In 2015 visitors to Leigh Woods in Bristol had an unexpected encounter with a flotilla of abandoned fishing boats installed in the depths of a nature reserve on the edge of Bristol. The art installation by celebrated Bristol based artist Luke Jerram was entitled ‘Withdrawn’ and came about thanks to the National Trust and their partners, the Forestry Commission who commissioned it as part of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital in 2015.
"Putting culture right at the heart of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital means many people will be inspired – and provoked – by great art that encourages us all to think about the way we live.”Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England
A beautiful, surreal and poetic vision in the woods, the sound of the wind in the trees is reminiscent of the sound of the waves, all of the boats in Withdrawn pointing in the same direction, as if turned by the tide or moving together. Miles from the sea, how did they get there? Were they left by a receding tidal surge or a changing coast line? Or was this the effect of over fishing, causing fish stocks to collapse and with it the industry? This thought-provoking and engaging installation promoted the discussion of climate change, extreme weather, falling fish stocks and our impact on the marine environment.
Bought off Ebay and Gumtree for just a few hundred pounds, the old boats were decommissioned by the artist and made safe for their installation. As well as engines and fuel tanks being removed, the decks had been reinforced to allow performances to take place on board. The boats rigging had been stripped down and simplified, to highlight their simple sculptural forms.
The artwork was designed for the public to stumble upon and explore in the woodland. Inside the cabin, the contents left behind by the previous boat owners, remained. Life jackets, compasses, log books and even old spectacles, these remnants were covered in cobwebs and dust. On the outside of the boats, scratches left by the fishing nets being drawn in and barnacles could even be found waiting in hope for the tide to turn.
The installation was also a venue for a series of events taking place over the summer including marine and environmental discussions, sound installations, theatrical performances and interactive workshops, staged both in the daytime and at night.
Luke Jerram, artist stated:
“I wanted to raise awareness around the decline of the fishing industry in the South West. For several decades, unsustainable fishing practices, have caused fish stocks of many species to collapse. With less fish in the sea, it’s often not financially viable to use a small fishing vessel to fish with. Withdrawn is also a response to the extreme weather and apocalyptic imagery we’ve seen in the media recently – the floods on the Somerset Levels last winter and further afield, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Japan, where cars were floating down streets and houses submerged in water.
“The positioning of these boats in Leigh Woods presents a similarly uncanny scenario that reminds us of a possible future if we don’t address climate change now. I hope Withdrawn will appeal to different audiences in different ways as the seasons change and events bring in people from diverse walks of life.”
Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said;
“This is an exciting and engaging project from an exceptional artist that will certainly capture the imagination of visitors to Leigh Woods. Putting culture right at the heart of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital means many people will be inspired – and provoked – by great art that encourages us all to think about the way we live.”
Withdrawn was commissioned by the National Trust’s Trust New Art programme and was delivered in partnership with Forestry Commission England’s Forest Art Works programme as part of Bristol 2015.
At the end of the project, the boats were given away.
Free Children’s Book
The Bristol Giants & the Severn Seas written by Oliver Rigby and illustrated by Tom Bonson, follows Goram & Ghyston’s adventures and shares the story of how the boats of Withdrawn came to be in the middle of Leigh Woods, to the surprise of children across Bristol.
“The idea is that if parents read this story to their children at bedtime, they can then surprise them the next day with a visit to Leigh Woods to allow them to discover fishing boats” said Luke.
You can now download your free copy of The Bristol Giants & the Severn Seas from www.bristolgiants.co.uk
Luke Jerram’s multidisciplinary practice involves the creation of sculptures, installations, live arts projects and gifts. Living in Bristol but working internationally since his career began in 1997, Jerram has created a number of extraordinary art projects which have excited and inspired people around the globe. He is currently Visiting Senior Research Fellow at CFPR, University of West of England.
Jerram is known worldwide for his large scale public engagement artworks. His celebrated street pianos installation ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ has been presented in over 55 cities so far, reaching an audience to date of over 10 million people around the world. Launched by the French Minister of Culture in Paris and Mayor Bloomberg in NYC, the installation has received press coverage in almost every newspaper and television station around the globe.
In 2000 Jerram taught in war torn Mostar, Bosnia and he continues to teach and lecture both in the UK and abroad. His most notable lectures include those at The Banff Centre, ROM – Royal Ontario Museum, ICA – Institute of Contemporary Art, Corning Museum, The Wellcome Collection, Royal College of Art, The Ruskin School of Art, University of Washington, and Nagoya University.
Withdrawn was commissioned by the National Trust’s Trust New Art Bristol contemporary art programme and was delivered in partnership with Forestry Commission England’s Forest Art Works programme as part of Bristol 2015.
It was one of six arts projects funded by the Arts Council England Exceptional Fund as part of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital. The Bristol 2015 arts and culture projects were delivered by national portfolio organisation the Bristol Culture Development Partnership (BDCP), and played a central part in helping people see sustainability in a new light.
“The positioning of these boats in Leigh Woods presents a similarly uncanny scenario that reminds us of a possible future if we don’t address climate change now. I hope Withdrawn will appeal to different audiences in different ways as the seasons change and events bring in people from diverse walks of life.”Luke Jerram