Categoriearchief: Dendrology

The scientific study of trees.


Michael Johansson
Some Assembly Required – Crescent scale 1:1, 2007

michael johansson

‘As a child I was fascinated by building models. I remember breaking off the pieces from the surrounding plastic sticks that were leftover from the casting process and subsequently gluing the pieces back together in the right order by following the instruction manual. A real bicycle is turned back into a space of imagination’.

Toys ‘r’ us – dinghy scale 1:1, 2006

michael johansson

‘A boat and related equipment are joined together in a welded metal frame. everything is painted in a unifying plastic layer to resemble the surface of a model kit. the real boat is transformed into a model of itself, and its original purpose has given way to something else’. Michael Johansson also made other household equipment like a bed, hairdryer and lawn mower. He even made a diving suit!

Some Assembly Required – Hard Hat Diving, 2011

michael johansson

This DIY art makes me think of the DIY trophies of ply beech wood from the designers of Big-Game.

big-game designers

But they also exist in the regular urban design jungle as cardboard models.

cardboard trophies

When Suddenly It Hit Me

Rinus Van de Velde
Physical Items Themselves Are Not Evidence, 2009

rinus van de velde

Rinus Van de Velde uses signs as a means to put a recalcitrant reality in order. His starting point is shaped through the world of photographic representation. Having an extensive personal archive of images ranging from (semi)scientific magazines such as the National Geographic to biographies of artists and scientists, these images form a rich source for series of drawings in which the source material is still recognizably present. The resemblance between all these pictures is not so much what they show but how they show it. By using the photographs as material for a drawing and by situating it in a different context by adding text, Van de Velde ignores the facts and creates space to tell a personal story. The aim isn’t to tell the reality behind the photo but to create third degree myth. Many of the photographs that Van de Velde references are part of an ideology that isn’t completely right or which hasn’t survived the test of time: like the deep rooted faith in the myth of the artist as authentic or autonomous, scientific progress or paternal exotism. Instead of dismantling, Van de Velde weaves through text and reciprocally references a new story. The result is a sort of mirror-universe, inhabited by brave alter-egos that map the world around them and function as ideal representatives of the actual artist.

When Suddenly It Hit Me, 2009

rinus van de velde

Maarten Vanden Eynde
Dip-Stick, 2005

Maarten Vanden Eynde dip-stick

Small wooden sculpture, planed square on one side, the other is inflicted like a burned lump or black tumor, like a stick dipped in dark matter.

Making and Knowing

Curdin Tones
final exam | overview sculptures, 2003


Making and Knowing. On the Work of Curdin Tones.
by Janneke Wesseling, Leffond, May 2007

Man is afflicted with a mania to order and structure the world. The garden must be weeded, the land cultivated. Everything around us is manufactured, made. Not only in the city, but also outside of it, in nature or what’s left of it. The need to intervene, cultivate, re-arrange, emerges over and over. Like the creation of the ‘foraging landscape’ and ‘recreation zones’ in the Lange Bretten, the green belt between Amsterdam West and Halfweg through which Curdin Tones cycles on his way to his studio. The greenery must be organised and contained; asphalt is laid, trees felled, water features laid out. Our environment is in a constant state of flux, constantly altering the benchmarks for our actions. A cycling path is suddenly re-routed,  the intersection has become a roundabout. And we change with them.
Tones (Tschlin, Zwitserland, 1976) understands only too well the passion to order, the fervour to impose human will on material. When will and material converge, enormous satisfaction is produced. Which applies equally to a well-shaped knife and a successful sculpture.
As a child, Tones watched a carpenter shape a straight shelf to fit a bowed wall. The carpenter drew the curvature of the wall onto the shelf with a pencil held flush to the wall. At this moment, the difference between straight and crooked was unmasked. The carpenter shaved away the excess wood. The linear had become the curvilinear.
Tones produced his first sculptures (2003) from pinewood packing case wood. He screwed three straight boards, appropriately warped, to one bent one. This resulted in a single volume, a compressed beam. One sees that the ‘beam’ is hollow from the side. Tones made three such sculptures, as is his wont: he produces variations on an idea, resulting in a series. Two of which are on show at the exhibition in Enschede.
Material dictates form. In the book Eigen Grond, that Tones produced on the occasion of his graduation presentation at the Rietveldacademie, he writes: “Wood is a material that has grown. The growth of the tree depends on where the tree stands. The growth locus determines the height of the tree, hardness of the wood and number of knots. The wood of one tree may be harder on one side than the other. Wood from the root and crown sections also differ in strength. Sapwood and hardwood serve different functions within the tree, thus having different degrees of hardness. While the wood dries out, these anomalies cause tensions. If a beam is finally allocated one place and one function, knowledge of where the tree grew may be vital. A craftsman who cut and sawed the tree himself knows the wood and its qualities so he can use it to better effect. When fresh wood is used inappropriately it can split, break and resist its assigned function. The awareness that no two lengths of timber are the same is crucial during construction so as to make best use of the planks.”
In the sculptures that resulted, fashioned from wood grown on mountainsides, Tones again explored the tension between wood as natural material and worked it according to traditional methods. He sawed various trunks lengthwise into four, planning the sawed edge of the sections smooth. Then he affixed the edging. The long timber sections look vulnerable and organic laid on the ground.
Tones wants to make things, objects that are physically present. He wants to make three dimensional objects, even though most of his pieces are presented lying on the ground. He loves the stubbornness of the material. He searches for ways of heightening the experience of the material.
Sculpture demands a slow concentration, a different way of looking. It is a kind of leisureliness when compared to how we live and navigate the city, accustomed as we are to digital media and lightning-speed, fleeting impressions. Tones is fascinated by the rural landscape of his youth. Life in the country has weight, torpidity; time works differently. Admittedly, things age here, but at another pace.

