Statement on Soil unsoiled by Khady Gueye and Zakiya Mckenzie

The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust is a small charity led by volunteers, and we commission sculptures for a free-of-charge Forest site at Beechenhurst, which is owned and managed by Forestry England. Whilst we have had to cancel and postpone many events and commissions this year due to the pandemic, we remain excited and hopeful for 2021.

 

On 22nd November, Gloucestershire Live published an article featuring Soil unsoiled, a commission we have been developing with Forest of Dean based Khady Gueye and Bristol poet Zakiya Mckenzie. Khady’s work with Eleni Eldridge-Tull to establish a local equality organisation has received international attention, shining an important spotlight on human rights in the Forest of Dean and rural communities. We are honoured and delighted to be working with Khady and Zakiya and have been uplifted by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this project. We thank everyone for their support and encouragement.

 

We recently released a film of the new poem that Khady and Zakiya collaborated on, and we are in the early stages of planning to inscribe the poem onto a sculpture to be sited on the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. We will keep you posted on our progress.

 

Social media is a platform we use to celebrate and share stories about the work of our artists and community partners. We welcome respectful debate about our sculptures, but it saddens us to read comments in response to the Gloucestershire Live article that are offensive and intimidating on a personal level about our artists and team members. We strive to give a platform to underrepresented voices and new stories about the Forest. We do not believe anyone should be excluded from the arts in their community on basis of race, gender, age, economic background or disability.

 

The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail was established in 1986 to commission sculptures to “act as catalysts for our imaginations, releasing new ideas in us about our relationship to nature and the environment, and prompting a sense of awe and wonder.”

 

The artworks you see on the trail are not simply placed here, but have developed and are inspired by the place – from its history and its material qualities. Soil unsoiled follows in the footsteps of this founding ethos.

 

We wish to reflect and connect with the diversity of lived experience and hidden heritage in the Forest of Dean, and to collaborate with artists both local, national and international.

 

Over the past few years we have worked with a wide range of local people including young carers, disabled children and adults, and people living with dementia. Most recently Kristina Veasey, a disabled artist, has been exploring the social history of the Forest, exploring issues of inequality, activism and resilience. Kristina will also be unveiling a new public artwork next year.

 

Thank you again for supporting our work with diverse artists. We remain committed to commissioning sculptures that spark new awareness of the beautiful, unique and ever-inspiring landscape and people of the Forest of Dean.

 

Staff and Trustees of the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust

New film commissions

ALEC FINLAY AND KRISTINA VEASEY LAUNCH TWO FILMS EXPLORING LANDSCAPE AND DISABILITY IN LOCKDOWN:

The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust is proud to have worked with artists Kristina Veasey and Alec Finlay on two short film commissions.

The films were created in response to the artists’ experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown and the challenges faced, through their respective disabilities, in having limited access to nature and the outside world.

Kristina Veasey image © the artist

Kristina Veasey has been working with the FODST, in partnership with Unlimited, on a Research & Development commission for the past 18 months.

‘If Only Beds Could Fly’ reflects on the artist Kristina Veasey’s exploration of solidarity and resilience within the heritage, landscape and people of the Forest of Dean. The conversations, research and forest immersion that were central to her project were halted when the pandemic struck, but as a disabled artist who is often laid up, she was no stranger to weaving round obstacles and overcoming barriers.

Despite being hundreds of miles away, virtual forest bathing and long-distance conversations, brought connection in a time of isolation and inspired new work full of celebration. ‘If Only Beds Could Fly’ invites viewers to share in the artist’s journey to this unique part of the country.

 

 

Alec Finlay. Photo © Mhairi Law

Alec Finlay is an internationally recognized artist and poet whose work crosses over a range of media and forms. Much of Finlay’s work considers how we relate to landscape and ecology.

Alec’s poetic essay, ‘On not walking’, is a personal account of his experience of disability – living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E) since 1991, and the severe impact of Coronavirus, since March 2020.

The text reflects on walking (and not walking), experiences of pain and limit, and creative acts of witness. The accompanying film documents a short trip along cycle paths using an e-scooter, which allowed the artist to re-enter the world, or, at least, travel as far as his local beach.

The essay is an extract from a longer text, which will be published by the American poetry blog Harriet, and will eventually be the centrepiece of a book on disability and rewilding, exploring the concept of a culture of remediation.

Alec’s mother, Sue Finlay, lives locally near Lydney. She installed Ian Hamilton Finlay’s ‘Grove of Silence’ as part of the Sculpture Trail in 1986.

The two new films were supported by funding from Arts Council England Emergency Response Funding. With additional support from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Kristina Veasey’s residency is part of a partnership with Unlimited.