Synthetic Copse: Our Ash Hospital (2018)
Performance in East Blean Woods, Kent (with musician, Howard Gott)
Adam Chodzko’s performance of Synthetic Copse: Our Ash Hospital led members of the public through East Blean Woods, near Canterbury, Kent, as a path into the near future through making a funeral procession for the UK’s last remaining ash tree. Focussed on the spread of the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, (a sack like fungus that causes ash dieback, also known as Chalara dieback of ash) Chodzko presented the woodland as being in the process of becoming mostly synthetic, apart from a few mutations, with most of the plants and trees biohacked for the purposes of human memory storage. He described the woods as gradually becoming a site of psychological and physiological transformation; “…high on formic acid, and the mildews, the fraxin and mannitol in the ash tree, and muscarine from the fungi, the strobing of sunlight through the tree canopy, the voice of the fly buzzing around our ears… we’re now in a different state. We are very different from what we were when we came in… Our consciousness of ourselves passing through this wood is only an illusion, a projection of throught from the last ash tree as it died”
Chodzko’s references during the walk ranged from the alchemical role of formica ants, the graphic design of ‘magic money trees’ facilitating neoliberalism’s belief in inexorable economic growth of, St. Hildegard of Bingen, church bell and violin music and the acoustic space of woodland, ailing children passed through clefts in ash trees, Brion Gysin and dream machines, the emotional responses to different leaf shapes, the doctrine of signatures and the projection of the sick human body into nature, Ulisse Aldrovandi, Werner Herzog in Burden of Dreams, plant growth and tree sex, inosculation and grafting, trees with minijack and USB ports, fungi and muscarine poisoning, DEFRA, UKIP, viridiol, Betty the super-tolerant ash tree, the emerald ash borer beetle, Alex Garland’s Annihilation, Donnie Darko, Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, an Anne Carson poem and parsnips.
Synthetic Copse: Our Ash Hospital, brought together three particular themes running through Chodzko’s work: The woods as a site of the human imaginary (eg: Nightvision (1998), Flasher (1996 -), Involva (1995), Sowmat (2007) etc). The accidental spread of disease in plants caused through human ambition (eg: Adaptation (2013), Desert Island (2013) etc). And the possibilities of art being deployed in order to re-programme consciousness in relation to the environment (eg: Deep Above (2016) and Ghost (2010 -) etc).
Chodzko had previously devised and organised a series of artists walks, open to the public, as a collaboration between the University of Kent’s School of Music and Fine Art and Whitstable Biennale. The events aimed to test the proposition that a walking journey with an artist could be as valuable as hearing her or him address a lecture theatre, and that shared first-hand experience of sights and sounds while moving together through a landscape could reveal something that slides and video clips do not. The walks were with artists Goshka Macuga, Ruth Ewan, Mike Nelson, Janice Kerbel.
Synthetic Copse: Our Ash Hospital was commissioned by Whitstable Biennale and the Ash Project.
Photos by Rosie Lonsdale
A ‘Haywain’ Moment (2014)
Spare Room (2014)
Ghost (2010 – ongoing) [ project with Groundwork, Cornwall, 2018 ]
Deep Above (2016)
We are Ready for Your Arrival (2013) [ exhibition at Raven Row, London, 2013 ]
Desert Island (2013)