Tree Perspectives, 2014
Arts-based studio research & practice workshop

Twelve NuVuu studio High School students worked with the artist during October 22-October 31, 2014 in an attempt to take the perspective of a tree and explore the unique role of trees in our environment.  Nuvu is an innovative trimester-length program whose pedagogy is based on the studio model of teaching and learning.  This unique, educational context promotes peer teaching and learning, and cultivates curiosity.

The studio included

  • lectures on the history of plant signaling and behavior
  • discussions on the spectrum of consciousness and ontological anomalies
  • prior plant and tree art
  • hands-on exploration and making
  • demonstration of plant/tree interfacing & thermal imaging options
  • co-development of an interspecies communication protocol
  • guest lecture and demonstration in collaboration with a local tree-related energy startup
  • critique sessions leading up to a final presentation
  • physically actualized and speculative designs
  • installed Tree Perspectives art pieces

This workshop covered a whole spectrum of approaches to this type of work.  Extending the traditional Maker philosophy of engaging both the mind and the hand (thinking and making), students were encouraged to use their hearts as well to access their intuition, a valuable and no-tech way of working with trees

See selected texts from the workshop below:

The new view is that plants are highly sensitive organisms, actively and competitively foraging for limited resources both above and below the ground. They are also organisms which accurately compute and analyze their internal/external circumstances, and take action to mitigate and control various environmental challenges.  Plants are also capable of distinguishing between self and non-self, leading to territorial behavior just like many animals.  Plants have memory, learn, and host multiple internal clocks many of which are synchronized to changes in the natural environment.

This new view considers plants as information-processing organisms with complex communication systems active throughout the plant and extended to it’s living neighbors. Due to their long life spans, plants and trees have evolved a durable signaling and information-processing network that is bio-compatible with other species.  Plants and trees are great collaborators.

Plants are as sophisticated in behavior as animals but their potential has been masked because they operate on time scales many orders of magnitude longer than similar operations in animals. Plants have developed a very robust signaling and information-processing apparatus… Besides abundant interactions with the environment, plants interact with other communicative systems such as other plants, fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects and predatory animals.

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel-but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling-not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
— E.E. Cummings

The greatest act of disobedience in which you can engage

Is to begin to feel again

To ask yourself every minute of every day

Every time you see something new in your field of vision

How does it feel?