Hello Trees

Submitted by Daily tous les jours

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Client: Conservancy’s Public Art Committee for Discovery Green

Location: Houston, TX, United States

Completion date: 2017

Artwork budget: $225,000

Project Team

Curator

Lea Weingarten

Weingarten Art Group

Artist

Mouna Andraos

Daily tous les jours

Artist

Melissa Mongiat

Daily tous les jours

Industry Resource

Antoine Clayette

Wireframe

Overview

Studies have shown that trees communicate in a secret language through airborne particles and their roots. In a forest, this mysterious chatter allows them to help each other and ultimately survive.
Inspired by these imperceptible channels, Hello Trees is a poetic message board allowing humans to communicate with trees. This sensory path is an invitation to look up and take-in nature.
Set under a canopy of centennial oaks —a natural hidden treasure in downtown Houston— Hello Trees is a series of luminous arches linked to listening stations. At each end of the pathway, microphones allow strollers to send messages to the trees. Once recorded, these voices start a slow journey through the arches and progressively turn into music.
Following one’s voice along the path requires slowing down and looking up towards the sky. While admiring the beautiful foliage, passersby are transported by the soundscape – a concerto of voices and soothing melodies.
Taking advantage of the universal language of music, Hello Trees is a tribute to the city’s commitment to civic engagement and to the diversity of Houston’s inhabitants.

Goals

Hello Trees’s music, light and shape come together to change the pace of city life, engage citizens with the natural resources of their city and reinvent the promenade in a way that heals urban alienation. By entering into communication with trees, emotions take precedence over logic. Through the artwork, an unexpected, intimate relationship can be forged between humans and trees. This relationship may in-turn inspire us to take better care of the nature that we so crucially depend on. Hello Trees also strives to bring value back to a natural resource that was forgotten and unused by the citizens of Houston. For many decades, the bicentennial oaks that line the installation were surrounded by parking lots that were only recently refurbished into a park. In this context, Hello Trees celebrates new habits that give Houstonians a sense of ownership of a long neglected part of their city and bringing their attention to the natural beauty that might existed unnoticed under their eyes for many years. Ultimately, the project connects people together of all ages and background in this poetic quest to speak with nature, breaking individual bubbles as individual messages create a collective, shared light and sound experience.

Process

Hello Trees was created by Daily tous les jours, an art and design studio that uses technology and storytelling to explore collaboration, the future of cities and the power of humans. The artwork was the first original public art commission by the Discovery Green Foundation. Daily tous les jours was first invited to visit Discovery Green in downtown Houston in fall 2016 to study the site, its public and stories. We then consulted with a biologist to imagine an artwork that celebrated the natural assets of the park. After months of design and prototyping, Hello Trees came to life through joint expertise in software programing, electronics, sound design, industrial design, fabrication and logistics. It welcomed thousands of visitors a day and transmited an average of 2 914 messages to nature every day for 4 months.

Additional Information

Two stations at either end of the path invite visitors to record messages. The recorded messages are transcribed into light and sound patterns that travel along the arches and trees. As they progress along the way, they gradually transform into a soothing music. These light and sound elements were designed with slowing the rhythm of urban life in mind. They travel fast enough for people to be able to follow them at a leisurely pace, but slower than a hurried walker. Hello Trees! rewards those who take the time to appreciate their surroundings. When a light pattern reaches each arch’s base, the original voice input is gradually transformed through a custom pitch analysis software into a unique melody inspired by Éric Satie’s soothing Gymnopédies. Hello Trees!’s sound design was composed with repetition in mind: even as visitors keep producing new messages throughout the day, the melody stays calm, pastoral and poetic. When two messages traveling across the arches meet, they overlap and their pitch is matched, creating new harmonies. As more people walk through the promenade at the same time and produce more musical messages, a subtle symphony emerges, changing gradually with the coming and going of visitors.