Art installation or community heritage…?

Last weekend I was walking along the River Barle, just upstream from Tarr Steps in Exmoor, and came across a small clearing with some felled tree trunks. These dead and decaying trunks had hundreds and hundreds of coins hammered in to them: at first sight I thought that they must have been an Art Installation …. We sat and waited for my friend and his young son to catch up…. “Daddy: why has someone put those coins in that tree?”; “I don’t know ‘Henry’, perhaps they thought it would look nice – shall we put one in too?”; “Yes – can I do it please Daddy?”. And so another coin was added. ….and the ‘art installation’ was …. ‘added to’?; …ruined’?!

Is this perhaps a piece of ‘accidental'(?) guerrilla community art-heritage, generated and developed through serendipity and the curiosity of children, and all interacting with the work of beetles, birds and fungus…. A relational enterprise between the human and non-human world, and an ‘unconscious'(?) enactment of being part of wider society, perhaps made over long periods of time by unseen humans in a purposeful and concerted – yet uncoordinated – effort, to be seen (and felt, and stroked and be pondered over) by other passers-by at a future date….? Whether the practice is 5 years old or 50 (or 500), I feel that there is an element of open-ended interaction of past, present and future, and the celebration of a sort of ‘intimate’ community (bound through a very particular and material relationship with the landscape) who perhaps will never ‘know’ or meet each other in person, and which cannot be ‘bounded’ as ‘local’ or ‘insider’/’outsider’.

Or maybe what I saw by the River Barle really was the product of a student arts project?! I thought it was nice anyway.


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