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S.A.D Archive Project No: 09
TITLE: Orchard of Avon, 2006 – date
ARTIST: Heath Bunting
ACT: Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW)
In 2006, Heath Bunting had just finished working on the project – Food for Free – with Kayle Brandon which explored, surveyed and mapped free food around Bristol. During this project Heath adopted the self-nominated role of ‘Keeper of Apple Trees’. Other collaborator/s in the project were keeper/s of other types of trees. As the ‘Keeper of Apple Trees’ his responsibilities entailed, locating ‘feral’ apple trees growing on ‘public’ space (railway embankments, waste land etc) caring for these trees – pruning, cleaning etc., planting new trees, collecting the apples from the trees and producing products from the crop. As ‘Keeper’ he became an expert on apple tree ‘tending’ and saw it as his role to communicate this knowledge to other people. People could come to him for information and help with their apple trees. When the Food for Free came to an end, he continued his role as Master of Apple trees and the activities associated with it and this has become the Orchard of Avon Project.
As the ‘feral’ trees are located land and property that is not easily accessible by foot, or even strictly legally accessible; Heath uses the skills he has acquired throughout his practice to gain access to them. In so doing he is tending to trees and land, which is not maintained by any public agency or private land owner and the plots of land are all too often deemed inconsequential by their owners. He likes to refresh his apple tree tending skills while retaining and transmitting the knowledge he has acquired about them, by regularly visiting ‘his’ trees, which he has marked with a simple copper label and caring for them.
Heath views caring for trees located on land that is not easily accessible to the public, as an enforcement of the rights of the “public” and access to wilderness. He believes that society needs its boundaries and outer limits pushed outward and without such activities as Orchard of Avon, the limits would ‘contract’ and what would then be considered a ‘normality’ risked being susceptible to a neo-liberal agenda. He sees this project as a way to step out of that narration with every act of diversion opening up public space within the space. He views it as security for humanity; maintaining its freedom.
Through the project, Heath encourages other people to be self-proclaimed ‘Keepers’ and he has during the project he has indeed met other tree “Keepers”
This has of course met with some resistance. For example, in November 2008, on Durdham Downs, he had a fight with a park keeper, who attempted to prevent the artist from pruning the apples trees.