Blind Ditch

The Common Line

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A participatory, digital land art project aiming to plant a linear forest across the longest stretch of mainland Britain.

A Public Realm, Interdisciplinary, Participatory and Augmented Reality project.

Location
A straight line between Mellon Udrigle and Seaford
Documents
Find more videos, sounds and writing from The Common Line
Searching for the mid point of the Common Line on Cautley Spout, Yorkshire.

you know you plant a tree for another generation to sit under, so I think we have got a stewardship role of anything we put in the landscape.

Fieldwork participant

Imagine the longest possible straight line across mainland Britain. From the north-west of Scotland to the south coast of England. It traverses and connects an incredible diversity of places and landscapes… fields, farms and housing estates, shopping centres, roads and railways, schools, factories and mountain-tops.

Now imagine that line planted with trees – one every 20 metres. In the places where living trees can’t be planted, or haven’t yet grown, imagine a host of Augmented Reality trees – hand drawn, modelled and animated by members of the public. The kind of trees we play in as children, that mark our daily journeys, feed us and offer shelter. Trees that only exist in our imagination. Trees that might grow there in 100 years time – or may not survive there in the future.

This is The Common Line. You can interact with it here.

AR tree drawn with Google Tiltbrush and 'planted' on the mid point of the line

The Common Line is a living-digital land art work that aims to foster thinking, discussion and action about the futures of trees and the landscapes they live in, as things that need to be cared for together. Combining the eco-activism of tree planting with socially driven digital art practice, the Common Line is also a research project that aims to understand more about how participatory, digital imaginaries might help shape our physical worlds – for the better.

The aim is for the project to last at least 100 years. That’s nothing for a tree planting project – but an extraordinary length of time to make digital interactions publicly available. In planting the Common Line together we want to prompt thought and conversation around ideas of land ownership, stewardship and the value of trees and our responsibilities to them – including and beyond ‘ecosystem services’. Through the ‘conjuring’ of virtual trees in our landscapes and urban environments, we want to understand more about how digital systems shape our perceptions of the ‘natural’ world and how we act in it. Most importantly, we want to plant more trees together, and encourage others to do the same.

We started making the project in 2018 supported by a research grant to investigate ‘new immersive experiences’ from AHRC-EPSRC. We ran our R&D with the help of staff at the University of Cumbria Institute for the Arts, the National Forestry School, and the Woodland Trust. In 2020 supported by University of Exeter EPSRC Impact Fund, we began working with In-Situ Arts and Harwes Farm CIC to further develop the project with people and communities in Pendle, Lancashire.

The Common Line is being developed collaboratively by Blind DitchControlled Frenzy and Geography at University of Exeter from an idea by Volkhardt Mueller.  Team members are currently: Professor John Wylie  and Dr Stephen Palmer from University of Exeter,  Dr Paula Crutchlow, Professor John Levack Drever, Cat Radford and Volkhardt Mueller from Blind Ditch, Chris Hunt from Controlled Frenzy and Pete Jiadong Qiang from Goldsmiths University, London.