Restorative Art in the Magical Forest by Glenn Kaino

“The best time to plant a tree,” the saying goes, “was 20 years ago. The second best moment is now”. But in artist Glenn Kaino’s new experiential installation, A forest for the trees, an eclectic dream team of interdisciplinary creatives is thinking of America’s forests not in terms of decades, but in terms of centuries, even millennia. And while they are reinventing humanity’s relationship with nature, they are also renewing the broader potential of so-called immersive art installations to create something meditative, thought-provoking, educational, healing, and even spiritual. As viewers enter the theatrically staged forest walk, they are transported by music, lights, sculptural illusions, robotics, moving emotion and storytelling; but first, they get a quick lesson in indigenous forestry from Jesse Williams.

Glenn Kaino: A Forest for Trees (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)

Kaino’s team was inspired by the atlanticThe 2021 editorial series of “Who Owns America’s Wilderness?” The historical magazine co-founded by naturalist poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is a producer of the Los Angeles facility, along with Lakota producer Laundi Keepseagle (Standing Rock Reservation). It is against this inspiring and problematic backdrop that the project moves forward, having set a tone for a decolonized vision of the future of our forests, one based on the science of the future and the wisdom of the past. “In truth, the North American continent has not been a desert for at least 15,000 years,” writes David Treuer in his Atlantic piece, Return National Parks to Tribes. “Many of the landscapes that became national parks had been shaped by native peoples over millennia. The idea of ​​a pristine American wilderness, an Eden untouched by humans and free from sin, is wishful thinking.”

glenn kaino forest

Glenn Kaino: A Forest for Trees (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images)

The Enchanted Forest Antechamber presents a light-based illuminated mini-lecture on this topic, narrated by Williams and accompanied by a set of backlit scenes in a spirited woodcut style by Ukrainian artist Kirill Yeretsky, illustrating the knowledge being imparted . The story of how in the jumping dance ceremony of the Karuk tribe, a man jumps from a rock at the base of the river and the waves call the salmon upstream, the sound signals the start of a controlled forest fire, an essential element in native forest management. . But in 1911, even as the Weeks Act established the National Forests program, it also banned all native burning ceremonies, with predictably disastrous results for all involved, the effects of which are being felt more than ever now in the midst of a global climate crisis. and a string of catastrophic disasters. “fire seasons” here in California. Once you have absorbed this context, you will head into the forest.

Glenn Kaino: A Forest for the Trees – Well (Photo by Aaron Mendez)

A well-worn boardwalk such as might be seen along any nature trail leads you past a colonnade of tree trunks into earthy terrain, through a series of four vignettes honoring the elemental magic of water, wood, earth and fire. A well of glass and light seems to recede to the center of the world in an endless swirl of clear water, to the poetic sounds of Priscilla Ahn in one of the original show compositions by Kaino and Sitek’s art and music collective High Seas. .

Glenn Kaino: A Forest for the Trees – Bristlecone Pine (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)

A Great Basin bristlecone pine is immortalized in a monumental talking sculpture inspired by the 4,800-year-old Methuselah, the oldest known living tree, voiced by magician and mentalist Max Maven. This eternal arboreal king twists and rises, and is scarred by time; it is impossible not to experience the physical resonance with his majesty and trauma. He is surrounded by a cohort of Animatronic HCI (Human Tree Interfaces) who broadcast tales of the forest voiced by Breanne Luger, native comedian; Joel McHale, actor and comedian; Ron Finley, activist and gardener; Robert Super, native comedian and elder of the Kanuk tribe; and Rodney Mullen, engineer and skateboarding pioneer.

Glenn Kaino: A Forest for Trees (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)

A collection of vintage Smokey the Bear posters leads into an interactive and illusionistic fire pit that responds to the hand movements of emboldened audience members, referencing the intimate and ritual power of native-controlled burning, accompanied by the haunting voices of Alice Smith and a withered. portrait of Karuk tribe consultant Bill Tripp by Shizu Saldamando. At the far end of the vast space, a wide seating area on benches made from reclaimed local trees faces Resurrection, an imposing and extensive architectural framework of glass and steel that encloses the considerable remains of the famous fig tree on Olvera Street. Moreton Bay, 144, collapsed in 2019, but is brought to life in this hybrid suit activated by a mind-blowing yet meditative music and light show, featuring puffy, angelic vocals from Kitty Harloe and intricate lighting choreography from the hundreds of crystals of she. panel cubes

Glenn Kaino: A Forest for Trees – Resurrection (Photo by Aaron Mendez)

A forest for the trees will be expanded as part of the Hammer Museum’s participation in the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time 2024, which is dedicated to the intersection of art and science; and yes, there will be an app. The current iteration also houses a Chef Minh Phan culinary component of porridge + puffs and PHENAKITE, and a memorabilia and gift shop in the entrance/exit lobby conceived and curated in collaboration with Thunder Voice Eagle’s Thunder Voice Hat Co. , whose designs express through recovered sustainable ceremonial clothing and materials the persistence of memory and the potential of the sacred to exist on a small and large scale.

Glenn Kaino: A Forest for the Trees – Bristlecone Pine (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)

The entire production makes it clear that Kaino and his team have spent serious years studying magic shows and immersive theater; in fact, Vance Garrett (Sleep No More) serves as executive producer and the whole thing has been arranged in collaboration with Superblue’s lead curator, Kathleen Forde, who is no stranger to great value ideas. And in a twist, the main sponsor is Mastercard, whose capitalist activities could be contributing to the problem, but whose stated commitment to restore 100 million trees worldwide by 2025 through the Priceless Planet Coalition, here results in Conservation International plant a tree for every ticket. sold to the show. As in, if you couldn’t plant a tree 20 years ago, please at least plant one now.

A forest for the trees at Ace Mission Studios, 516 S. Mission Road, Downtown; Wednesday through Sunday, from noon to 6 pm, through August; $10-$50; AForestLA.com.

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