When we plant the tree

ON THE OCCASION OF FUTURE TREE PLANTINGS
with reference to “Tree-Planting Day,” Calvin Milton Woodward, 1905

​What do we plant when we plant the tree?
We buy eighty years for the next allee;​
​We look to the past but mostly ahead​;
We often ignore the tree now dead
​Decaying gently in the new entry;
We plant to forget when we plant the tree​.​

​What do we plant when we plant the tree?
We know the resources historically—
We plant a pole, a mast, a winter’s fuel;
A rifle, an ax, more violent tools;
We know the harvests did come to be;
We planted to deploy when we planted the tree.

​What do we plant when we plant the tree?
We’ve read about instrumentality:
We plant for trees to serve our needs;
We perpetuate this, we save their seeds,
Force shape on their neutrality;
We plant an object when we plant the tree.

What do we plant when we plant the tree?
We plant to project authority;
We plant in grids, Cartesian perspectives;
We dominate nature, acculturate spaces;
We educate with due civility;
We plant to contain when we plant the tree.

But come, my friends, it isn’t all bad:
We plant, we’ve said, to give power to plans;
By planting a tree, we’ll do more than deploy—
The shade of a tree we can always enjoy;
We plant for places to move and debate
with raised glasses, for we plant to create.

The terrain is contested, it always will be,
And we start all again when we plant the tree.

Tree Walk

Tree Walk

Sunday May 21 2017
2:30pm
Washington University entrance, Lindell at Skinker

In partnership with the department of walking | http://www.dptwlk.org

This walk promotes the bodily experience of the Brookings Drive Pin Oak allée one last time. Participants will complete an orchestrated mediation between the vastness of tree body and individual body by materially mapping the interconnected condition between these beings. Each participant will partner with one tree, and begin their solo walk from that tree into the vastness of the allée — each establishing their individual trajectory, interacting with other participants and trees along the way. Pace, direction and interaction with fellow participants matter.

And so, while you begin at one tree – you go on a journey ultimately mapping out the constellation of trees and their interconnectivity that makes this landscape an allée. The material result is a mapping of individual paths, but also a mapping of interaction, and ultimately connectivity.

 

 

Worm’s Eye View

The second iteration of our root/tree enclosure has been in place for several weeks and has seen more use than the first. Perhaps this is due to the increasingly warmer and sunnier spring weather? Perhaps it has something also to do with the configuration of the enclosure itself? A series of drawings for each iteration of the enclosure provides further opportunities to consider what it means to create an interior and exterior space, what it means to position ourselves in relationship to the tree. Critical to this analysis is the point of view of the drawing.  Four drawings for each enclosure were made, all done in parallel (isometric) projection, however the most compelling point of view in my mind, was the worm’s eye view.

enclosure-01_parallel-03enclosure-02_parallel-02

This point of view seems appropriate for the enclosures because it positions the observer looking upward into the tree, as you would be if you were seated in the enclosure itself. It also strengthens, lengthens and underscores the tree and the enclosure, and their presence, while humbling the viewer. The worm’s eye view offers a sensation of being embedded within the earth looking through transparent soil to the tree and the enclosure above. Perhaps root’s eye view is more appropriate for the context of our studio? At least one more set of drawings to add to the current two would make a more complete series, so I am thinking about the next iteration of our enclosure project and what that might look like…

Tree:Other:Self

TheCellTree

In the zine The Cell Tree, author Nolan Boomer evaluates the tree as an instrument of communication. In the wake of the recently popular book by Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees, he takes for granted that the interconnection of tree organisms through mycorrhizal systems has become embedded cultural thinking. Boomer reminds us that trees have for some years been tapped as disguises for infrastructural cell towers and that “tree diagrams” deserve critique as inadequately complex visual display methods. The tree is being used for its very ability to absorb these uses with neutrality, as Jesse has noted. Part of the tree’s elusiveness may be in its ability to wear well so many guises that are actually obstacles to our understanding.

Trees, whether living or in decay, are points in larger systems. In the allee, they are placed into a selective grid, expressive of a Cartesian control over the measured landscape. Here the tree communicates the designer’s strong desire for spatial form and order, an architectural mimetic that also is transformative of the archetype of the forest. The tree remains productive.

Is it possible that trees might yet project some of what they are back to or onto us? If trees are communicators, then we must actualize ourselves as receivers. The tree has been encoded culturally and distanced spatially–both from natural communities with other trees and from a richer haptic association with humans. The tree has been a focus as an object, and as an object, it is something we can never know. To close the subject-object gap, we might need to recognize the tree, physically and metaphorically, by standing alongside it.

Traces

IMG_5713.JPGThe first iteration of the tree enclosure has been dismantled, but not without leaving its mark.

Keep an eye open for the next iteration.

IMG_5711IMG_5718