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Life in the Woods

In the spring of 2011 artists Olivia Plender and Patrick Staff invited a small group of participants to live together for a week in John’s Lee Wood, Leicestershire, in a critical exploration of folk revivalism, communal living and collaborative film-making.

Borrowing a format from left-wing outdoor education programmes and socialist summer camps started in the early twentieth century, such as the Kibbo Kift, Woodcraft Folk and Forest School Camps, as well as the contemporary Queer Pagan Camp; the aim was to reflect upon the history of folk revivalism, counter culture and the relationship with queer and left wing politics in the British context.

The resulting video, explored whether living experiments such as this have the potential to produce new collectivities. By providing all participants with camera training and subsequently inviting them to take responsibility for filming and representing their time in the wood, the final video work was a collaboration between all the participants, rather than a documentation of the experience. Engaging with the forest site as one of political contestation, the piece examined, in part, how our relationship to nature is mediated by histories, ideologies, stories and myths.

Life in the Woods was commissioned by Radar and funded through the National Lottery by Arts Council England.

The project participants were: Daniel Bower, Red Chidgey, Ade Clarke, William Clarke, Jesse Darling, Richard Dowling, Zia Dowling-Haigh, June Gillert, Amy James, Michael Mertens, Jamie Partridge, Natalie Raven, Hester Reeve, Yerang Seong, Sofia Törnblad.

With additional input from Bob Trubshaw and Michael Mertens.

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