Pondering a Forest

By Rachel Revelle

How-To-Build-a-Forest-resize-1-300x225Can you decipher what is going on in this picture? When I just glance at the photo in hindsight, it seems to suggest a giant party, with larger than life streamers, confetti, and one of those long-armed men that blow in the wind. While I like the festive connotations, they’re not quite accurate. This is a shot I took in Page Auditorium this weekend while viewing–or experiencing–the How to Build a Forest art installation.  I happened to read about it in last week’s Recess and decided to check it out.  I say festive is not the proper description because while it was beautiful, my mood was overall quiet and contemplative, and I honestly left somewhat disheartened.  The artists spent eight hours building this “forest” out of materials such as fabrics, wire, plastics, and other nonsensical items that reminded me fondly of The Scrap Exchange.  The care that was taken to collect and assemble these items was incredible, and the environment they created really did usher you in to explore its diversity. My mind felt sharper by engaging so deliberately with my surroundings.

The major idea being that the forest was an ecosystem in process, the exhibit was meant to be a [meditation] on creation, destruction, biodiversity and ecological sustainability. It made me think about how we care for the natural world, and also how we produce and track materials that in their multiple iterations become less and less natural. The field guide to the forest charted the raw materials utilized for the products that built the forest and where those products came from, both geographically and by type of store or other procurement source. They even asked to see the tag of my shirt when I entered the forest to add its country of origin (Haiti) to their expansive list.  And of course it was impossible to know everything’s source. Some of us may take pride in shopping at the local boutique, making a concerted effort to recycle, and maybe even hosting an arts and crafts party at the Scrap Exchange, but to really think through where our materials come from and where they are going is daunting.  It feels so good to clean out a closet, dorm room, or basement, but where will our unwanted items go next? The lines of the chart cannot be reversed so that materials are disassembled into their natural states.