The concept of Mother Tree (working title) is a public, interactive sculpture in the form of a severed old-growth tree. Through the use of capacitive sensing (an electrical phenomenon often utilized in touch screen technology) Mother Tree responds to the approach of a human body by emitting light and producing audible and tangible vibrations. This response changes as more people touch Mother Tree or hold the hand of someone in contact with the sculpture. Mother Tree is inspired by the works of environmental novelists, caretakers of the land, and scientists as well my own curiosity about the way trees inhabit the world and make the world habitable for me. The working title alludes to a concept pioneered by forest scientist, Suzanne Simard, who revealed in the late 90’s that Douglas fir trees were sharing resources with paper birch trees through symbiotic relationships with underground mycorrhizal networks. They discovered that “the exchange between the two tree species was dynamic: each took different turns as ‘mother,’ depending on the season. And so, forged their duality into a oneness, making a forest…[moreover] mother trees recognize and talk with their kin, shaping future generations.” I’m interested in how that model of cooperation reflects upon relationships between people, and between people and the land.
The drawing provides a conceptual view of the location (a public plaza on the east side of 5th Avenue West in downtown Duluth) and the potential form of the final Mother Tree interactive sculpture. Note: this will not be the location of the prototype proposed in this application.
This is an early concept drawing of the capacitive sensing/reacting project before it was a given the form of a tree.