Heather Peak and Ivan Morison: Silence – Alone in a World of Wounds

Silence – Alone in a World of Wounds by Heather Peak and Ivan Morison can be found alongside Upper Lake within a stand of birch trees. Responding to the question 'Can art save us from extinction?', the artists developed a sculptural space made of natural materials including timber and thatch. It acts as an extended, open pavilion that creates a place for solitary, silent communion with the natural world. Informed by findings from the Nature Connectedness Research Group at the University of Derby, the work invites us to stop, to listen, to think, and to consider our natural surroundings. When we feel more deeply connected to our environment, we are more likely to take active steps to protect it.

The sculpture was made using strategically managed and local natural materials from YSP and the North York Moors National Park, as well as sustainably sourced timber from the artists’ own woodland. From its inception, there was an understanding that over time Silence would evolve and be gradually reclaimed by nature, with time and environmental conditions leading to its ultimate decomposition back into the earth, leaving only a slight impression of where it once stood.

Following the summer of 2023, the thatched roof began slowly to collapse, heavy under the weight of relentless rain and besieged by frequent high winds. These unseasonable conditions have led to the deterioration of Silence occurring even sooner than anticipated. This acts as a poignant reminder of the changes taking place in the environment that Peak and Morison seek to draw attention to in their work, with yet more disturbing records broken and 2023 the hottest year on record globally. Silence ­– and its own very apparent process of decay – represents and reveals the wider precarious situation of nature and the environment as a whole.

So that visitors are still able to access the work safely, YSP’s technical team has carefully removed the heather thatch, willow, and wooden supports, piling them within and around the structure. Leaving these materials with the rest of the work will allow them to continue to evolve together, creating habitats for wildlife and insects in the Park.

Unless we take drastic action, and soon, we face both ecological and climate collapse… We need to work to rebalance our relationship with the natural world for the long term.

- The Oak Project
A roofless wooden pavilion surrounded by trees.

Speaking about Silence – Alone in a World of Wounds, Heather Peak said, “Our work for the Oak Project must open the viewers’ eyes to the natural world, wounds and all, and through the shared grief create action – turning towards the world for what it has to teach us. We propose a space that is a kind of education of attention, that offers a protracted introduction in seeing things, hearing and feeling them. This work is a gift of time and attention.”

Clare Lilley, Yorkshire Sculpture Park Director, comments: “Silence is an exceptional sculpture, forged from earth, timber, paper and living trees. Holding light, space and stillness it is a place of peace, an oasis of calm in which people will be inspired, moved and rejuvenated. Joining other YSP land art works by James Turrell, Andy Goldsworthy and David Nash – as well as the natural tree canopies that form spiritual spaces at Yorkshire Sculpture Park – Heather and Ivan Morison’s work contributes to the canon of sculpture in the open air, which now more than ever is so relevant and meaningful.”

Silence – Alone in a World of Wounds features a digital element developed by Future20 Collective members SAF-S2E, Jahday Ford and Melissa Sorrell in collaboration with Studio Morison. The moving image piece captures the experience of being within the installation for visitors who may not be able to travel to YSP.

The Oak Project is a partnership between Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the University of Derby and the Bronze Oak Project Ltd, a not-for-profit that promotes art as a way to create nature connection. The project pioneers arts-participation to create kinship with nature.