City of Trees

A peek into the construction of our part of the Centenary of Canberra celebrations

Today we launch our latest exhibition, part of the Centenary of Canberra celebrations - City of Trees. It is the creation of British artist Jyll Bradley who, in 2011, was invited to Canberra by Robyn Archer to explore its potential for a Centenary project.  It became clear immediately that the city’s trees were intrinsic to its history. ‘Every tree has a story behind it,’ Bradley said. ‘So for City of Trees, I conceived an installation revealing how trees, treescapes, tree-related folklore and personal histories form a vital and pervasive backdrop to life in Australia’s capital. For me, it’s all about who you are through what you plant.’.

Jyll contemplates her work in "Sound portal one".

Jyll contemplates her work in "Sound portal one".

‘Trees tell the story of Canberra, just like a book – you can read what has happened – fire, drought, rain – by evidence on the tree.  The treasury of stories in the Library’s collection has connections with trees in the many leaves of paper that act as doors to human feelings and achievements.’ Jyll and Robyn were discussing the exhibition on ABC1 News last night, see what they had to say.

"Memory Book", made by Dave Roberts in which visitors are invited to share their own recollections of trees, and "Memory wall"

"Memory Book", made by Dave Roberts in which visitors are invited to share their own recollections of trees, and "Memory wall"

The major component of the exhibition are massive cardboard 'portals' - like trees themselves standing in gallery space. Bradley has created a suite of audio works that play inside the portals, each exploring a particular tree-scape, or person for whom trees are a passion, profession or both. You can download the audio and associated map from the Canberra Centenary website and listen to them in-situ next to the very trees they are about. After the exhibition the works will be included in the Library's own Oral History and Folklore collection.

Toby Horrocks, cardboard architect, amongst his creations. "Sound portal one" plays the audio work "Tree 20", "Sound portal two" plays "Leaves" and "Sound portal three" plays "Conversations with Trees after Fire".

Toby Horrocks, cardboard architect, amongst his creations. "Sound portal one" plays the audio work "Tree 20", "Sound portal two" plays "Leaves" and "Sound portal three" plays "Conversations with Trees after Fire".

Quite aside from the conceptualisation by Jyll and Deborah Nagan, the construction process itself was quite a challenge. Toby Horrocks, Cardboard Architect, and local exhibition company Thylacine had the difficult task of producing and installing the complex structures. There is no glue or fasteners, only a carefully arranged lattice of different forms of cardboard. Below you can see the construction process in this timelapse video and listen to his discussion of the process in his interview with 666 ABC Canberra radio.

The exhibition is free to enter and is open until 7 October. If you are near the Library we do hope you will come and visit this beautifully contemplative work.

Left to right: Library director-general Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, creative director of the Canberra centenary Robyn Archer, Library director of exhibitions Nat Williams, artist Jyll Bradley, ACT and minister for Territory Shane Rattenbury

Left to right: Library director-general Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, creative director of the Canberra Centenary Robyn Archer, Library director of exhibitions Nat Williams, artist Jyll Bradley, ACT Minister for Territory and Municipal Services Shane Rattenbury.

To learn more you can also download the exhibition essay written by Michael Desmond.