TREE TIME ︎ THE ALTERNATIVE SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS ︎
Trees hold within them particular modes of time - deep time, future time, their own lifecycles, evidence of environmental and climate changes recorded in earth years, and through human interaction with them, the multigenerational lives of people.
Tree Time is a TACO! commissioned artist research project by the Alternative School of Economics. It looks at the specific relationship trees have with expansive notions of time as a useful tool for thinking about and re-understanding human relationships with the natural environment, ecological complexity, and imagining the future.
The project looks at the value ascribed to both trees in the context of an urgent climate crisis; the role of financial capitalism, green economies and neoliberal life in contributing to or mitigating climate change. It will also uses scientific analysis of a particular tree/s as a way to investigate the local ecosystem it supports.
Over the next 12 month The Alternative School of Economics will undertake activity around Thamesmead including walks, reading groups, screenings, talks and workshops that engage local people in a conversation about ecology and place. Outcomes from this learning together will be shared to a wider public through events, radio broadcasts and publications.
Research will also take in the Thamesmead Community Archive and London Metropolitan Archives, connect with people and community groups running local stakeholders involved in regeneration of public spaces, and invited scientific experts, local ecologists, climate activists, sound recordists, philosophers and others to collaborate in the learning process.
Tree Time draws on the specific urban context of Thamesmead and its history as London’s ‘new town’. Thamesmead’s brutalist architecture and social housing incorporates modernist principals in its design - including the ‘civilized subject’ and a particular relationship with the natural environment - such as waterways, parks and the separation of cars and pedestrians.
Thamesmead was built in a low-lying former marshland and a climate vulnerable area. 50 years after its founding its is charcterised as an area with an ethnically diverse population, undergoing extensive social and economic change, that is driven by the development of new transport infrastructure and the building of new homes. As the biggest regeneration project in London, and one of the biggest in the UK, it is a place where the future is being thought about and imagined.
The Tree Time project is predicated on the possibility of practical physical change undertaken locally by local people. By learning together we might catalyse change in our relationship to the environment and the wider global climate crisis. The project also sets out to explore the psychological challenge that the magnitude of the reality of climate change presents.
The Alternative School of Economics is a collaboration between artists Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck, initiated in 2012. As an ‘alternative school’, they link artists’ practice with self education as a way to study economics and economies. They are interested in reciprocal modes of learning and making, and their projects with communities create a framework for investigating political, social and cultural issues. They use diverse and creative methodologies, and collaborate with experts from a variety of fields, experience and disciplines from sociologists, writers, and economists to union activists, parents and poets, to produce film, graphics, photography, texts and clothing, as forms of activation, dissemination and reflection.
Recent projects include Artists’ Economies, a poster artwork around Oslo for 100 Years of Conviviality, UKS, Oslo, The End of the Present, digital publication and residency with Arts Catalyst, London & Sheffield, and True Currency: About Feminist Economics, a podcast series produced as part of a residency at Gasworks, London. They are also currently working on Rabbits Road Institute Library, a community collection and creative programme, as well as a project about the neoliberal imagination with Decentralising Political Economies, The Whitworth, Manchester / Liverpool John Moores University / The Association of Arte Útil.