Tree Rule

“For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides—William H. Jackson”

The text engraved into a stone plaque that sits at the base of ‘The Tree that Owns Itself’. A tree in Athens, Georgia, that is accepted by the city as proprietor to its own land. Whether there is an actual deed in the tree’s name is unclear, however, this white oak has unprecedented autonomy in an age of exhaustive human ownership.

How can it be that trees, the largest organisms on earth have no sovereignty in our cities? At what point was this deemed necessary? How can we move on beyond the tourist attraction of a tree that owns itself to a re-prioritized chain of beings where trees are no longer considered entities of ownership, but instead an invaluable system of independent, life-giving organisms?

One way to remind one another of the significance of the tree is through the introduction of treeness; to encounter the tree and tree’s systems through a one to one experience. In relation with human body and tree body, we can begin to find sameness and variance. With connection, comes respect. With respect, comes prioritization and ultimately emancipation.

Ongoing Tool Inventory


By necessity, he or she uses a set of specific concepts, methods, and instruments that allow him or her to perform in a variety of contexts.

from Tom Avermaete, “Accommodating the Afropolis: Michel Eccochard’s Alternative Approach to the Modern City,” Informalize! Essays of Political Economy and Urban Form (Berlin: The Ruby Press, 2012) p.21.

And so we look for a tool to look for our contexts. In doing so, we redefine the existing meaning of these instruments and their contexts.

Danger Safety Tape is no longer just an instrument of defining danger and shedding risk. It also marks the extent of the page, defining an inside and outside, a participant and an audience. From behind the tape, an individual can ask questions verbally, communicating interest through watching. Inside the tape an individual can ask questions by taking action – physically digging a trench to locate the extents of a tree root. Perhaps the only synonym for context is frame. The danger tape signifies both a physical frame and provides other meta-frames. The tape signifies to our audience that this is a work zone : official, not to be tampered with, dangerous. It mimics something familiar of the fences further along the allée, another testing zone – material mockups for new buildings to be come. In turn, it sheds us a credibility and a stability. Not just a bunch of unhinged students devoted to a tree – which we completely are.

Hibaku Trees

170 Trees.

The Hibaku Trees.

Atomic Bomb Survivors.

The Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima, August 6th 1945.  ___________________________________________________

Hiroshi Sunairi Tree Project from the Sound of Music Exhibition

Since 2006, artist Hiroshi Sunairi has been distributing the seeds of these Hibaku trees throughout the United States and Singapore, inviting people to plant and nurture the growing artifact. This is an act of remembrance and a memorandum of hope established through the on-going life of these trees. This project is a nod towards the slow process of healing after significant disaster. Now, the daughters, and daughter’s daughters grow proudly throughout the world.


Digging Drinking and Droning

Allow me to introduce B-5. That is the name of our tree, perhaps not our One Tree, but the tree we are most interested in for now. Its tall and sturdy above ground, but the unseen  – whats below the bark and underneath the soil has been a mystery. By following the root, from root flare at the base of the tree trunk out until we reach the end of the root, we can observe the extent to which tree canopy has any correlation to root spread.  This is an experience of slowing down time – many hands and many hours later, the one tree root is still not exposed. Could you imagine the entire allée coming down by man power only? No machines, just simple hand tools and shovels to relieve the trees from their medium. This is a process of upheaval. While we are engaging with these trees as a living laboratory, we are also participating in the unhurried disassociation of a tree and its environment. Every hole, every accidental slice of a root, every footstep that increases soil compaction affects this tree’s next calculated measure to prepare for its steady future. Does it know it does not have a future?