Curdin Tones
without title, 2004
arolla pine (208 x 13 x 12 cm)


foto: P.Cox

without title, 2004
arolla pine (23 x 409 x 1.8 cm)


foto: P.Cox

Long ago, there was no difference between the artist and the craftsman. The word techne, from which our word ‘technology’ derives, not only referred to the practice of craftsmanship, but also to art. The cabinet maker and the potter, and the master builder, sculptor or painter were all called technites. This changed with Plato and Aristotle. Philosopher Gerard Visser writes: “Aristotle distinguished between man and animal: animals live by experience (empeira), but man lives by technique and reasoning (technekai logismois). Techne is the extraordinary means of poiesis that produces, from what it brings forth, in order to cause (aition). Techne is not production as such, the proficiency grown of experience, but knowing the reason why (dioti). Nowadays we understand this knowledge only in terms of rationality and causality, the seed of which was planted by Aristotle”.
In other words, technology was once more than knowing in terms of rationality and causality, it was knowing why. The same Aristotle elsewhere spoke of techne as episteme, a way of knowing or recognising that is not only rational knowing, but a knowledge that produces truth.
This means, however miraculous it might sound to us, that truth can result from making (poiein) something, and that a product can be true, can possess a truth. Technology once was not something rational as in our day. Visser : “Anything that transposes something from not-being to being is poiesis. Poiesis underlies the products of all technai. All craftsmen who bring something into being are poietai. Technology, we could say, is thus also poetic. And art is, reversed, a form of technology; not because the artist would also be a craftsman […], but because the work of both is real.”
Since Plato, who asserted that a work of art is the embodiment of imitation and illusion and that it has nothing to do with truth or knowledge, and, since Aristotle, art and technology have gradually grown apart. Until they became two completely separate areas. Visser: “Art and technology are identified with the mutually exclusive spheres of the illusory and the true, the ideal and real, the emotional and the intellectual, the irrational and the rational.” Art became uprooted because its ability to think, to get to know the world and discover truth, was denied.
Since Modernism and the avant-gardes of the last century, artists have been reclaiming the ability to think, whether this is intuitive or rational thought or both simultaneously. In the tradition of the avant-garde, the artist accepts nothing as a given. It is his task to question all suppositions about art and art practice, and his position in society, again and again. Since then, artists have appropriated a critical-theoretical approach that is generally considered as an integral element of their practice. Art itself is increasingly considered a form of research, as an activity directed at knowledge acquisition. There is mounting attention, both among artists and theoreticians, for the cognitive function of the artwork: art as a way of getting to know reality.

This does not mean that art and technology or art and science have since drawn closer together again (although there are some signs pointing in that direction). But perhaps greater scope has been shaped for the idea that the artwork can offer insight into, or knowledge of, reality. A knowledge that is not directed at a clearly delineated objective, at applicability, but art as a means of knowing why.

This lies at the heart of Tones’ work. His ambition is to learn about the materials with which he works and our attitudes to them, to attain insight into our way of being in the world. Just as the craftsmen of his native village have an intimate knowledge of pinewood and put this knowledge into practice every day, Tones, by giving these materials a new form endeavours to bring their essence to light.
It is an attempt to render the spirit of wood, plaster, concrete or stone visible or tangible through human action. Making, poiein, is knowing.

