August 19, 2010

Ran Morin's suspended and pendulum trees

Acacia Pendulum, Eliat. Source: Ran Morin, ranmorin.com
Accustomed to seeing trees grounded, I was intrigued by Ran Morin's suspended trees featured on the myurbanist blog.  I contacted Mr. Morin seeking permission to use his images on this blog and asking him about his sculptures.  I wanted to know what inspired him to create suspended tree art and why he chose the species he did (orange, acacia, etc.).  I assumed the species selection spoke to the locale in which the sculpture was installed.  I also asked why he selected the sites he did and what he hoped viewers of his work would know/ learn/ see/ think about.  In the case of the latter, I assumed there would be as many interpretations of his work as there were viewers. 

I think it's quite brilliant that one can view the whole tree (though the roots on view are a fraction of what one would find if the tree were growing in the ground); so often, a tree's underground life is overlooked.  Roots and tree health are the subject of the Landscape Below Ground conference proceedings and a recently discovered book (on my wish list) titled Up By Roots: Healthy Soils and Trees in the Built Environment by James Urban (2008).

    Without further ado, here are Mr. Morin's responses to my questions.

    WHY is an interesting question I often ask myself – although visual art has a quality which defies verbal explanation.  Moreover Public art- once placed-receives interpretation from the public which is often more instructive than the artist's intentions.  All this being said, and since my work is clearly in the conceptual line – I'll try to answer your questions.

    The living sculptures I create, live much as we do – natural beings in artificial conditions.  Just as we today require a complex technical infrastructure to maintain us, the trees I use need a careful maintenance system which allows their existence in the 'unnatural' conditions for many years.

    Suspended Orange Tree, Jaffa. Source: Ran Morin, ranmorin.com

    The species I choose are closely connected to their environmental and symbolic character.  For instance, the orange tree in Jaffa (which has surprisingly become a tourist attraction with tens of thousands visitors every year), has raised controversy in the press for being the 'last orange in Jaffa'. "Jaffa Orange" was a famous Palestinian trademark in the 19 century, later adopted by the Zionist movement – thus placing a suspended orange tree in Jaffa can be interpreted as a symbolic act related not only to the Natural-artificial conflict, but also to the memory of the political conflict in a city which lost most of its Palestinian population in 1948…
    But the suspended orange tree is also great fun for kids and has a freshness which defies all these explanations.

    So you see – just one example of the conceptual process of 'localization' (contrary to 'globalization') which my sculptures attempt.
    In quest of the 'Genius Loci' - the ancient spirit of the place – I try to create something new, which will grow into our unclear future.
    In spontaneous natural settings, trees often grow in groups, not as specimens. In addition to singular tree sculptures, Mr. Morin has created tree gardens. Here is the Suspended Garden of Poinciana trees at the Tel-Aviv Museum.

    Courtesy of Ran Morin, ranmorin.com
    Though not grounded, Ran Morin's tree works could be considered land art, a genre developed in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s.  Mr. Morin's artworks, like the early American land artworks, could be categorized as "ephemeral" (how long will a suspended tree live?).  Later land art installations have survived, so to speak.  Consider Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty. The famous earthwork, visible in 1970, was submerged for thirty years, reappearing in 2004, the result of a drought at Great Salt Lake, Utah. Proposed mineral extraction in the area, preservationists have argued, will irreparably alter the earthwork. For New Yorkers, a land artwork closer afield, intact, and preserved (it is on city-owned land) is Time Landscape by Alan Sonfist, a 25' x 40' recreation of Manhattan forest in the early 17th century.

    Related post:
    Greenspaces in New York

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