World Tree (part two)

A ten-metre native Cypress tree, salvaged from a dry Australian forest, stretches horizontally across the gallery on clinical white trestles. A network of copper pipes sprouts from the whorls of bark where branches had formerly grown. This gleaming apparatus curves and dives to meet the geometric mainline to deliver a soundtrack to six sets of headphones and Cypress bench seats. At the roots of the tree, copper conduit connects it to a solar battery and regulator and a solar panel mounted in a sunny window.

Listeners hear a soundtrack of climate change that seems to emit from the tree itself; the squeak of ice abrading rock as a glacier melts; the friction of trunks and branches that rub, creak, sigh and shudder; and the guttural, woody call of an endangered arboreal mammal, the Koala, who seems to have learnt the language of the trees, and makes the same complaint. It is a language and a message we ourselves must learn and heed.

We estimated our greenhouse gas emissions for this project to be 3.5 tonnes. We offset this through which invests in accredited green power projects, in our case a Turkish wind farm for $A67.80.

As with Alison’s World Tree (Part One) installed in Sydney in 1997, (a cypress with a living hive of bees housed in its branches), we are inspired by the ancient Norse concept of the World Tree. Called Yggdrasil, this tree held the cosmos together – its trunk centred the world, the land of the living, and its branches supported the heavens, the realm of the gods. The roots delved deep into the underworld, home of the dead. As magic deer constantly browsed its foliage, spirits replenished its roots with water from a sacred well, in an endless cycle of depletion and renewal. For this new work we were motivated by the science of climate change.

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