Friday, March 12, 2010

Trees. United Nations.

MTrees multimedia installation project is about dormant, dead and decaying trees. I spend several hours a week on field excursions, imaging trees with four different types of cameras and a digital audio recorder.

New York City. In two days I am filming in three boroughs -- Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens -- for two projects, Trees and Walkers. The light is fantastic, visibility is endless and the air is dry. Perfect for crisp, high resolution imaging, with as much depth-of-field as my lenses will allow.

On East 43rd street and 1st avenue, I see a planted row of trees from another planet. Or so they seem. Unfortunately, they're behind a chain link fence, so it's tough to get a clear view of them. Looking up, I notice a building that looks familiar...I've seen it before...a row of flagpoles, heavy security presence...Wow. It's the UN

One aspect of Trees is imagining the world from a tree's perspective. UnGnarled is an example of how this tree might see the UN building.

Turning around and crossing the street toward the west side of the island, I see my first architectural love -- that other landmark NY skyscraper, through the eyes of ChrySler.

There are many photographers out on this beautiful day. Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, long lenses, wide-angles. It's a shutterbug orgy in the big apple.  

You can tell the professional shooters. They don't smile when you wave at them. They're too busy trying to get THE SHOT. Me? I'm giddy, like a child. I'll grin at anybody. Everything's right with the world.

But then. I turn to my left and see something pitiful. Someone has planted a lone young tree on a short block, all by itself.  Living thing as decorative object. But trees are  herd animals. Their roots intertwine under the earth, where they touch, receive, give and communicate. Planting one where its roots cannot reach another looks like solitary confinement.
I try to capture that sensation here in WallTree. The cabs heedlessly swoosh in front. The concrete block wall looms behind. The overpass crowds in from the left. A scraggly cousin leans precariously out around the corner, beyond the reach of roots. But this individual is all on its own, already bent and gnarled in its youth.

Too much anthropomorphizing? Not on your life. I know I'm right about this.
I generally prefer not to image trees that are so obviously planted in rows. This stems from my revulsion at the gardens of Versailles, circa 2001. One geometrically staid row of plantings after another, stretching to the horizon. A triumph of man over nature. Yuck. The food was great, though.

But the row of trees in front of the flagpoles in front of the UN building is just too lovely to pass up. DwarfRow shows their delicate structural finery in late winter, before the rouge and eyeliner of later seasons covers them up. Lovely. Just lovely. ###

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