneering research which Kew scientists are undertaking to conserve ash for the future.
Visitors are invited to reflect on their time in nature in Forest Megaphones designed by Estonian artist Birgit Õigus. Returning to Wakehurst this summer, the three giant wooden megaphones, each measuring 3m in diameter, create the perfect place for visitors to sit, escape from everyday pressures, and feel grounded in a peaceful, beautiful setting.
Throughout the summer, visitors of all ages can also enjoy a series of activities and events for, from tree climbing workshops for children, to live performances, pop-up food stalls and botanical cocktails in a new series of vibrant evening events, Wakehurst Summer Nights. The UK’s largest outdoor art installation, Planet Wakehurst by artist Catherine Nelson, complete with a new viewing platform offering spectacular views across the garden, forms the perfect end to the Wakehurst summer experience.
Tickets for Rooted are on sale now: www.kew.org/rooted