Modernistic Tree

Square Tree Trunk, 2008

square tree

Square Tree Trunk series are a part of NATURE V2.01 project. ‘Round’ is perfect in nature, but ‘square’ is perfect for industrial standard. To illustrate, square tree would enable wood industry to lose less material, to cut easier with machines and to store more efficiently.

square tree2

Maarten Vanden Eynde
Bonfire: Rite for Almere, 2008

Maarten Vanden Eynde

Maarten Vanden Eynde

All over the world rites and celebrations form the backbone of a society and function as cornerstones of history. The rite is an event to remember or look forward to. An occasion to create a moment of reflection, an enlarged presence of the present, the ideal opportunity to commemorate once past and plan the future. It is an event of which if you are part of that particular society, you just have to be there. Sometimes the initial history of the rite is lost but still continued because it is part of everybodies life. Since Almere lacks a history (beyond 30 years) I thought of giving it one by initiating a rite. An oak tree from the first generation of planted trees in Almere (about 35 years old) was cut square, like a big beam splitting up in smaller beams, covered with dry pinewood and lit on the 21st of August 2008 at 21.00. The tree will stay for a few years as semi-permanent sculpture and will be relit every year untill it only exists in stories.

Maarten Vanden Eynde

Maarten Vanden Eynde

Maarten Vanden Eynde

Maarten Vanden Eynde

Reanimated Tree

Bruce Cannon
Tree Time, 1998


TreeTime is a computer-controlled robotic sculpture fabricated from parts of a downed tree.
Bruce Cannon: ‘This past winter, Paul Stout, who helped me with this project, and I scoured the regional parks searching for the perfect tree to scavenge for this project. I think we found it. It was a slim, twisted, beautiful Laurel which had been struck by lightning. So like a mad scientist, I have reanimated it, excising undesirable elements and augmenting the natural materials with the best technology has to offer.
This ‘improved’ tree has six large articulated joints fabricated from copper and brass, moved by cables pulled by gearmotors at the tree’s base. In addition, there are sixteen small motorized branchlets. Stainless steel cable housings and wiring bundles cover nearly every inch of the tree’s surface. On each branch is a light sensor which gives the computer information about the proximity of viewers. The computer sends microsecond pulses to the motors, in patterns derived from the sensor information. Near each motor is a tiny red light, which illuminates breifly each time the corresponding motor is pulsed. In this way the piece moves in response to viewer presence. However, the pulses to the motors are so short that the piece’s movement occurs over minutes, hours and days. To all but the most intrepid viewer, it appears to be a static object.
This machine is I think equal parts meditation on slowness and bastardization of nature. The obvious reference to Mary Sheeley’s Frankenstein in the lightning-struck tree, the garish reassembly, the electrification, the technological “improvement” upon the original organism, is intentional. Paul calls it eco-porn, which I think is nice; pornography is a rich word. And to it I’d add the word ecstasy, because it too carries multiple, sometimes contradictory and sometimes sympathetic, meanings. These words’ multiple interpretations evoke the dissonance I tried to create in the work.
I associate both words with TreeTime, because of the pleasure and the pain, the beauty and the obscenity of the endeavor. In that sense, Treetime is a morality story about limits. It’s also called TreeTime because it’s a robotic sculpture whose movement is sessile; that is, plant-like. It’s meant to be frustratingly slow. For all these reasons and more, I wanted this piece to be the anti-speed (the antidote) in an exhibition full of quick ruminations on accelerated culture.’


The Beginning or The End

Hubert Duprat
Aquatic caddis fly larva with case, gold, pearls, precious stones
2/3 cm, 1980–1996

duprat-insect larve


In his works Duprats often borrows shapes and materials from the plant and animal kingdoms, and combines them with a pseudo-scientific frame.

In earlier works, as a kind of nature’s own ready-mades, he has for example let water-living larvae of dragonflies (genus Trichoptera) produce sculptures for him. The artist has disassembled the tubular shell of the larva and placed the ”nude” creature in an aquarium where there are grains of gold, pearls and chips of precious stones. From this material the larva has then built itself a new shell. The process shows in what way the insect is capable of adjusting to new circumstances and materials, and the strength of its instinctive behaviour, but also poses questions about man’s view of art, about what is manufactured and what is ”naturally” created.

The work ”A la fois, la racine et le fruit” (At the same time, the root and the fruit) from 1997–98 is a sculpture with a peculiar shape, a branch from a tree adorned with small polished tablets of bone in subdued mosaic.


