Search
Generic filters

One Beat One Tree

One Beat One Tree by Naziha Mestaoui utilizes a world of innovation and technology to simulate the spectacle of life as well as growth in an interactive and heartfelt simulation.  A visual highlight of eve of the landmark United Nations climate change Summit in Paris in 2015, the work was,

a moment of brilliance, innovation and above all inspiration in a city readying itself to host next morning 130 heads of state and close to 50,000 delegates for one of the most important UN Summits in history. [1.1]

This large-scale light installation consisted of a projection of digital forests on the urban environment of Paris, bringing technology, nature, and the built environment into a perceived symbiotic relationship.  However, the real magic of this piece comes alive with the interactive capabilities of this virtual environment, in which the participants are given a heartbeat sensor that syncs with their smartphones[1], where with each beat, the virtual trees seem to sprout and continue to grow in the virtual space. In other words, our own heartbeats become the engines for germinating the virtual urban forest.

Screen%20Shot%202019-02-24%20at%209.51.4

These virtual trees, in turn, sow the seeds for actual forests. As critic Priscilla Frank observed, “to further increase the fluidity between visible and invisible, the digital trees are later physically planted in regions throughout the world, from Europe and Latin America to Africa and Asia.”[2]  This vital second step creates an interesting relationship between organic life and technology, playing into the capabilities that technology, a seemingly unnatural entity, has to connect people with the natural world.  D.H. Lawrence once wrote, “The business of art is to reveal the relation between man and his circumambient universe at this living moment. As mankind is always struggling in the toil of old relationships, art is always ahead of its ‘times’, which themselves are always far in the rear of the living present.”[3]

Screen%20Shot%202019-02-24%20at%209.54.1Mestaoui seems to be taking on a similar framework, enabling her art to respark the relationship of man and Earth, when in the heart of the concrete jungle. She told a journalist, “I am descended from a well-known saint in Djerba, whose name, Mestaoui, means ‘guardian of the land’ –the one who takes care of nature. It’s in my DNA.”[3.1]

Moreover, the sparking of her interest in this type of technological installation that emits to real world preservation stemmed from a project where she worked in the Amazon for 14 years.  The people and tribes she became familiar with inspired her with their intense connection to the natural world.  Mestaoui explained in an interview with the Huffington Post, that the people don’t just see trees as just a wood-bearing organic entity, but rather an entity with a spirit and intelligence all of its own that could teach them real lessons.[4]

Screen%20Shot%202019-02-24%20at%209.55.4Mestaoui found it necessary to make an art piece that utilized technology to connect other cultures and peoples to connect with this “immaterial” essence of nature, through the immaterial structuring of virtual worlds.  Furthermore, this installation encourages symbiosis with technology and nature, as well as challenging people to look at nature in a new light, housing not only physical objects, but impalpable values and lifeblood that can both ground us to the planet and advocate for conservation for the natural world as well.

In the following video, Mestaoui explains how she created the audio score for the work based on the genes that are shared by every living organism:

Sadly, the artist died in 2020 from a rare disease at the age of 45.

 

[1] – Frank, Priscilla. “You Can Plant A Virtual Tree That Grows To The Rhythm Of Your Heartbeat.” The Huffington Post. December 07, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/30/one-beat-one-tree_n_5512285.html.

[1.1] Nick Nuttall, “Obituary Naziha Mestaoui…” https://gcft.fr/WP/on-parle/bulletins-gcft/obituary-naziha-mestaoui-creator-of-the-i-tree-1-heart-art-installation-that-launched-the-paris-climate-summit/ (2020).

[2] – Frank, Priscilla. “You Can Plant A Virtual Tree That Grows To The Rhythm Of Your Heartbeat.” The Huffington Post. December 07, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/30/one-beat-one-tree_n_5512285.html.

[3] – Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 1970, p 59. Excerpt reprinted in Edward A. Shanken, Art and Electronic Media (London: Phaidon, 2014), 218.

[3.1] Nick Nuttall, “Obituary Naziha Mestaoui…” https://gcft.fr/WP/on-parle/bulletins-gcft/obituary-naziha-mestaoui-creator-of-the-i-tree-1-heart-art-installation-that-launched-the-paris-climate-summit/ (2020).

[4] – Frank, Priscilla. “You Can Plant A Virtual Tree That Grows To The Rhythm Of Your Heartbeat.” The Huffington Post. December 07, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/30/one-beat-one-tree_n_5512285.html.

Article authored by Aperture Scientist (Logan Brescia, 2019). Edited, updated, and expanded by Jasmin Aurora.