Beuys’ Acorns

Woodhatch Place 2024

Arranged in concentric circles, 116 trees are residing at Woodhatch Place, hosted by Surrey County Council.  We are initiating the final planting sequences of the trees from 2024-2027.

Beuys’ Acorns – the Prelude & the Planting

A national project where ethics and aesthetics meet, Beuys’ Acorns – the Prelude & the Planting aims to plant seventeen circles of seven trees in public spaces and cultural venues across the UK. The ground for each circle will be prepared by a creative programme of public engagement.

The Prelude: working closely with local practitioners and groups to stimulate radicle care, provoke debate and foster a reciprocal ecology between plants and humans with the trees at the centre. Each circle will be deeply rooted in the land and local people. The duration of the project is four years (2024-2027) and will be structured in three parts: The Prelude The participating trees have been grown* since 2007 as part of Beuys’ Acorns, Ackroyd & Harvey’s open-ended research project which is a direct continuation of Joseph Beuys’ groundbreaking artwork 7000 Oaks – City Forestation Instead of City Administration (1982), using acorns collected from the original trees in Kassel, Germany. Working closely with the outreach and education departments of arts institutions and local practitioners, we will embrace the spirit of Beuys’ Acorns as a catalyst artwork to create a series of actions and activities that have public participation at the core.

The Planting: Each circle will be welcomed to its new home with a bespoke tree planting ceremony that has been co-designed by local people and will encourage creative responses which will vary from poetry, singing and performance to talks on ecology and health, environmental law and economics, art and activism. Empowering local communities and notable creatives in the locale to co-collaborate with Ackroyd & Harve and co-design their own ceremony will encourage integrated radicle and reciprocal care and custodianship that will be supported by the artists, host venue and supporting cultural partners.

Radicle Legacy: Taking mycorrhizas – fungal associations between plant roots and beneficial fungi – as inspiration, the project is designed to evolve and continuously benefit the local ecosystem, of both plants and people, for generations to come. The circles will create a natural canopy for people to meet, exchange ideas, create and convene with nature. As they grow, they will provide a natural habitat for thousands of species, improve air pollution and combat urban heat islands. Our ambition is for the tree circles to stimulate the planting of up to 7,000 additional trees, and we will work with local authorities and influential agencies to realise this vision, hence drawing the circle back to Joseph Beuys and his extraordinary artwork 7000 Oaks.

Why this project is needed

We are facing a climate and ecological emergency of potentially cataclysmic proportions with both immediate and long-lasting impacts on people and the planet. The scale and gravity of the problem can be too overwhelming to digest, leaving individuals feeling disempowered and prone to anxiety and inertia. We share Beuys’ vision, which is backed up by contemporary science,[1] that large scale artistic and ecological interventions are an urgent and necessary response to rapid urbanisation and its environmental impacts.

[1] Adaptation to climate change depends centrally on what is done in urban centres – which now house more than half the world’s population and concentrate most of its assets and economic activities (United Nations, 2012; World Bank, 2008). This will require responses by all levels of government as well as individuals and communities, the private sector and civil society.IPCC 5th Assessment Report – Impacts, Adaptations and Vulnerabilities

Partnerships approach

We will focus on partnering with established host locations that demonstrate a commitment to climate/ecological activism and public engagement (PE). Our partnerships will add value to the projects in the areas of art and activism, plant science, ecology and economics, philosophy, politics, poetics, health, education, cultural community circles and nature-centric thinking. We will continue to work with scientists Roland Ennos, visiting professor of biological sciences at University of Hull and Dr Mohammad Rahman, Chair for Strategic Landscape Planning and Management at the Technical University of Munich, Germany whose pioneering work in the field measures the physical benefits of urban vegetation, especially cooling and flood prevention.


* The remaining trees are residing on Global Generation’s Paper Garden, Canada Water, London.

[1] We have deliberately chosen to deploy the botanical spelling ‘radicle’, meaning the ‘primary root’ rather than ‘radical’, though we hope to convey the meaning of both spellings with this word.

[1] Each tree has been grown in a specialised Air-Pot ® to ensure healthy root formation

Beuys’ Acorns: Tate Modern 4 May – 14 Nov 2021
Beuys’ Acorns: 2007 – 2021 timeline
Beuys’ Acorns: When a tree is a work of art, a forest a social movement

Link to research articles