THE DIGITAL FOREST

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Grizedale Forest and Signal Film and Media, with support from Art Fund, have commissioned the digital artist and curator Jessica El Mal to create a new, online participatory artwork responding to Grizedale Forest in Cumbria in the North West of England. 

During lockdown the forest has continued to grow, wildlife became more abundant and changed its behaviour, people formed a new sense of value for access to outdoor space and nature. 

The Digital Forest captures a truly unique moment in time as visitors slowly return to the forest and once again become reconnected with nature. This project has been designed so that underrepresented groups are very much part of that reconnection. Through a process of socially distanced workshops and online zoom workshops we opened up the forest to become the gallery, studio and playground for all as new relationships are formed through digital media and creativity. 

ABOUT THE ARTWORK

We are delighted to launch the newly commissioned artwork Nature is Ours: Forest of Cultures, an online artsite platforming non-western voices inspired by the forest in response to the lack of representation of people of colour in the UK’s green spaces and climate justice concerns. 

The piece is co-produced by a group of eight art and nature lovers from across Cumbria, developed through a series of workshops with artist and curator Jessica El Mal. This artwork is a testament to the love and connection we all find in nature, in spite of the structural inequalities which can make them inaccessible. 

The site offers embodied experiences engaging all five senses as a way of reconnecting ourselves with nature; things to read, including a newly commissioned piece by Climate in Colour founder Joycelyn Longdon, things to listen to, to watch, to try, to cook, to smell… all from non-native perspectives. Nature is Ours: Forest of Cultures inverts the usual power dynamic of the host country teaching those who have migrated to it (teaching its languages, its customs etc) to instead acknowledge what the host can learn from us. The site is personal, it shares personal memories, stories and expert natural knowledge, a site of resistance, of love and of care.

With Nature is Ours: Forest of Cultures, we invite you to step into the forest. The forest in Grizedale, but also the forest in our hearts and in our minds. Explore the site to find activities suggested by the group and feel the benefits of nature from your own home, wherever your home may be.

WORKSHOPS & EVENTS

As part of The Digital Forest project we have planned three public online events which compliment the digital artwork Natures is Ours: Forest of Cultures.

Launch Event   |   Thurs 18th Feb 6pm

Join us for an online artist talk to celebrate the online artsite Natures is Ours: Forest of Cultures. The artist Jessica El Mal and Co-Director of Signal Film and Media, Loren Slater, will be having a chat about how the piece was made and the themes behind it. To book on to this free talk visit the eventbrite here.

Zine Workshop   |   Mon 22nd Feb 6pm—8pm

Join Jessica El Mal to produce a Forest of Cultures Zine. You will be guided through the process of thinking about what a Forest of Cultures means to you and how you can represent it before having a go at making one yourself. To book on this workshop visit the eventbrite here 

Writing Workshop   |   Mon 1st March 6pm—8pm

Join artist and poet Daniella Valz Gen on a reflection and writing workshop centred on water as an elemental force. To book on this workshop visit the eventbrite here

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Jessica El Mal is an English-Moroccan creative dedicated to valuing time, care and human connection in everything she works on. With a particular interest in migration and identity, her work is both deeply personal and yet draws on the universality of the human experience through a balance of digital techniques, aesthetics and interaction. The work tends to address global structures of power through critical research, multidisciplinary projects, and speculative future imaginaries often centred around collaboration, co-curation and collective knowledge systems. 

She runs an art and nature group for migrant, asylum seeker and refugee artists called ‘This Garden Group’ which includes workshops in or on the subject of art and nature in a range of natural spaces, a peer support group and a public facing program.

Jessica’s most recent exhibition Grounds for Concern exhibited at MAMA Rotterdam, challenging the authority of man-made borders through a digital installation and workshops, and her FACT Together digital commission has just gone live (see www.visionsofafuture.com).

Previous projects have been with Manchester International Festival, Journey’s Festival International and Signal Film and Media, as well as many collaborations with non-arts organisations such as the Collegium for Language in a Changing Society, Let’s Keep Growing Longsite, Furness Refugee Support and many more. 

Find out more on Jessica’s website:

www.elmalart.com

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information on this project please contact Signal Film & Media Programme Director (Adults) Charlie Booth via email: charlie@signalfilmandmedia.co.uk

GRIZEDALE FOREST

Grizedale Forest is the UK’s first forest for sculpture, first welcoming artists to the forest in 1977. The arts programme is led by Forestry England and is re-establishing Grizedale Forest as a centre of international excellence for art and sculpture in the environment. The forest is 10 square miles of woodland in the Lake District which is managed and maintained by Forestry England. We are proud to have acquired the We’re Good to Go industry standard, awarded by Visit England. This is independent verification that we have followed government and industry COVID-19 guidelines, have a Risk Assessment in place and have implemented processes to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing. For more information on visitor safety please contact Visitors Services on 0300 067 4495 / www.forestryengland.uk/grizedale

SIGNAL FILM AND MEDIA 

Signal Film & Media is an award-winning film and digital media company based in Barrow-in-Furness with a reputation for both high-quality, professional short film production and a wide range of community engagement media projects. Our artist-led company has delivered innovative film and digital media projects since 2001, providing access to opportunities and inspiration through film and digital media, creating award-winning works for exhibition and supporting the development of a vibrant film and arts culture in the area. www.signalfilmandmedia.com

AWAZ CUMBRIA

AWAZ Cumbria is a social enterprise and community development organisation which: 

  •  Works with people to improve their quality of life;
  • Supports community development initiatives and partnerships;
  •  Delivers training, engagement and enterprise solutions for all sectors;
  •  Provides public policy advocacy.

AWAZ Cumbria also provides information, advocacy and support to BME people in complex and difficult situations by making referrals to appropriate organisations and connecting people and community networks.

(AWAZ—meaning “voice” in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages)

www.awazcumbria.org/

ART FUND

Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. It provides millions of pounds every year to help museums to acquire and share works of art across the UK, further the professional development of their curators, and inspire more people to visit and enjoy their public programmes. Art Fund is independently funded, supported by the 159,000 members who buy the National Art Pass, who enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places, 50% off major exhibitions, and receive Art Quarterly magazine. Art Fund also supports museums through its annual prize, Art Fund Museum of the Year, which was won by St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff, in 2019, and through a range of digital platforms