Can art save us from extinction? It’s a bold, and some might say, naïve question. But what better a medium might there be to help humanity repair its connection with the natural world. A connection that goes beyond use-value, as is needed if we are to truly diverge from the path towards complete ecological and climate collapse that we are on.
The aim of developing ‘nature connectedness’ among people through art as a way of driving positive environmental change lies at the heart of The Oak Project, a new partnership between Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the University of Derby and the Bronze Oak Project Ltd. And this year’s World Environmental Day (5 June) will see the launch of its first artist commission, framed around this challenge to art as a restorative force.
Nestled within a stand of birch trees beside YSP’s Upper Lake, visitors will find ‘Silence – Alone in a World of Wounds’ – a sculptural space created by Heather and Ivan Morison of the artist-led creative practice Studio Morison. Built of natural materials, such as timber and thatch, the circular structure will exist as an extended open pavilion and oasis of calm, in which visitors are invited to engage in an act of solitary communion with the natural world. To stop and connect, to consider and experience, and to listen. The artists describe the work as a ‘gift of time and attention’ intended to open our eyes to the wounds that humans have inflicted upon nature and to deepen our desire to heal them.
Designed, of course, with great care for the environmental impact of the work, ‘Silence’ will gradually decompose; the materials (largely sourced from within the West Bretton estate at YSP) eventually returning to the ground from which they came. All the more reason to head out now and spend an hour or two with this special creation, and to revisit it as it changes and evolves over the years ahead.