Tree Torture

David Nash
Ash Branch Cube, 1988-89


The Tree is central to David Nash’s art. He uses trees that have been felled for good reason and examines and selects them as the stone carver may choose blocks from different parts of a quarry. Nash also plants and trains trees, pruning and bending them to grow to preordained forms – the best known example being the Ash Dome, planted in 1977. Through grafting and periodic fletching (a method in which a trunk is bent by taking a notch out of the bark and heartwood at one side only) Nash has manipulated the trees so that they are beginning to meet to make a rounded canopy.



Guiseppe Penone
Elevazione,  2001


Carbon Circulation


USDA Forest Service (FS) scientists have provided the first proof of concept for a method that allows researchers to study below-ground carbon allocation in trees without destroying them. In the latest issue of the journal Plant, Cell and Environment, Kurt Johnsen and fellow scientists at the FS Southern Research Station unit in Research Triangle Park, NC, describe a reversible, non-destructive chilling method that stops the movement of carbon into root systems.

The photosynthetic process of plants has been estimated to account for almost half of the carbon circulating in the Earth’s systems. Reliable data has been developed on carbon cycling in the above-ground processes of trees, but how much carbon is actually moved and stored below the ground has not yet been determined. Most methods to study below-ground processes involve destroying the roots as well as the mycorrhizal communities that live symbiotically with root systems.

Michael Sailstorfer
Waldputz (wood cleaning), 2000


Mark Dion
A meter of Jungle, 1992

mark dion a meter of jungle


Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is the method of scientific dating based on the analysis of tree-ring growth patterns. This technique was invented and developed during the 20th century originally by the astronomer A. E. Douglass, the founder of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona.


Other branches of Dendrology:

dendroarchaeology: The science that uses tree rings to date when timber was felled, transported, processed, or used for construction or wooden artifacts. Example: dating the tree rings of a beam from a ruin in the American Southwest to determine when it was built.

dendroclimatology: The science that uses tree rings to study present climate and reconstruct past climate. Example: analyzing ring widths of trees to determine how much rainfall fell per year long before weather records were kept.

dendroecology: The science that uses tree rings to study factors that affect the earth’s ecosystems. Example: analyzing the effects of air pollution on tree growth by studying changes in ring widths over time.

dendrogeomorphology: The science that uses tree rings to date earth surface processes that created, altered, or shaped the landscape. Example: analyzing changes in tree growth patterns via tree rings to date a series of landslide events.

dendroglaciology: The science that uses tree rings to date and study past and present changes in glaciers. Example: dating the inside rings of trees on moraines to establish the approximate date of a glacial advance.

dendrohydrology: The science that uses tree rings to study changes in river flow, surface runoff, and lake levels. Example: dating when trees were inundated to determine the sequence of lake level changes over time.

dendropyrochronology: The science that uses tree rings to date and study past and present changes in wildfires. Example: dating the fire scars left in tree rings to determine how often fires occurred in the past.

dendroentomology: The science that uses tree rings to date and study the past dynamics of insect populations. Example: dating the growth suppressions left in tree rings from western spruce budworm outbreaks in the past.

Helgi Hjaltalins Ejolfsdorfs
Dig down Dig up, 2004



Made for the Sculpture Quadrennial Riga 2004 – European Space

Cold Dark Matter

Cornelia Parker
Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View
, 1991

Cornelia Parker

Cold Dark Matter began life as a garden shed filled with objects from her own and friends’ sheds and things bought at a car boot sale. She then asked the army to blow up the shed under very controlled conditions. The objects, along with the fragments of the shed, were collected and suspended in a closed room in an attempt to recreate the moment just after the explosion. The installation is lit with a single light-bulb at the very centre of the arrangement, casting shadows on the walls. The title gives us a whole new way of understanding the artwork, making us think of other dramatic moments of destruction and creation in the much wider universe.

Neither From Nor Towards, 1992

Cornelia Parker2

In ‘Neither From Nor Towards’ the brick remnants of an eroded house hang suspended in stilled animation in the work of British artist Cornelia Parker, who was nominated for the Turner prize in 1997. Her work often depicts a moment in time, which has been halted. In ‘Neither From Nor Towards’, the bricks are resonant with their previous life, reminding us of the passage of time over which we have no control. Parker rescues and reinterprets the ordinary, which is transformed by the gallery setting into something poetic and extraordinary.

