OUR TREE is a community engaged participatory documentary that collates video and photographs, both amateur and professional footage, testimonials and interviews of the creation, public unveiling, and installation of The Blacksmiths Tree. The end result is a 3 channel video artwork available online and for public exhibition, a precursor to the full-length documentary.
In 2009, in response to the Black Saturday fires that devastated communities north-east of Melbourne, Australia, a local community of artists, artisans and others are came together to create a challenging and complex artwork, a stainless steel and copper gum tree, that saw a global community of blacksmiths pitch in to forge leaves for it. The Blacksmiths Tree, all 3 tonnes of it, took five years to construct.
In a climate of increasingly extreme weather, the conditions of Black Saturday may be seen again but hopefully the deep loss and devastation will not. The shock of the world and the warmth with which the public reached out finds form in The Blacksmiths Tree.
Despite the supportive attention in 2009, fire affected communities have struggled with life in the aftermath of fire. Grief, dis-empowerment and post-traumatic stress have fractured community connections in some areas and rifts have developed. Strangely, the assemblage of this structure, and the massive local and volunteer labour force required to complete it, has enabled rebuilding of some connections within communities.
While local residents have been engaged in The Tree Project on many levels over time, this fracturing in the local community in the wake of disaster (along with the fracturing of families and the lifestyles / livelihoods of individuals) has required gentle and focused community engagement and repair work that is ongoing. This documentary follows the creation of The Blacksmiths Tree and is solidifying this renewed cohesion throughout its production, creating a form for it that will travel into the future.
Our Tree is be lead by producer / artist Andrew Garton, a resident of Cottles Bridge having arrived in the area in 2009 when he commenced a 2 year residency at the Dunmoochin Foundation.
Andrew’s community and media arts practice draws on international and local experience covering three decades of collaborative projects, exhibitions, publications and events. He contributed to the founding of urban and regional community radio stations and has produced collaborative artworks in East Timor, Sarawak, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, South Africa and Tasmania.
Andrew intends to create a collaborative project with community participants sharing their photos and videos shot on mobiles and other devices on the day of the launch, creating a participatory production at the event, to capture the unveiling of The Tree as seen by the public, through their eyes and devices… that view, those moments, would then be assembled into a meaningful reflection on that day – an artist collaborating with the spontaneous ephemera as captured from various unique and personal angles and moments.
Andrew has, in the past year, been involved in the production of collaborative video works, from projections and documentaries, with the City of Whittlesea and their Into The Light event and was recently a recipient of a grant from the Nillumbik Shire Council towards the launch of his locally produced documentary and soundtrack about projection artist Hugh McSpedden, The Light Show.