A sculpture in transition

Place by Magdalena Jetelova, at Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail

For the past year I have been working with the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail to plan a series of new artworks for the site. As the production of new works begins, I’ve also been working on controversial plans to dismantle and burn one of the Trail’s older pieces: the iconic Place by Magdalena Jetelova, colloquially known as the Giant’s Chair.

Forestry Commission England own and manage the Sculpture Trail and with over 250,000 visitors to the site annually safety is paramount.  After monitoring movement of Place over many years, it was deemed at risk of collapse. There is great affection for the sculpture locally and its been a sensitive and often heart-rending process to plan the artwork’s last year on its hill-top lair overlooking the Cannop Valley. There has been much debate as to whether honouring Magdalena Jetelova’s original wish to burn the work is an act of  transformation or an act of destruction.  The story has been featured twice on BBC news, with more coverage expected this week.

As part of its farewell, I produced and directed this short film A sense of Place to tell the story of the Giant’s Chair, working with aerial photography revealed to me for the first time the view above the trees that normally tower over me. The film also features Onya McCausland, an artist who has been commissioned by the Sculpture Trail to recycle the artwork into new works.

In addition to the film we invited the public to share their memories, one included my Forestry Commission colleague Judith Lack, who even had her wedding photos taken under the Giant’s Chair. These stories and wonderful photographs can be found here.

Judith Lack Wedding 
Jemma Benn

Earlier in the year I wrote for Arts Professional  about how Place has also been a home to wildlife including bats, and its been a fascinatng process to work with ecologists from Forestry Commission England and Natural England to plan a way to recycle the sculpture into a safe and long term home. I’ll be posting updates on the bat re-homing on the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail Facebook page.

To find out more about the project visit the Sculpture Trust website or Forest Artworks.

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