Sally Clarke Forest Incantations 2022

Cork Forest, National Arboretum, Canberra Art Biennial 2022 (Localjinni Event)

Forest Incantations was created for a night walking event curated by Fiona Hooton of Canberra’s Localjinni in 2022 as part of the Canberra Art Biennial. The video is one of a number of artists’ works that responded to Canberra’s 117-year-old cork forest now located in the National Arboretum. I heard casually that someone had stumbled upon a witches’ sabbath being performed in the forest and it intrigued me. I rewrote William Shakespeare’s The Witches Chant to reflect upon the establishment and anticipated use of the forest, the original taking of land from First Nation custodians, and native species it had replaced or displaced. The video considers the forest and its geographical and cultural connections: Spain where the original acorns come from; Goya’s black paintings created during the Spanish Inquisition; Portugal, from where the cork harvesters arrive every nine years; and the practice of witchcraft that is reputedly held in the cork forests in the UK, the Imperial power responsible for colonising Australia. While the forest has connections to elsewhere, it occupies a fluid and ever-changing space that now generates its own stories.