A New Take on the Tree
Many people will have heard of the infamous swastika made up of larches that revealed itself every autumn in a forest outside Berlin. The trees, which turned yellow at the end of the year, stood out against the otherwise evergreen pine forest. The 60 sq yd Nazi symbol was only discovered after the fall of the Berlin Wall when the new German unified government ordered aerial surveys of state-owned land. While it may certainly be the most notorious, the German swastika plantation certainly isn’t the first time man has manipulated living trees for his own, often crude, purposes.
Visitors to the Castelluccio region of Italy are usually surprised to see a strangely familiar shape looming from one of the mountains that enclose the vibrant valley. Planted by some unknown patriot, a small forest in the shape of Italy has established itself on the otherwise meadowed mountainside.
Although a small dose of nationalism can be expected from most rural folk, the plantations found along the rest of the mountain range – one in the shape of North America, one resembling Africa and another Australia – are perhaps more suited to a Benetton advert than the sedate Umbrian countryside.
Over in Kyrgyzstan, a mountain in Tash-Bashat, near the edge of the Himalayas, is also the unfortunate home to a living swastika. At more than 600 feet wide, the fir tree plantation is at least 60 years old. Rumoured to have been planted by German prisoners of war, the actual truth of the design is shrouded in mystery.
Nationalism also spawned another, less offensive forest design. Situated on the chalky South Downs that separate the UK city of Brighton from its northerly neighbours stands a plantation in the shape of a huge ‘V’ – planted to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1887. When planted, it consisted of 3060 trees costing 12 pounds, 10 shillings and four pence.
Michael Najjar – High Altitude
The rock formations in the High Altitude photo series don’t exist physically, yet they are very present in our society of simulations. The photos visualize the development of the leading global stock market indices over the past 20-30 years.
Each stock market index, such as the Dow Jones (shown above), Nikkei, Nasdaq or the more specific Lehman Brothers stock quote downfall, corresponds to a impeccably rendered unique mountain range. Photographer Michael Najjar used the images captured during his trek to Mount Aconcagua (6,962m) as the basis of the high altitude data visualizations.
Street View of the United States
Disaster Edens: The Anti-Tourist Attraction
Imagine your cruise to the Galapagos came with a ghoulish warning: “Your hair will fall out, your skin will blister, you’ll probably get cancer and your children’s children might be born deformed.” Not enough of a deterrent? How about “We’ll shoot you on sight”? If you’re a visiting tourist or a fisherman looking to poach some tuna or turtles, you might decide to hightail it back to the mainland.
Human culture normally creates areas amenable to other humans, but to few other species. Apartment blocks, parking lots, suburbs and Starbucks are pretty great for us, but miserable, even uninhabitable, to most creatures more specialized than a pigeon. ‘Involuntary parks,’ a term coined by Next Nature favorite Bruce Sterling, arise when warfare or industrial accidents upset the normal balance of human land-use. Soldiers shoot their enemies but not the birds. Radiation warnings will keep out the evacuated citizens, but not the bears and tigers.
Quoted in a recent interview about his work, Landscapes without Memory, artist Joan Fontcuberta asked, “Could a natural nature exist? The answer is no, or at least, not anymore: man’s presence makes nature artificial.”
Often concerned with the ambiguity of truth, reality and virtuality Fontcuberta’s latest exhibition at photogallery Foam in Amsterdam consists of an expansive series of dramatic 3D landscapes. On first glance the images resemble something like eerie, almost empty Lord of the Rings stills. These aren’t photos but rather images produced by Fontcuberta using software developed for the U.S Air Force.
Originally cartographical data was fed into the programme to produce 3D landscape images, Fontcuberta however, fed the programme visual data – images from great masters like Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Turner – producing entirely unique 3D landscapes. (The image above was originally a Pollock). “The representation of nature no longer depends on the direct experience of reality, but on the interpretation of previous images, on representations that already exist. Reality does not precede our experience, but instead it results from intellectual construction.”