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Arnolfini - est 1961
Jumana Manna. Wild Relatives, 2018.
(Cross Pollination) Photo Marte Vold.
Courtesy the artist.

Arnolfini welcomes you to celebrate what lies above and below the forest floor with Forest: Wake this Ground, a major group exhibition including artists, writers, filmmakers, and composers from across the globe:
Rodrigo Arteaga, Mark Garry, Alma Heikkilä, Eva Jospin, Jumana Manna, Zakiya Mckenzie, David Nash, Maria Nepomuceno, John Newling, Rose Nguyen, Ben Rivers, Ai Weiwei, and Hildegard Westerkamp.

With works that recycle, reuse and repurpose resources, we will be discovering the forests’ ancient rhythms, as well as exploring stories, myths, and folktales, passed down between people over centuries.

The exhibition is accompanied by a programme that includes live performance, film, family events and creative workshops we will be inviting you to share and create your own ‘forest tales’ and to very gently encourage us all to take a look at the impact the changing climate has on nature and the world around us.

Forest: Wake this Ground’s final weekend includes Salvage Rhythms, an ongoing work which uses live performance, sound, film, text and collage to explore what humans can learn about how the other critters, organisms and intelligences we share this planet with come together in hidden, surprising and dynamic ways. Arnolfini will be home to the longest iteration of the performance yet – a total of three hours – with audiences free to come and go throughout.

For more details, please click here.

Forest: Wake this Ground also marks the start of Arnolfini’s renewed approach to sustainable practice that will see an increased focus across all our activities and the implementation of a new sustainable action plan. We look forward to sharing our work with you as a core part of our programme.

Featured artists and their works in Forest: Wake this Ground include:

Chilean artist Rodrigo Arteaga deals with topical issues around absence and presence in his vast burned drawing series Monocultures, documenting the radical change in the forest floor, resulting from a major, government backed planting of the Monterey pine tree, now threatening many indigenous species. A new commission by Arteaga, Fallen Tree, has also be made in response to local woodland on residency in the UK.

Irish artist and composer Mark Garry’s film An Lucht Siúil (The Walking People) looks at the relationships between land, movement and ownership through richly intertwined songs sung in both English and Shelta (the language of Irish travellers). A work first shown in his solo show Songs and the Soil.

Finnish artist Alma Heikkilä, whose work Flashing Decaying Wood, is made in part from pine wood, mycelium and alder flower ink, recreates the microscopic world beneath our feet, physically decomposing on the gallery floor.

French artist Eva Jospin’s towering and immersive sculpture Forêt Palatine, made from recycled cardboard, reflects the multiple material lives that have sprung from the rich resources of the forest. Its fantastical almost mythic depiction also hauntingly forewarns us of the possibility of their disappearance.

In her 2018 documentary, Wild Relatives, Palestinian artist Jumana Manna explores the tensions between human need and natural resources. Through the journey of seeds and the migrant women responsible for their replanting, the film tells the story of the Arctic’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Language and soil lie at the heart of Bristol-based Zakiya McKenzie’s poetry, including Soil Unsoiled (originally commissioned by the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust in collaboration with Khady Gueye) and Primordial Mother Speaks for Herself. McKenzie examines whose bodies belong to the forest, tracing her own ancestral threads to shine a light on racial inequality in rural spaces, bringing new timbre to the forests’ many narratives.

The ideas behind British artist David Nash’s ever-growing charcoal drawing The Family Tree 1967 to 2019, evolve like the trunk of a tree, that thickens and strengthens from the energy provided by each branch, providing a catalogue of decades of practice working with wood in multiple forms.

Intertwining her own ancestral threads, Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno’s complex woven sculptures utilise traditional craft and basketry techniques, reminiscent of plant and organic structures. A new woven-straw installation has also been commissioned which will be completed on site through ceramics made by Arnolfini’s community partners.

John Newling extracts soil from the ground to reveal the history of his own leaf-strewn back garden in Ground; language from the cores and a newly commissioned work, The Night Books burning forests, made from pulped texts, coal dust and crushed charcoal. The work physically released carbon through the process of making, re-enacting the exchange that lies at the heart of the forest floor’s survival.

