The Common Line

Imagine a line that crosses the longest reach of mainland Britain from NW Scotland to SE England. Traversing and connecting fields, farms & fells; housing estates, shopping centres, roads & railways; schools, factories, back gardens & mountain-tops.

Now imagine that line planted with trees – one every 20 metres. In the places where living trees can’t be planted, or haven’t yet grown, imagine a host of Augmented Reality trees – hand drawn, modelled and animated by members of the public. The kind of trees we play in as children, that mark our daily journeys, feed us and offer shelter. Trees that might grow there in 100 years time – or may not survive there in the future.

This is The Common Line. You can interact with the first stages of its development here.

The Common Line is a living-digital land art work that aims to foster thinking, discussion and action about the futures of trees and the landscapes they live in, as things that need to be cared for together. Combining the eco-activism of tree planting with socially driven digital art practice, the Common Line is also a research project that aims to understand more about how participatory digital imaginaries can shape our physical worlds – for the better.

Find out more about our R&D process by watching this 6 minute video. To turn off the website sound, scroll to the bottom of this page to find the volume bar.

Anyone can become part of The Common Line. Keep updated on our progress and…


First steps

Our initial research and development phase was funded by the AHRC-ESPRC ‘New Immersive Experiences’ fund, and supported by The Woodland Trust. Between April – July 2018 we ran fieldwork and conversation events in Carlisle, South Cumbria and North Yorkshire in partnership with the University of Cumbria. We conducted outdoor site investigations, and made field recordings, interviews, performative walks and did in-situ digital software and equipment testing. Read our stories about the work and how it developed.

The next stage of our R&D is being run in Pendle, Lancashire, in partnership with Harwes Farm CIC and In-Situ Arts in Spring 2020. Please get in touch if you would like to be involved in this work, or would like to host a presentation or sharing event, or collaborate with us on the Common Line in your place.

About

Planting trees is a legacy project. Something that is done for future generations that we will not fully experience ourselves in our lifetimes. New developments in digital immersion through layered and virtual realities can help us to imagine what is not physically living and growing, or what something might be like or feel like in the future.  The aim of the Common Line is to make a project that lasts at least 100 years. That’s nothing for a tree planting project – but an extraordinary length of time to make digital interactions publicly available.

In planting the Common Line together we want to prompt thought and conversation around ideas of land ownership, stewardship and the value of trees and our responsibilities to them – including and beyond ecosystem services. Through the ‘conjuring’ of virtual trees in our landscapes and urban environments, we want to understand more about how digital systems shape our perceptions of the ‘natural’ world and how we act in it. Most importantly, we want to plant more trees together.

We started making the project in 2018 with the help of staff at the University of Cumbria Institute for the Arts, the National Forestry School, and the Woodland Trust. In 2020 we are working with In-Situ Arts and Harwes Farm CIC to further develop the project with people and communities in Pendle, Lancashire. Please sign up to our mailing list or get in touch if you would like to know more about how to join us.

We are looking for more arts, cultural and community partners to be part of the journey with us. We are committed to open and participatory forms of working and conversing, and are actively seeking new dialogues and insights through this project.  Please get in touch if you would like to be involved in developing art and research residencies, planting sites and audiences, as well as hosting artists and exhibiting, or otherwise disseminating, the resulting work.

The Common Line is being developed collaboratively by Blind Ditch, Controlled Frenzy and Geography at University of Exeter from an idea by Volkhardt Mueller.  Team members are currently: Professor John Wylie  and Dr Stephen Palmer from University of Exeter, Dr Paula Crutchlow, Professor John Levack Drever, and Volkhardt Mueller from Blind Ditch, Chris Hunt from Controlled Frenzy and Pete Qiang from Goldsmiths University, London.

Contact

For more information please contact:

Paula Crutchlow – Blind Ditch artist and The Common Line Research Associate at University of Exeter paula at blindditch.org