The installation ‘Stepping Lightly on 88 Pillows’ was originally created for Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire and commissioned by the curators’ Sam Wilkinson and Sarah von Holstein for the Westonbirt Festival of the Garden. During the commission, I looked to bring awareness to the significance of our single intervention in the rural environment, however small. Although we think of the urban environment as being subject to continuous wear and tear, the human impact on the countryside also accumulates over time and each footstep makes tiny but ultimately significant incremental differences to the landscape.
The health of even a mature tree can be affected by culminating treading around its roots. In a public place such as the Arboretum, this is something that the curators take very seriously. The piece, in contrast between the soft appearance of the pillows and the solid nature of the substance with which they are made, evokes not only the vulnerability of the tree specimens but also the robust protection they are provided in the Arboretum.
The visitor is invited to consider the tree also as an individual looking for its own survival but forming part of a partnership with a man in this special place. The work was conceived to be located by a regularly used pathway through the Arboretum, not on the pathway but alongside it, as a reminder of the difference between the human areas of the Arboretum and the trees’ own environment. Two years later the work was re-placed in the ruins of King John’s Palace in Southampton, creating new ways of exploring the work.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputInstallation
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2004


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