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Archive for the ‘Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven’ Category

You can download a beautiful book of words and images created by Saturn Class, inspired by London Fieldworks’ Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven, in Duncan Terrace, just round the corner from St John Evangelist School. Just visit the downloads page.

You can also read the book online, using Bookleteer.com’s fabulous software.

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I’m still working on my final Winter Garden piece, which should be ready in a couple of weeks…

For now, here’s a sneak preview of some gorgeous work done by Saturn Class at St John The Evangelist School in Islington, inspired by London Fieldworks’ fabulous sculpture in Duncan Terrace.



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From my nest I can see the whole of London – patches of grass like fallen feathers, roads like fat grey worms.

From my nest I watch people buying shoes – they never think to look up.

From my nest I look through waxy green leaves at the darkening sky.

From my nest I watch the sea kiss the sand.

From my nest the footballers look like tiny ladybirds, I hear the crowds sing.

From my nest I watch the flick of sweat on horses’ flanks, and the earth spit beneath their hooves.

Inspired by Saturn class’s answers to the question If you were a bird where would you build your nest and why?

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Three busts and brackets
Forty vines in pots
An eight-day dial in Mahogany Case

Greenhouse plants
A large quantity of framing and wood
Three ground glass dwarf blinds

Categorised, bundled, tagged. Your numbers written in neat black ink: 16, 48, 9, 47, 38, 14. Useless, suddenly. Comic, even. You are looking for a place to go. A man shouts your name, one on a long list of memories; bangs a hammer; seals a deal. Uncleared. Cleared. Gone.

Inspired by archive research into Cremorne Gardens, site of London Fieldwork’s Secret Garden Project Commission and Ballooning, Balancing, Balconies and Birds: a story walk on 27th July, and 4 new Word Garden texts.

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“You’re just a good-for-nothing ailanthus stump sprout,” Yin’s grandmother had told her when she was still young enough to worry about monsters in the cupboard at the end of the hallway. It was just one in a line of recriminations – Yin was rude, irresponsible, she would never grow into something great.

It could have gone either way, Yin realised, years later. She might have faded into one of those invisible types whose bodies curve and cower – who seem to apologise for so much as breathing. But her grandmother had underestimated her. She wasn’t an ailanthus stump; she had grown tall and true, and like the ailanthus she was hardy and defiant. The Tree of Heaven was a survivor: it could breathe in pollution, navigate concrete, thrive in the city shadows.

Yin wished, sometimes, that her grandmother could see her now – a woman wearing a smart grey dress and kitten heels, a briefcase in one hand, a smile on her lips, comfortable in the city streets.

Inspired by the mythology and growing habits of the Tree of Heaven. London Fieldworks have created two sculptural installations drawing on the ecology and biodiversity of  Cremorne Gardens, Chelsea, and Duncan Terrace, Islington. Both have been installed in Ailanthus altissima trees; known as the ‘Tree of Heaven’

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The Tree of Heaven. Photograph: Darkone, 2005

“The tree of heaven makes a beautiful specimen tree for a large garden or a stunning shrub where space is limited, provided it is cut back hard each spring. It is grown for its attractive foliage and colourful, winged fruit, which follows the small, green, summer flowers.”
BBC Plant Finder

“Britain faces a fate worthy of the Book of Revelation. According to botanists, the Tree of Heaven is set to make life hell on Earth for our gardeners.
Ailanthus altissima, which gets its heavenly nickname from its ability to grow rapidly to heights of 80 feet or more, has begun spreading alarmingly across the landscape and poses an imminent threat to plant health and biodiversity in Britain. […]

Using a strategy called allelopathy, Ailanthus leaks toxins into the ground which prevent the germination and establishment of other species in its vicinity. It is very tolerant of pollution and soil disturbance and at home in an urban habitat, earning it the nickname ‘Ghetto Palm’ in New York.”
Rob Davies The Observer, Sunday 17 September 2006

“There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly…survives without sun, water, and seemingly earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.”
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith, 1943

London Fieldworks have created two sculptural installations drawing on the ecology and biodiversity of  Cremorne Gardens, Chelsea, and Duncan Terrace, Islington. Both have been installed in Ailanthus altissima trees; known as the ‘Tree of Heaven’

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Listen to Jo Joelson talking about London FieldWorks’ commission: Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven

–    Hi, I’ve just moved in, across the way. Yes, that’s right. I –
–    Oh, of course, I can see you’re in the middle of – I just wanted –
–    Yes, that’s right, the one with the square-ish balcony. It’s lovely out there – a good view; that’s important I’ve always thought, gives you a sense of space, stops you getting too inward-looking.
–    Oh, do you think so? I rather like it. Though I have to say these arched windows of yours are quite special.
–    Crowded? I don’t know, you should have seen where we used to live. My mother used to call it cosy. Ha! No, there’s plenty of room here; and it’s nice, don’t you think, to be close to your neighbours?
–    Planning permission? They scrapped that idea years ago didn’t they? Don’t you remember the bill – Spontaneous Cities?
–    Oh, you did? I see. I remember there was some opposition, yes.
–    Well, it’s good to meet you. I’ve always made a point of getting to know my neighbours. You must feel free to knock – any time, if there’s anything you need.
–    Or a chat?
–    Up to you, of course. I’ll be seeing you around.

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