Edge of the Trees
Edge of the Trees, Museum of Sydney Forecourt. Photograph Patrick Bingham Hall
Sculptural installation by Janet Laurence and Fiona Foley, 1995
Edge of the Trees is a site-specific piece commissioned for the forecourt of the Museum of Sydney at its opening in 1995 by an indigenous and non-indigenous artist working together - Fiona Foley and Janet Laurence. This award-winning public art installation evokes the cultural and physical history of the site, before and after 1788: a pivotal turning point in our history, when contact and invasion / colonisation took place.
The name of the sculpture comes from an essay by historian Rhys Jones, 1985:
Rhys Jones: 'Ordering the Landscape' in I & T Donaldson's Seeing the First Australians, Sydney 1985
A 'forest' of 29 massive pillars – sandstone, wood and steel – cluster near the museum entrance. Wooden pillars from trees once grown in the area have been recycled from lost industrial buildings of Sydney.The names of 29 Aboriginal clans from around Sydney correspond to the 29 vertical poles. Walking between the pillars you hear a soundscape of Koori voices reciting the names of places in the Sydney region that have today been swallowed up by the metropolis.
Organic materials such as human hair, shell, bone, feathers, ash and honey, are embedded in windows within the elements, evoking prior ways of life. Natural and cultural histories are evoked by the names of botanical species carved or burnt into wooden columns in both Latin and Aboriginal languages, along with the signatures of First Fleeters. Place names are engraved on the sandstone pillars in English and Aboriginal languages.