Heart of Darkness, 2004

Cornelia Parker3

Charcoal from a Florida Wildfire (planned forest burn that got out of control)

Cornelia Parker was born in Cheshire in I956 and lives and works in London. She is interested in how everyday objects can be changed by (often violent) processes. During her career she has used a steamroller to flatten silver plates and has transformed a wedding ring into metres of fine, gold thread. Although at first glance it might seem that she is interested in destroying objects, she is in fact fascinated by how change can create something completely new.


Natalie Jeremijenko
OneTree, 2000


Natalie Jeremijenko, working at the intersection of contemporary art, science, and engineering, has completed an impressive number of projects individually and in collaboration with the artists’ collective, the Bureau of Inverse Technology (BIT). She creates “spectacles of participation” using robotics, genetic engineering, and digital, electromechanical and interactive systems, aimed at exposing, disrupting and redirecting the power that technology exerts on the human and natural environment.

Jeremijenko’s projects have included: Suicide Box, a vertical motion triggered camera unit which monitors and records activity around San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge; BitPlane, a device designed to circumvent the security systems of high tech corporate campuses in Silicon Valley; and BitRocket, which allows users to make accurate head counts at public demonstrations, and to document crowd interactions with police and security forces. For her Feral Robotic Dog Pack project Jeremijenko reprogrammed robot dogs “for semi-autonomous deployment” and set them loose to detect toxins in the local environment.

Many of Jeremijenko’s works investigate our disposition toward and impact on other species and the larger ecology. Her Uphone Sparrow Report used mobile phone networks to capture live data on the vanishing populations of sparrows around New York and London, while her robotic geese encouraged human controllers to learn about, and interact with, wild geese, instead of hunting them. Jeremijenko’s large-scale public artwork OneTree is 1,000 genetically identical micro cultured Paradox Vlach clones grown with the goal of providing a “public platform for ongoing discussions around genetic engineering.” A related software component measures the C02 in a computer’s immediate microenvironment, while Stump is a printer queue virus that counts the number of pages consumed by the printer; when the equivalent of one tree’s worth of pulp has been consumed, it automatically prints out a slice of tree.

Cloning has made it possible to Xerox copy organic life and fundamentally confound the traditional understanding of individualism and authenticity. In the public sphere, genetics is often reduced to ìfinding the gene for (fill in the blank),î misrepresenting the complex interactions of the organism with environmental influences. The swelling cultural debate that contrasts genetic determinism and environmental influence has consequences for understanding our own agency in the world, be it predetermined by genetic inevitability or constructed by our actions and environment. The OneTree project is a forum for public involvement in this debate, a shared experience with actual material consequences.

OneTree is actually one hundred tree(s), clones of a single tree micropropagated in culture. These clones were originally exhibited together as plantlets at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, in 1999. This was the only time they were seen together. In the spring of 2001, the clones will be planted in public sites throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including Golden Gate Park, 220 private properties, San Francisco school district sites, Bay Area Rapid Transit stations, Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center, and Union Square. A selection of international sites are also being negotiated. Friends of the Urban Forest are coordinating the planting. Because the trees are biologically identical, they will render the social and environmental differences to which they are exposed in subsequent years. The treesí slow and consistent growth will record the unique experiences and contingencies of each public site. The tree(s) will become a networked instrument that maps the microclimates of the Bay Area, connected through their biological materiality. People can view the tree(s) and compare them, a long, quiet, and persisting testament to the Bay Areaís diverse environment.

Laurus Nobilis

Julian LaVerdiere
Laurus Nobilis (Transgenic Laureate), 2000


Laurus Nobilis is the true laurel of classical antiquity. It was perceived as a symbol of immortality in ancient Greece and Rome, where it also became the emblem of nobility and victory. The Laureate was a crown woven of sprigs of laurel and was worn on the brow of each triumphant Roman general as he rode his chariot around the Circus in celebration. Conversely, withering or diseased laurel was believed to be a portent of disaster.
ìIt is thought the king is dead; we will not stay, the Laurel trees in our country are all withered, and meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven.î William Shakespeare, Richard III. The laurel is also symbolic of poetry and wisdom and is still honored today in the titles Poet Laureate and Nobel Laureate. As with plant genealogies, the code of our own genome is being deciphered and the wondrous and frightening implications of genetic determinism are gathering momentum. The gift of genius and strength may soon be obtained by intentionally reconfiguring our genetic building blocks. Enlightenment may be achieved through the administration of regenerative medicine. The illuminati will be cultivated in the test tube, not the temple. Scholastic study, trial, error, and happenstance will be rendered obsolete as a means of determining the intellect. Laureation will occur as commonly as germination.