The Tree School
Tree Story is an exhibition that brings together creative practices from around the world to create a ‘forest’ of ideas relating to critical environmental and sustainability issues. At its foundation—or roots—are Indigenous ways of knowing and a recognition of trees as our ancestors and family. Featuring 36 artists and projects—ranging from early 1970s environmental actions to the study of plant communications—Tree Story brings together works that foreground First Nations’ knowledges, reflect on the rights and agency of trees, explore notions of cultural heritage, reveal knowledge of tree networks and consider loss in times of climate emergency.
As part of Tree Story, MADA Gallery is hosting The Tree School, (11-23 March 2021) whose curricula has evolved from a locally significant scar tree presented as its educational centrepiece. Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, teachers, researchers, knowledge holders and students will draw upon oral storytelling and the passing of knowledge between generations to discuss the practical things we can do as individuals and together to support sustainability and contribute to cross-community wellbeing.
Conceived by architects Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti and coordinated by Yorta Yorta and Woiwurrung artist, organiser and educator Moorina Bonini, The Tree School curriculum in Melbourne had been developed in dialogue with N’arweet Carolyn Briggs AM and Brian Martin of the Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous Research Lab at Monash University, and colleagues from the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash Science, Monash Education and Monash Art Design & Architecture including Mark Romei.
The Tree School is a place where people gather for communal learning and producing knowledge that is grounded in lived experience and connected to communities. The tree, a living being with its own characteristics and history, creates a physical and metaphorical common where ideas and actions can emerge through critical, free and independent discussion. The Tree School reclaims a different way of learning, one that cuts across conventional disciplines of knowledge and welcomes marginalised forms. By activating a critical and egalitarian learning environment, The Tree School operates according to the interaction and interests of the participants. It is consequently in constant transformation, and can last days, weeks, months, even years.1
Since 2014, The Tree School has taken place in Bangalore, São Paulo, Porto, Beirut, Eindhoven, Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong as an architectural installation and experimental education program. Physically, The Tree School consists of chairs that encircle a locally significant tree. Pedagogically, The Tree School rejects the traditional roles of participant and facilitator, according to its guiding principle of non-hierarchical co-learning. Its intention is to provide an environment where the current urgencies and lived experiences of participants are prioritised and explored through sharing and exchange.
Curated by Charlotte Day with cultural advice from Dr Brian Martin, Associate Dean, Indigenous, Monash Art Design & Architecture, Tree Story is at MUMA 6 February - 10 April 2021.
1 Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, ‘The Tree School’, in Maria Nadotti and Nick Axel (eds), Permanent Temporariness, Art and Theory Publishing and the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm, 2018, p. 307.
The Tree School is being developed and coordinated by Moorina Bonini with Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, supported by Monash Art Design & Architecture, the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and Eucalypt Australia.