The Common Line

Imagine the longest possible straight line across the landscapes of mainland Britain.  From the north-west of Scotland to the south coast of England. It traverses and connects an incredible diversity of places and landscapes… fields, farms and housing estates, shopping centres, roads and railways, schools, factories and mountain-tops.

Now imagine that line planted with trees. A linear forest with its own life rhythms, ecologies, and will to growth. What would happen if you could see that line, interact with it, and hear its hidden voices, ecologies and the politics of its places as you walked along or across it?

This is The Common Line. You can interact with it here.

We aim to plant trees along the entire length of the line. We will plant living trees in the places that trees grow well. Where there are people to look after them. In the places that we can’t, we will work with publics to bring the potential of the line alive, through the digital imaginaries of Augmented and Virtual Reality.

The Common Line project is not just about marking and valuing trees already in existence. It is the creation of a living land mark that will foster new thinking and discussion about the futures of trees and their living places as commons – and how those land based commons might be co-dependent on digital architectures and interactions for the form the exist in.

As part of our AHRC-EPSRC funded research we have been devising a system to locate and negotiate places to be planted and points to be marked. This will involve layered reality experiences that can be experienced by anyone with a suitable smartphone anywhere along the line. 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. Find out more about how to join us…


First steps

Our initial research and development phase has been funded by the AHRC-ESPRC and supported by The Woodland Trust. Fieldwork and conversation events took place in Carlisle, South Cumbria and North Yorkshire between April – July 2018 in partnership with the University of Cumbria. we conducted outdoor site investigations, field recordings, interviews, performative walks and in situ digital software and equipment testing. Read our stories about the work and how it developed.

Please get in touch if you would like to be involved in the next stage of our journey, or would like to host a presentation or sharing event.

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 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 dialogue around ideas of land ownership, stewardship and the value of trees beyond ecosystem services. Perhaps more importantly, to inspire participation and action from publics in tree planting activities through the conjuring of virtual trees, in ways that will always be different to what we can see and hear in the landscapes and urban environments around us.

We will be making and hosting live events, community plantings, broadcasts, performances and conversations along the line in 2019 onwards. By combining the eco-social activism of tree planting, with the development and sharing of new digital imaginaries, we hope to facilitate  broad discussions and share different understandings around the ways in which Britain is owned and cared for.

We are committed to open and participatory forms of working and conversing, and are actively seeking new dialogues and insights through this project. We are currently looking for arts, cultural and community partners to be part of the next stage of work from January-July 2019.

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.  We are working with the partnership support of Rural Recreation and for this R&D with University of Cumbria. Other team members are currently: Professor John Wylie, Dr Stephen Palmer, Paula Crutchlow, Dr John Levack Drever, Cat Radford, Chris Hunt and Dr Alex Murdin.

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

or

Dr Alex Murdin – artist and producer at Rural Recreation for developing future Common Line sites and hosting events
alex.murdin at ruralrecreation.org.uk