Day, Charlotte, Melissa Ratliff

Tree Story brings together creative practices from around the world to create a ‘forest’ of ideas relating to critical environmental and sustainability issues. At its foundation—or roots—are Indigenous ways of knowing and a recognition of trees as our ancestors and family. The major international group exhibition and podcast will be accompanied by a reader, which connects tree stories across time and place.

Featuring varied contributions from thirty-three exhibiting artists and projects in a fully illustrated colour section—ranging from early 1970s environmental actions to studying plant communications—Tree Story will include newly commissioned and republished texts from artists, activists, ecologists, scholars, curators and authors that foreground First Nations’ knowledges, reflect on the rights and agency of trees, explore notions of cultural heritage, reveal knowledge of tree networks and consider loss in times of climate emergency.

Writing in the wake of the 2019 summer bushfires, Bundjalung and Wonnarua academic Vanessa I. Cavanagh explores relationships to trees and Country, drawing on her knowledge of cultural burning practices in Australia. Artist and barrister Nick Modrzewski presents a ficto-critical meeting of trees on the topic of legal personhood, and forest ecologist Suzanne Simard discusses the ‘wood-wide web’ and her work with elder trees and mycorrhizal networks in the forests of British Columbia. Artist and curator Madeline Collie considers colonial practices of terraforming and collective memorial processes in the face of species endangerment, and Gunditjmara Keerraay Woorroong Djab Wurrung woman Sissy Eileen Austin responds to the recent and tragic loss of a directions tree on Djab Wurrung Country. A yarn between artists and academics Brook Garru Andrew and Brian Martin reflects on Indigenous approaches to trees and culture, and author Sophie Cunningham brings us into more intimate and intuitive relation to trees through the lens of her Instagram account @sophtreeofday. Adding to this, several artists have contributed bilingual texts in English and Aboriginal languages.

Together, the diverse contributions in Tree Story pose the question: what can we learn from trees and the importance of Country?

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Monash University Publishing, April 2021.  216 pages, hardcover