if a tree falls
1224 W Loyola Ave, Chicago IL
February 2, 2024 - February 28, 2024
On view from the street 24/7 and visit inside by appointment
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
At the onset of lockdowns in 2020 I found myself in frequent conversations with friends and acquaintances who, like me, live in urban environments. Repeatedly, the sentiment “I need to go be in nature,” echoed between us across virtual space.
As we spoke of our yearning to spend time in a natural environment and how much we missed the immersive experience of nature, I observed – not for the first time – how our conversation brimmed with subtext: that nature is located somewhere, in a wholly separate place from here – that nature isn’t surrounding us but, rather, is a place to which we must go. The implication is that nature isn't present in spaces we inhabit, but instead, it only exists in an “other” location possessing some specific physical qualifications. As nature is a human construct – and a term with vastly different meanings for different people – the very presence of a person in an environment they deem natural transforms it into nature.
Likewise, it is human presence that enables this unnatural installation to be nature. The forest is activated by human company – by our presence, our movement, and our activity. The trees inflate when they sense passersby; if they feel that someone is watching them; if they feel performers’ movements. When visitors leave, the trees might fall – but we cannot be sure, as there’s no one around to see (or hear) it happen.
The bark of these trees is nylon, coated in printed patterns foraged from the natural environments of Edgewater and Rogers Park. With our presence, the telephone poles, trees, and other natural textures become exuberant and charismatic in nature, dancing and vibrating via a support network of fans, extension cord roots, and motion detectors.
This project featured an installation activation with with Steven Hou on February 17, 2024.