The 2010s have settled into their own, and now even the trees get their own hashtag campaigns and Twitter handles. In our fickle attention economy, new social media accounts and catchy hashtags are made, forgotten, and sometimes actually go viral every day. And why not the same for our plants? As we simultaneously devise ways to connect every object to the internet of things, we are well on our way to thoroughly destroying our environment; how can the World Wide Web better serve the web of life?
#TreeSpeech, a new project by artist Anne Percoco, is a social media performance piece intended to give voice to some of the trees of Jersey City. Together with Sustainable Jersey City, a collaborative network of community groups and individuals working on environmentalist projects in Jersey City, Percoco is mapping the city’s trees and recruiting residents to tweet on behalf of the trees, in the first person.
“#TreeSpeech is a kind of whimsical experiment in empathy,” Percoco told me over email. “If we can converse with trees, how will our actions towards them and thoughts about them change? Now that I have started tweeting from its perspective, I pay much more attention to the tree across the street from my apartment. I notice changes, and I’ve started caring for it in small ways.”
With a final goal of having 50 tweeting trees by mid September, Peroco’s eight operational accounts already include @ReginaldtheTree — which shares remixed sounds from its street corner — as well as @MoribundtheTree and @Arlene_the_Tree, which are spreading the world about the importance of these trees for the city and the environment as a whole. Tweets range from soothing soundscapes, facts shared to raise environmental awareness, and quotidian observations. I’m still waiting for a tree selfie.
The project is in part a response to the Jersey City Environmental Commission’s Tree Canopy Study, released in July of 2015. The study recommended that Jersey City add 30,000 trees to its urban space. Thus far, the municipal government has only committed to planting 5,000 trees over the next five years. #TreeSpeech intends to raise awareness about this particular study and the disappointing response from the local government. Percoco hopes the campaign will garner the attention of local residents who will then advocate for the planting of more trees.
Why do trees matter? Trees are important for the environment whether in a jungle or urban space. In city settings, trees help moderate temperatures, which in turn lowers utility costs and building emissions substantially. They improve air quality, and therefore public health. The trees reduce stormwater runoff and suck up carbon dioxide, which is destroying our ozone. I personally just like them; I’ve lounged beneath their leaves, climbed their branches, and even have built a treehouse, but this is the first time I’ve tweeted with a tree.
I chose to interact with @ReginaldTheTree because he — I don’t know why I’ve gendered this tree — seems like an active tree with a relatable social media presence. Like so many inanimate objects tweeting, it’s hard to explain their appeal and even harder to understand why some are so viral. I don’t see Reginald becoming a hit, but there is a pleasure in tweeting with him, especially all the way from Cambodia. It makes me consider locality more than I usually do on Twitter. This is a tree that Percoco has mapped and that is firmly rooted (zing!) in its location. So often I experience Twitter as a fleeting and amorphous litany of self-promotion, great jokes, must-read links, powerful and concise commentary, and gut-reaction trash. Trees entering this space is certainly new, but will #TreeSpeech work?
Unlike much of social media art, #TreeSpeech has a clear intention: to raise awareness among Jersey City residents about the importance of their city’s trees, the Tree Canopy Study, and to advocate for a better response from the local government. The tweeting trees’ site-specificity and extremely narrow scope of relevance strongly contrasts with Twitter, but could be powerful for advocating locally, if Percoco and Sustainable Jersey City properly advertises and leverages the work.
A great deal of this depends of the volunteer tweeters. How will they leverage their existing audiences, use their unique voices, and sustain the accounts could make or break the project. Their level of commitment will show as the performance goes on. We will see if the empathy Percoco is experiencing for her local tree will be shared by her enlisted volunteers and — more importantly — whether it translates through Twitter and into real votes.
Friend down the street died from #neglect #deadtree #sosad #TreeSpeech https://t.co/psDLddIy0r pic.twitter.com/gTVHEfwz0Z
— FaithTheTree (@faith_tree) July 3, 2016
Correction: This article originally stated that Jersey City had only committed to planting 2,000 trees over the next five years, but it has committed to planting 5,000. We apologize for this error, which has been fixed.
Art Problems: How Do I Get a Public Art Commission?
Want to leave a mark on your city or town, but don’t know where to start? Paddy Johnson has some tips.
Rose B. Simpson Embeds Ancestral Histories in Clay
She has taken clay and used it to recall its ancestral roots in Pueblo culture and address the present history of postcolonial recovery and ongoing trauma.
Mondays at Pratt Institute: Weekly Openings of Work by Graduating Artists
Free and open to the public, Pratt Shows celebrate the school’s graduating students. MFA and BFA work on view this spring in Brooklyn, New York.
Quiet Paintings at a Time of Sensory Overload
Where Kim Mikyung’s process suggests an obsessive burrowing into the self, Kim Hyung-dae casts his gaze upward and outward into the sky.
Is the “Free the Nipple” Movement Too White?
Online representations of the activists lean White and thin, creating an image problem for the movement.
LSU School of Art Grants Highest MFA Stipends in the Southern US
With funded assistantships, full tuition waivers, and generous stipends, Louisiana State University helps students lay the groundwork for a successful lifelong art practice.
New “We ❤️ NYC” Campaign Misses the Mark
The recently unveiled design is meant to live alongside the iconic original and specifically address the city, but New Yorkers are not happy.
1,000+ Objects at The Met Linked to Antiquities Smugglers
A report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed hundreds of works once owned by people accused of or convicted of antiquities crimes.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Offers Summer Art and Design Courses Online and On-Campus
Emerging and established artists can choose from over 50 Adult Continuing Education courses at one of the most influential art and design schools in the US.
Lunar Bead Necklace and Asteroid “Emoji” Head to Auction
Christie’s bizarre sale features other space rocks propped up on stands like sculptures.
Scientists Create the First Full Brain Map of a Fly
The achievement is a giant step toward understanding human neural networks.
IDSVA Offers a Non-Studio PhD in Visual Arts: Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory
With no campus, the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts is a truly nomadic institution, existing everywhere our students and faculty are.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Closes Over Climate Protest
The institution shuttered in advance of an action planned for the 33rd anniversary of its infamous art heist.
Remembering the Migrants Who Died in US Detention
Artist Jackie Amézquita will lead a caravan of trucks with the names of the deceased to LA sites representing systems of oppression and solidarity for immigrants.
http://treespeech.net is now live!
Comments are closed.