12 November 2015

NO 'Blue Trees' please. We are Singapore.

The Blue Bark stops here. Despite pleas by artists, nature lovers and ordinary people, the National Arts Council still refuses to say whether it will cancel plans for artist Konstantin Dimopoulos to paint blue our living trees at Dhoby Ghaut Green, according to a Zaobao article 11 Nov. "It's been done in other cities before", "the paint is safe", "the artist has won awards and aclaim" were some of the reasons given by the Council, who say The Blue Trees is intended to "draw awareness and discussion to issues of global deforestation."
NAC wants our living trees to look like this.
Taken from the NAC website
But Singapore is a city of people who already love trees. We don't treat trees like furniture to be painted or vandalised. We know each tree is home to tiny plants and animals living on and under its bark. Each tree is the precious centre of a living web of birds and other creatures. Even 'ordinary' roadside trees and trees growing in the middle of town. Because Singapore is a City in a Garden.


Today, during my daily morning walk, I took a closer look at the roadside trees. They are beautifully painted by natural...
Posted by Ria Tan on Wednesday, 11 November 2015

In Singapore we PLANT trees, we don't paint trees. Many if not most of us already understand deforestation (probably better than the artist), after breathing the effects of deforestation for several months.

Add your voice to the issue on http://ayn2015thebluetrees.peatix.com/ (scroll to bottom, wait for comments to load) or https://www.nac.gov.sg/feedback

[Update 13 Nov in Today newspaper: "National Parks Board (NParks) said yesterday that the bark of the trees at Dhoby Ghaut Green cannot be coloured blue, as it withdrew support for a community art project. “NParks should have been mindful of the sensitivities of the community towards our trees and the potential impact on insect biodiversity,” said Ms Kalthom A Latiff, NParks’ deputy director of arts and heritage parks. “It has therefore reviewed this and has conveyed to NAC that it will not be supporting this project.” NParks’ permission was needed for the installation as the trees are on park land.

The NAC’s director of arts and community Chua Ai Liang said it respects NParks’ latest position and will discuss it with Mr Dimopoulos. “We hope we can find a way to collaborate even as the project evolves from its original concept,” said Ms Chua.]

I am blogging this so that there is a permanent record (that shows up on google search) of protests in Singapore against vandalising our naturally beautiful trees with Konstantin Dimopoulos' Blue Trees programme.


This was the information on the National Arts Council on their project page http://ayn2015thebluetrees.peatix.com/.

The Blue Trees by Konstantin Dimopoulos
As part of Arts in Your Neighbourhood organised by the National Arts Council

*Important Updates 5 Nov 2015:

The National Arts Council (NAC) has decided to postpone The Blue Trees, an environmental art installation by Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos that provokes thoughtful discussions about global deforestation through an evocative transformation of trees into a surreal urbanscape.

When assessing the trees for the installation this weekend, the artist felt that the selected trees at Dhoby Ghaut Green were not in the best condition due to the prolonged haze season. As both artist and organiser would like to ensure the trees for this installation are in the peak of health, the postponement is to give the trees time to recover or to find alternative solutions through our continued consultation with experts.

Updates will be provided in due course.

FAQS

We have noticed a lot of interest and discussion about The Blue Trees on this page. The Blue Trees is an installation meant to invite discussion and we welcome the dialogue, and have prepared a list of FAQs that we hope will address some of your concerns.

About The Blue Trees

The Blue Trees is an environmental art installation created and conceived by Australia artist Konstantin Dimopoulos. The artist and a team of volunteers from the community will temporarily and dramatically transform trees in an urban landscape with the use of a water-based, environmentally-safe blue colourant. By creating a surreal scene out of everyday landscape, The Blue Trees draws awareness and discussion to issues of global deforestation. An ephemeral work, the trees will gradually revert back to their natural state.

The Blue Trees was first launched in April 2011 at the Vancouver Biennale, and has since travelled worldwide to various countries, including England, USA and New Zealand. It was named one of the Topp 100 Activism Trends for ideas that change the world in 2012, a finalist in the Global Index: Design to Improve Life Competition in 2013, and the British Climate Week Award in 2014.

About the Artist

Konstantin Dimopoulos was born in Egypt and currently resides in Melbourne, Australia. He graduated from university in New Zealand with a degree in sociology, and later studied art in London. Dimopoulos describes himself as a humanist, using his art practice - from studio works to site-specific installations - to address social and environmental issues and contribute to change in a positive way.

