herman de vries’ In memory of the Scottish forests


herman de vries, In Memory of the Scottish Forests (centre des livres d’artistes, 2007). Loaned by Cees de Boer (see article here). This plain, untitled black bound book with its black framed pages resembles a memoriam book or funeral record, with each place name standing alone on a page, working as a tribute or memento of lost woodland.

Mel Gooding: ‘Travelling in Scotland for the first time in 1985 (when he made his first journal, scottish diary) de vries noted on the maps the names of many forests. “but when i visited these places, i found not forest but moorland, or grazing land. [the great caledonian forest that covered the biggest part of scotland was almost completely destroyed for timber, and in the first place to make charcoal for smelting iron ore. this happened after the occupation of scotland by the english.] realising the impoverishment of this landscape, i studied all the topographical maps and made the text of a book, in memory of the scottish forests, containing the names of all those lost forests. but with a book you don’t get back a forest.” Those absent forests can no longer be walked in, experienced by the sentient being: they remain only in word-traces on maps. At Inverleith House, the moving litany of their names was inscribed on the gallery wall in charcoal – a trace of wood transformed by fire – carrying in this case a particular poignancy. It was a temporary monument to lost local things, itself soon to be erased.’


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