​'How can I still facilitate participatory art when we’re self isolated, socially distanced and can’t touch what anyone else has touched?'

Wishing trees is a series of 4 participatory art installations 'planted' outside in public spaces in Bristol during the first Covid 19 lockdown in England. On account of the prevalent contamination anxiety, I couldn't leave materials for participants to add so instead, passers-by were invited to bring something to tie to the tree next time they walked that way. There was a wonderful range of responses both physically and virtually, as many people sent messages via social media for me to add to the installations. There were also some complaints.

It seems that it was still possible to facilitate participatory art, even during the Covid-19 lockdown.

For videos of me talking about the Wishing trees, please visit Wishing trees, social engagement

I 'planted' the Wishing trees in these public locations:

24.3.20 Wishing tree 1, outside my house

31.3.20 Wishing tree 2, Horfield Common

1.4.20 Wishing tree 3, The Downs

30.4.20 Wishing tree 4, Purdown

Wholly unexpectedly, a fifth virtual Wishing tree was 'planted' almost as soon as I set up the first installation. On 26.3.20 Virtual Wishing tree 5 started when a friend responded to my Facebook post, asking me to add a message for her. I wrote her message on a label and then sent her a photo of it, tied to the Wishing tree... and so it began!

Every day during the first Covid-19 lockdown in Endgland, I would tend at least one of the trees, visiting it on my daily walk with my partner, Dave, and adding more strips of cloth and any new messages I'd received online.

Images 1- 3 Wishing tree 3, The Downs (Image 2 credit: Samantha Brown)

Images 4 & 5 Wishing tree 4, Purdown

Images 6 & 8 Wishing tree 1, outside my house

Image 7 Wishing tree 2, Horfield Common

Images 9 & 10 Me, tending the Wishing trees

Image 11, the first message I received online, 26.3.20

 For more information and documentation about the research and development behind the Wishing trees, please visit my MA Fine Art website at Other: Wishing trees and also a presentation I made documenting fully the first months of the project, Lou Baker, Wishing trees, participation in isolation, 2020


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