Site_Specific International Land Art Project

Trees were the focus of the two interventions I made for the Site_Specific International Land Art Project held at Plettenberg Bay. The politics surrounding trees has been, and still is, a dominant one in the area. From the historical export of the finest trees from the Knysna forest to the current invasion of the landscape by invasive alien species.

The intervention which I called Trek took place in the ruin of the old timber shed. The title ‘Trek’ refers both to the act of pulling and a journey. I placed three Keurbome (Virgilia oroboides)[1]in the site as an act of reparation for the trees that were felled and stored in this shed from 1787 to approximately 1937. But while working in the shed I felt the ghostly presence of the animals whose labour had contributed to the export of the timber. Mule trains from Knysna and oxen were used to drag the trees to the shed and often into the sea to the waiting ships. These animals’ presence is reflected in their ghostly images, which I daubed onto the wall of the shed in clay slip. The traces of their harnesses, represented by discarded linen ropes, were left lying on the floor of the shed ruins.

Good Grief is a statement about journeys, foreignness and inappropriate settlement. The words are simultaneously an exclamation of surprise and an expression of loss for a more natural order. I ‘planted’ a flowering wild pear, (Dombeya Rotundifolia) in the tidal zone on the most public bathing beach in Plettenberg Bay. The words ‘Good Grief” were etched into the sand and filled with iron oxide[2]. The second high tide washed the words away and threatened to drag the tree into the sea. It’s job complete at Site-Specific, it was rescued and replanted in a happier location on Angus Greig’s Farm, Ebenezer.

 

[1] V. oroboides is the tree of the year 2013

[2] For the etching of these words into the sand I am most grateful to beach calligrapher par excellence, Andrew van der Merwe.