Ratanui, a 500-year Northern Rata in the Tarapuruhi bush sanctuary north of Whanganui where Anne Noble grew up, provided the starting point for this photographic installation. Noble first photographed the tree in 1978 and, in the summer of 2021 while on the artist residency at Tylee Cottage Whanganui, she revisited the sanctuary to create new work from her earlier research. Noble entered the forest at night wearing a hunter’s camera and buried a length of film – a medium sensitive to the chemistry of earth and the passing of time – in the ground near Ratanui – a bid to map traces of visible and invisible worlds.
The project evolved from her interest in how a colony of bees operates as one interconnected body. “Forests are similar and yet we see them comprised of single entities – like a population of human beings,” she says. “I am fascinated by the invisible networks of exchange within the forest.” Here, as with her bee works, science, language and art come together. The work reflects recent science suggesting that trees communicate through their roots and across fungi networks.
“An understanding of language as an inherent attribute of all living and non-living things, in turn, suggests that language is an interconnecting force linking organisms, matter and phenomena within complex environments and systems. Perhaps then trees can be heard, and their language might be visualized as a strange inscribing of processes occurring over time that resound within and for a specific material community – like a forest.”