It is twice dead. First as a living tree, growing and feeding on the soil beneath it, then as an object in the sterile environment of a museum.
The less spectacular the object, the more it has to thrive on a narrative. This object is radically unspectacular.
We read its epitaph, the sign to contextualize it. Then it becomes clear that this tree is said to have stood over the site where David Livingstone's heart was buried.
This makes one look at it with fresh eyes. The bland stump has to be reinterpreted. The spectator demands the tree to perform, but it does not. Its narrative exists only in the mind.
Various questions arise. If the tree kept growing over his dead body, does this mean that it contains some particles that were once in Livingstone's chest? How do we know this tree, instead of the one next to it, once functioned as a wooden tombstone? Why would one only bury a heart, not a man?
The tree does not answer.
'You took the part that once was my heart': a 160 page publication and exhibition looking into historic
trees from the life of David Livingstone. Written and published by Sybren Renema & Timmy van Zoelen.
Edition of 200, numbered. ISBN: 978-90-9026654-1
Published for The Mutual in collaboration with the Glasgow Festival of Visual Art. The launch of this publication was accompanied by the installation 'You took the part that once was my heart' at the Hunterian in Glasgow during GI 2012.