Rosa Nguyen’s fragile ceramic and glass sculptures incorporate both living and dead botanical forms. Drawn together in a new installation the artist explores the ‘above and below’ of nature through hand-made porcelain, soil and hand-sized ceramic roots.

Ben Rivers’ film Look Then Below looks to the future, journeying into a subterranean world. Shot beneath the Mendip hills and ancient woodland in Somerset, the film reimagines a future in which the full impact of environmental damage inflicted by man is felt.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s monumental upended ‘roots’, cast from the ancient and endangered Pequi Vinagreiro tree (found in the Bahian rainforest), reflect both the uprootedness of arboreal species and the displacement of people.

Canadian composer and sound ecologist Hildegard Westerkamp’s Beneath the Forest Floor was recorded in the old-growth forests of Canada’s Carmanah Valley in 1992. This creaking sound work transports the stillness and peace of these ancient forests to Arnolfini, asking us to consider if these trees still stand today.

‘Wake this Ground’ is  a line from the poem Soil Unsoiled, 2021, by Zakiya McKenzie and Khady Gueye, commissioned for Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail.

We offer a range of tools to help you explore Forest: Wake this Ground in different ways:

Gallery Guide
To help you navigate your way around the exhibition, copies are available in the galleries, as well as for you to download below.

Click here to download the Forest: Wake this Ground Gallery Guide by Tjawangwa Dema

Designed by B Squared Studio

Printed by Earthbound Press

Forest Facts and Finds

Click here to download the Forest: Wake this Ground Facts and Finds

Designed by B Squared Studio

Forest Zine

Click here to download the Forest: Wake this Ground Zine

Designed by Jade Harding and Indiana Lawrence

Printed by Earthbound Press

Audio Descriptions
There are audio descriptions of the works in the exhibition, accessible via QR Code in all the Galleries.

You can also hear them here:

Our friends at Ujima Radio spoke with Forest: Wake this Ground artist Rodrigo Arteaga about his practice and his Artist in Resident placement with UWE Bristol.

Please click here or below to listen.

Sustainability Statement

Forest: Wake this Ground marks the start of Arnolfini’s renewed approach to sustainable practice that will see an increased focus across all our activities and the implementation of a new sustainable action plan.

This is a still image taken from a 16mm film by Ben Rivers called Look Then Below. The image is of a forest and contains tree trunks, ferns and the forest floor. The still image is overlaid with a colourful light filter of pink, blue and green which blurs the forest behind.

Click here to download the Arnolfini Sustainability Statement

An Lucht Siúil (The walking people) – Transcript of the film dialogue by Mark Garry

A still image taken from a film called Lucht Siúil (The Walking People) made by Mark Garry. The image is of a horse seen from the side stood in a field. Only the head and shoulders are visible and the field behind is blurred by the summer light.

Click here to download the An Lucht Siúil (The walking people) – Transcript of the film dialogue by Mark Garry

Introduction text

Read the text above as a plain text pdf.

A photograph of an artwork called The Family Tree by David Nash. The image is of a work a pastel and charcoal drawing on paper. The drawing contains a number of small drawings of different sculptures and installations created by Nash. Black lines link different works together like a map. The small drawings are red, orange, yellow, brown, ash grey and black

Click here to download the Forest: Wake this Ground Introduction Text

a view of the foyer wall, from the stairwell in Arnolfini, the wall is painted in Jewel Beetle 303, a colour by Little Greene Paint Company. With a quote by artist Rosa Nguyen applied in white vinyl which reads: ‘For me, the plants are like drawn lines, and they act like a conduit of energy interlinking all my objects, the past and the present, and me to nature.’


a logo for Little Green Paint and Paper

We are so grateful to Little Greene for generously providing us with a selection of paint that forms an integral, and rather luscious, part of Forest: Wake this Ground installations and public areas at Arnolfini.

Little Greene are an independent, family-run business, based in the UK, committed to the socially and environmentally responsible production of high-quality paints and wallpapers.


Read/ watch interviews, reviews and features about Forest: Wake this Ground below:

 The Guardian logo on circular icon, with a background image of Rodrigo Arteaga's Installation Work

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