The artwork has been commissioned to mark the opening of the University’s new Life Sciences building in the vicinity of the gardens and is produced by Bristol-based arts producers, Situations. The result of three years’ research and sourcing, the collection of tree species (one of the largest amassed in the UK to date) has been built through the generosity of arboretums, xylaria, herbaria and collectors world-wide. Over 10,000 unique tree species have been gathered from across the planet, from Yakushima, Japan to the White Mountains of California, with generous donations from the Herbario Nacional de México, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Kyoto University, the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard and many more.
Katie Paterson recalls: “Some samples are incredibly rare – fossils of unfathomable age, and fantastical trees such as Cedar of Lebanon, the Phoenix Palm, and the Methuselah tree thought to be one of the oldest trees in the World at 4,847 years of age, as well as a railroad tie taken from the Panama Canal Railway, which claimed the lives of between 5,000 to 10,000 workers over its 50 year construction and wood is salvaged from the remnants of the iconic Atlantic city boardwalk devastated by hurricane Sandy in 2012.”
The samples of wood span time and space and have been sourced from across the globe. From the oldest tree in the world to some of the youngest and near-extinct species, the tree samples contain within them stories of the planet’s history and evolution through time. From the Indian Banyan Tree, under which Buddha achieved enlightenment, to the Japanese Ginkgo tree in Hiroshima, a tree that witnessed and survived one of the darkest moments of human history.
Spanning millions of years, Hollow is a miniature forest of all the world’s forests, telling the history of the planet through the immensity of tree specimens in microcosm. The exterior cluster structure reflects a forest canopy’s ecosystem, the forms of the Douglas Fir posts reflecting the varying heights of trees. The interior of Hollow tells the history of the planet through over 10,000 unique tree species, from petrified wood fossils of the earliest forests that emerged 390 million years ago to the most recent emergent species.
Architects Christoph Zeller and Ingrid Moye recall: “The hollow interior is an introverted and meditative space where, whether sitting or standing, one finds oneself embraced by history. Our design conjoins thousands of wooden blocks of differing sizes to form one immense cosmos of wood producing textures, apertures and stalactites. Openings in the vaulted top let in just enough natural light to create the dappled light effect of a forest canopy.”
Professor Guy Orpen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol and Chair of its Public Arts Committee, said: “We’re very excited to see Hollow in situ at Royal Fort Gardens - it’s quite amazing to think that trees of all ages, from so many different families and from all corners of the earth, will be represented._
“It’s certainly a captivating way to celebrate the important work taking place in our world-leading Life Sciences building, where our researchers are studying many of the acute challenges which face humanity this century – such as food security, biodiversity loss and climate change. Hollow allows us to connect in new and previously unimagined ways with the beauty, complexity and depth of the natural world.”