I don’t seek out industrial areas very often. I don’t feel comfortable walking around them if I have no business being there. Usually they are dirty and loud with no consideration to visual aesthetics or human comfort because the operators are too busy working to worry about making the place look nicer in case somebody with my particular tastes wondered in.
I accept the necessity of industrial areas in a fast-moving society for transporting and creating goods. And I know many people do think they are beautiful and comfortable just the way they are. But I prefer not to be around them unless, in a totally hypocritical way, they have been transformed into art spaces.
Around the world when industries no longer need their infrastructure, artists and galleries move in because the space is cheap. For example, I stayed in old factories in China for two months when I did residencies there and felt at home. So while I don’t see industrial areas as being very beautiful, they have a close relation to the art community and I enjoy them once they are repurposed.
I found this firewheel tree when I was on a brisk walk, cutting across the corner of a wider industrial area on my way to a local park. It was growing beside some tall silos that are part of an operation where trucks unload grain which is then loaded onto a train. The young tree was one of many planted in a row along the path in small holes in the path. They were the only remaining natural elements of this street which had been taken over by warehouses, tall fencing, and that musty, metallic smell that follows machinery around.
The lowest branches of the tree were up above my head. I stood beneath and looked up, seeing red and yellow flowers blooming out like cogs at the back of a clock. I thought when these trees mature and become larger, the flowers will provide some natural beauty and colour to the area and take the harsh edge off the industry.