"Art, Trees, and the Enchantment of the Anthropocene: Caroline Wendling’s White Wood"

Macpherson, Alan | from Multimedia Library Collection:

Macpherson, Alan. “Art, Trees, and the Enchantment of the Anthropocene: Caroline Wendling’s White Wood.” Environmental Humanities 10, no. 1 (2018): 241-56. https://doi.org/10.1215/22011919-4385552.

The objective of this article is to think through the concepts of deep time and enchantment with Caroline Wendling’s White Wood (2014), a living artwork in northeast Scotland. The first part of the article establishes the relationship between deep time, ecology, and enchantment and the role of art in exploring this relationship. Concepts that enfold deep time and ecology like the Anthropocene and Timothy Morton’s “mesh” have the power to enchant because, in Mark A. Schneider’s terms, they expose us to “something both real and at the same time uncanny, weird, mysterious, or awesome.” Allied to this, Jane Bennett’s claim that an enchanted sensibility can be cultivated strategically, combined with Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin’s assertion that artistic strategies offer an important way of engaging with the Anthropocene, establish the context for approaching White Wood. The second part of the article then offers an extended reading of the artistic strategies employed in White WoodWhite Wood is a small deciduous woodland conceived by Wendling and created in collaboration with the community of Huntly. Among the many hundred trees planted were forty-nine oak saplings grown from acorns produced by trees planted as part of Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Oaks project in Kassel, Germany (begun 1982). I consider Wendling’s project through the interrelated themes of regeneration, participation, and the layering of temporalities that it likewise inherits from 7000 Oaks. In this way I demonstrate how the temporal and participatory openness that inheres in White Wood can cultivate the sense of enchantment that Morton identifies as one of the conditions of thinking ecologically across vast spatial, temporal, and agential scales—a thinking that is demanded by the Anthropocenic reframing of humanity. (Text from author’s abstract)

© Alan Macpherson 2018. Environmental Humanities is available online only and is published under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).