At the Laguna Art Museum in California is set up Burghers of Cali a Ballad of Redwood Spirits by Andre Woodward, a sound installation that brings together the famous tree cubes with the latest work by Redwood Spirits.
At the center of his installation he draws attention to California’s Coastal Redwoods (sequoia sempervirens), the tallest trees on earth able to live to be 2500 years old. Today, there are less than 5% of old growth coastal redwood forests left due to the merciless harvesting of the wood for human consumption in the 19th to early 20th centuries. The loss of these forests and the biodiversity they supported has markedly contributed to today’s issues with climate and environment.
Woodward’s installation is an arrangement of redwood burls that were once fashioned into coffee tables. Within these slices of tree, Woodward imagines that ancient redwood spirits still dwell. He helps the viewer come to the same conclusion by positioning each on long legs and orienting the wood so the viewer anthropomorphizes the natural crevices, openings and growth patterns of each piece. Surrounding the spirits are trees encased in cement cubes and a speaker installation emitting a soundtrack of ancient forests, vocal recordings and sounds of urban life – all of which represent today’s complex natural world. The installation and its title are inspired by, and a play on, Auguste Rodin’s bronze sculptural installation Burghers of Calais, an arrangement of six wealthy men of the bourgeoisie class who intended to sacrifice themselves to save the town of Calais from total annihilation. Woodward’s arrangement reenacts this story and presents us with a nightmarish confrontation: now after decades of sleep in the mid-century shag carpeted dens of California these spirits have awakened to view the world as we have made it.
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