His latest public art installation, The Purple Rain tells the stories of people who have experienced extreme social disadvantage and homelessness. Dimopoulos was also invited to speak at TED, a global set of conferences aimed at presenting “ideas worth spreading” on the topic “Can Art Save the World”.

Why colour the trees blue?

Every year the planet loses some 32 million acres of old growth forests and trees which are an essential part to sustaining life by transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen. Trees breathe for the planet and without them, appropriate conditions for human, animal and plant life may not be sustained. Deforestation contributes to climate change, as we can see through the recent haze problem.

Colour is a powerful stimulant, a means of altering perception and defining space and time. The Blue Trees is an attempt to draw attention, and to elicit a similar response from viewers and inspire conversation and action around deforestation issues. The artist chose the colour blue as it is not naturally identified with trees and suggests that something unusual, something out of the ordinary is happening. In nature, colour is used both as a means of protection and as a mechanism to attract.

Is the colourant safe?

The colourant used for The Blue Trees is biologically and environmentally safe, it was specifically developed by the artist for the installation and has been used in 14 cities around the world. Tree organisations and certified arborists from these host cities have written support attesting to the safety of the colourant with regards to trees, the surroundings and other living organisms.

The organisers have also conducted tests prior to approving the installation in Sinagpore that show the colourant does not have any adverse effects on the trees.

What is the colourant made of?

The colourant is not paint and has a different composition from paint, consisting mostly of water and 100% organic material, some of which can also commonly be found in children’s face paint. The colourant is also temporary – the trees will revert to their natural state over time. As a water-based solution, the colourant is very dilute and can be easily removed with water.

The event was originally scheduled for Sat Nov 7, 2015, 8:30 AM - 11:30 AM SGT
All slots were taken up
7 November | 8.30am - 10am
7 November | 10.15am - 11.45am
7 November | 12.30pm - 2pm
7 November | 2.15pm - 3.45pm

8 November | 8.30am - 10am
8 November | 10.15am - 11.45am
8 November | 12.30pm - 2pm
8 November | 2.15pm - 3.45pm

Meet-the-artist | 8 Nov | 6pm - 7pm 

This is the email I sent to the National Arts Council on 6 Nov

I am taken aback by your plans to have trees painted blue. I notice that it was decided to postpone this because "the selected trees at Dhoby Ghaut Green were not in the best condition due to the prolonged haze season."

If this activity really doesn't harm the trees, why was it postponed? And if it is really harmless, why is it that "both artist and organiser would like to ensure the trees for this installation are in the peak of health"?

As you may know, the worst El Nino of all time is currently underway. So all our trees are unseasonably stressed. This is likely to continue well into 2016. It is unlikely that trees with be in 'the peak of health' until the El Nino phenomenon ends.

If the colouring agent used indeed doesn't harm the tree, may I ask how will you ensure that your colouring agent does not kill or damage the lichen, fungi, algae that grow on the trees? Any paint on such delicate organisms is likely to smother them, prevent them from getting light and air.

How will you ensure that the colouring agent does not kill or hurt small insects and other creatures that find shelter or food on and under the bark? How about birds, small reptiles and other creatures that visit the tree?

Singaporeans are blessed to live in a city in a garden and many of us understand there is more to a tree than its bark. The organisms on a tree do play a role in the health of the tree and the ecosystem. And such organisms abound in our city gardens.

The other aspect that worries me is that ordinary people will be involved in painting the tree. Does this send the wrong message? That it's ok for people to vandalise a tree? How will you ensure that people understand that they should leave trees alone?

I would also like to know whether NParks has been consulted on this activity.

According to the Parks and Trees Regulations "Prohibited acts within public parks" include
5. No person shall carry out any activity within any public park which he knows or ought reasonably to know
(a) causes or may cause alteration, damage or destruction to any property, tree or plant within the public park; or
(b) causes or may cause injury to, or the death of, any animal or any other organism within the public park.

Many Singaporeans love our trees just the way they are. Can you help me and many others to understand why trees and the organisms that live on them have to be mistreated to pass an environmental message? Are there no ways to do this without interfering with our beautiful trees and the animals that live in them?

This was the reply I got on 9 Nov

Hi Ria, Thanks for your email, just to let you know that we are taking your feedback seriously, please give us some time to get back to you on this.
Thanks,
Jaclynn

Have there been other protests against Blue Trees?

Some people of Squamish, British Columbia, Canada have expressed unhappiness and regret about Blue Trees happening in their community.

