Seeds of Our Destruction

Six Hours to Build a Forest

SUSAN URMY

 

The installation “How to Build a Forest”—built during the course of two days in March in Neely Auditorium by a group of artists, students and anyone who wanted to join in—was a reminder about the world’s interconnectedness. Life, art, environment—all are here today, gone tomorrow, impossibly beautiful and possibly destroyed without any real understanding of our own roles in their destruction.

Conceived by visual artist Shawn Hall and theater veterans Katie Pearl and Lisa D’Amour, the work is, in their words, “intensely interdisciplinary.” A village is needed to construct it. After Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill made a mess of their native New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the artists concocted “Forest” in an effort to make their own “creative and destructive processes visible and accessible to examine how our lives are intimately tied to the fragile natural world.”

The artists, who have installed the work at The Kitchen in New York City as well as at numerous universities, begin with an empty stage where a forest composed of fabric, steel and repurposed objects is built in six hours. An attempt to “animate” the completed forest fails and, after 30 minutes, everyone begins to disassemble it. Anyone who stops by during the build or the destruction is invited to participate—and to contemplate his or her own relationship with the natural world: how they live in it, rely on it, use it and use it up.