Phoebe Boswell: A Tree Says [In These Boughs The World Rustles]

Phoebe Boswell: A Tree Says [In These Boughs The World Rustles]

Orleans House Gallery

October 5, 2023
Phoebe Boswell
A Tree Says [In These Boughs The World Rustles]
July 9–November 5, 2023
Orleans House Gallery
Orleans Road
Twickenham TW1 3BL
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm

T +44 20 8831 6000
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Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. —Hermann Hesse, “Trees Are Sanctuaries”.

In this immersive new work, the artist Phoebe Boswell inhabits Orleans House Gallery and its surrounding woodlands, engaging the audience in an intergenerational call and response, where trees become repositories of enquiry. Boswell creates a sanctuary for us to raise our questions and listen to the voices of our elders as they endeavour to articulate what it means to live. 

What are the questions you have always wanted to ask? What advice do you need right now? What do you still need to know? 

Taking inspiration from Hermann Hesse’s “Trees are Sanctuaries”, the artist gathered questions through an open call which became the basis of her interviews with a vast and global group of ​​elders: from a freedom-loving feminist activist from Gorée; to an Irish ex-nun turned actress; to a Greek scientist with a passion for plants; to a psychologist from Zimbabwe who engaged grandmothers in an ecosystem of care for his community; to the first Black woman to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale. These recorded exchanges form the basis of A Tree Says [In These Boughs The World Rustles] and unfurl into an expansive and participatory installation. The exhibition includes embedded sound, interactive sculpture, site responsive wall drawings, film, sonic compositions, and small, intimate pencil studies; ​all ​encouraging the audience to spend time both inside the gallery and outside, in nature. 

Boswell invites audiences to explore and honour our personal and collective strengths, vulnerabilities, triumphs, sorrows, contradictions—our rage and our love; our knowns and unknowns—through storytelling and the radical act of listening. The work is about memory, history, place, and the importance of intergenerational exchange. With delicate yet rigorous energy, Boswell transforms the site into a sanctuary. Through the generous recollections and contemplations of the elders, visitors are invited to connect to lineages of knowledge and be guided by the inherent wisdom of the natural world. 

Phoebe Boswell: “Making this work has been endlessly rewarding. Taking the time to sit with each participant, listening as the wind their way through the sometimes fluid sometimes knotty paths of their lives has been an immense honour. A revelation. I have learned a lot. Mostly about courage, and dignity, humour, love, and simply how to live in our own bodies as well as in relation to one another. Whenever I make work that invites participation, I am stunned by the generosity and trust inherent in the bond. It is this that informs the work—it becomes what it needs to be—and I am very grateful.” 

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Orleans House Gallery
October 5, 2023

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