What if we memorialized ecological loss like we did battles? (Alan Sonfist, environmental artist, 1968)
Taking the material wreckage of the recent extreme weather events in the Dandenong Ranges as its
starting point, To the fallen trees is a public and performative artwork.
A series of community activations have created space and connection for local citizens and workers to explore eco-anxiety through affective engagement at the site of One Tree Hill where dozens of tall, almostcenturian Eucalyptus trees lay in neat piles in the months following the windstorms of June 2021.
The public writing and reading of letters to these fallen trees, draw attention to ecological loss, hold space for collective memory, and create local meaning making while activating social care. The
documentation of these community poetics will inform the creation of a collective memorial for the
fallen trees in audio and visual forms.
While I wrote a letter (see below), I was unable to peform it due to prior commitments. My father, Richard Farnsworth, was kind enough to peform my piece for me.
Letter to the Fallen Trees
Written by Katelin Farnsworth
Performed by Richard Farnsworth
I never knew you. Not like that, anyway. I mean, I guess I thought I knew you. You know, in the way we humans think we know things. But really, when it comes down to it, we don’t know a thing.
The crunch of leaves.
The swirl of bark.
Texture in everything. The smallest moments are sometimes the biggest.
My hands, reaching for your hands. Green everywhere. Except it’s not green. It’s brown and grey and speckled. Every colour. No colour.
It’s funny, isn’t it. I’ve been hearing you for so long but never took the time to listen. Now you’ve fallen and it feels a bit like I’ve fallen too. Look, I guess what I’m trying to say is: I’m sorry.
Sorry that I took you for granted.
A violent crash.
Noise, so ceaseless. Silence, so loud it made my head ache. Churning wind. Darkness, lightness, everything in between.
Puffing. Movement. On and on it went. But the stillness was almost more terrifying.
Do you remember what you told me once? The whisperings about strength, holding on, finding a way forward. You were always so good at telling me about hope without it feeling like a lecture. I remember summers with you. The sun, so bright on my face, your breath on my breath. That’s what I remember, the way you held me without even touching me.
When you fell, everything changed. Shook. Trembled. Came undone. Black, white, nothing. My world, your world, different forever.
Still, I remember what you told me. It will be okay. There will be new life. You cannot stop growth, you said, and I knew you were right.
I miss you. I mourn you. But I believe you. There will be growth again.