Profusion – The Human Bower

‘…. the seed of the future is here and now – I didn’t really get this until I said it out loud’

In the final collaboration between Anthropologist Jennie Morgan from the University of York and Encounters Associate Shelley Castle, the Torre Abbey gardens played host to a participatory installation called The Human Bower over the weekend of 19/20th May.

Shelley took inspiration for the participatory installation from the extraordinary craftwork of the Bower Bird.  These amazing birds gather, curate and exhibit the things they appear to hold of high value outside their extraordinary twig constructions (the bower).  Over the two days, a group of participants entered a conversation with Jennie and Shelley around imagined futures, whilst binding the sticks with their chosen coloured thread.

Binding the Hazel sticks

The luxury of having time and space in the open air to discuss what we hoped the future could look like, what we needed to hold onto to make that happen, and what we needed to let go of, gave the two days a slow spaciousness that is sadly often missing in contemporary lives. 

Several participants talked of ‘the feeling of community as my branch was placed’ as the bound hazel sticks were added to the growing installation.  This reflected a common theme to our discussions: the deep desire to shift our focus from individual to communal, and the hope that we might connect more fully to the natural world.  And whilst material profusion was not demonised, there was a sense that people felt it was high time for us to become much more responsible for our actions (or lack of them) including what we chose to consume or buy.

The Human Bower taking shape

A few participants also shared key words or messages by writing them on pebbles and placing them in front of the bower entrance, allowing visitors a glimpse of the weekends conversations.

The installation will go on in some shape or form during the Heritage Futures closing exhibition at Manchester Museum later this year.

‘It’s always a pleasure being part of something that can change the way people think’.

‘I feel more optimistic about the future and through thinking about ‘human scale’ more able to envisage it’.



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