In "No blue trees, please" Editor Christine Endicott of the Squamish Chief said in Apr 2015 "It’s baffling that we have a plan to alter that nature, based on the vision of an artist who does not live here."

Linda Bachman wrote in Apr 2015 "Blue Trees: It Can As Well Send a Wrong Message" that "The blue colour sprayed on the trees there was supposed to last for a few months, but the trees remained blue for over a year." Noting that "The Blue Tree project would cost the taxpayers $15,000" she remarked "I also wonder what the tourists will think of this art. Without extensive explanations, will they understand the Blue Trees as art or will they see it as train tagging, or worse, vandalism?"


What can the National Arts Council do about Blue Trees project?

Today (12 Nov) I send this email to NAC

I'm rather disappointed to read in Zaobao that NAC has yet to come to a decision to cancel the Project.

In some ways, wouldn't you agree that the Project is already successful? Even without painting the trees blue, the Project has already sparked a lively discussion about the value of trees. Among artists, nature lovers and ordinary people.

I notice the Blue Tree project is held under the National Arts Council's Arts for All programme, which aims to work with the community: "To spearhead and support arts initiatives that will enhance community bonding ...We collaborate with artists, corporations and community partners..." Also, the stated aim of the Blue Trees project is to create "discussion to issues of global deforestation".

In line with your stated purpose of working with the community and discussing global deforestation, the National Arts Council and the artist Konstantin Dimopoulos should organise an open and public discussion BEFORE trees are painted, with members of the public who are interested in the issues.

During such a discussion, I believe the community, the Council and the artist Konstantin Dimopoulos may come to better understand one another. And hopefully, together come up with better ways to do art aimed at raising awareness about environmental issues. without harming trees or wildlife.

Without such a discussion and given the lack of responses to questions raised by myself and many others, for the safety of our trees, I urge the National Arts Council and the artist Konstantin Dimopoulos to cancel The Blue Trees project.


Related links

Thanks to Helen Yang DanXu for this article in Zaobao on 11 Nov:

树涂蓝色宣扬环保 反惹环保人士异议
杨丹旭 2015年11月11日
|

▲多美歌格林中成排的绿树树干原本要在“蓝色之树”活动中变色,却遭环保人士极力反对。(林国明摄)
▲多美歌格林中成排的绿树树干原本要在“蓝色之树”活动中变色,却遭环保人士极力反对。(林国明摄)
伦敦圣保罗大教堂外的树木树干曾在“蓝色之树”活动中被涂成蓝色。(互联网)
“蓝色之树”是澳大利亚艺术家在2011年温哥华双年展上发起的一项艺术活动,通过把树干涂成蓝色,引起公众对树木的注意,以提高人们对砍伐森林引起气候变化的重视。

杨丹旭 报道

yangdx@sph.com.sg

一项把树干漆成蓝色的艺术活动旨在宣扬环保,却在本地引发环保人士异议。国家艺术理事会将咨询更多专家,缓解公众对这项活动的担忧,不过当局并未证实是否完全喊停。

艺理会原定在上周末举办名为“蓝色之树”(The Blue Trees)的艺术活动,由澳大利亚艺术家季莫普洛斯(Konstantin Dimopoulos)带领公众,把多美歌格林(Dhoby Ghaut Green)一些大树的树干涂成蓝色。

“蓝色之树”是季莫普洛斯在2011年温哥华双年展上发起的一项艺术活动,通过把树干涂成蓝色,引起公众对树木的注意,以提高人们对砍伐森林引起气候变化的重视。这项活动过去几年曾在英国、美国和新西兰等地举行。

本地要举办“蓝色之树”活动的消息上星期传开后,引发不少关注,一些环保人士更是极力反对,他们担忧给树干上色会影响树木健康及周边的生态系统,呼吁艺理会停办这项活动。

艺理会上周四(5日)突然发文告宣布延期,并通知原本报名要参加涂色的公众,活动改期。

艺理会在文告中说,这是因为艺术家在评估树木健康后认为,受前阵子烟霾影响,树木的健康状况不佳,而主办方和艺术家都希望在树木处于最佳状态时展开活动,因此要让树木有时间复原或得想其他办法。

艺理会艺术与社区拓展司长蔡爱莲答复本报询问时强调:“在进行这项环境艺术装置时,共享自然栖息环境的健康是艺术家和艺理会最重视的。”

她说,展开活动前,艺理会已向专家征求意见,也进行测试,确保树木的健康和其他生物不会受影响,艺术家也提供了国外树木专家的证明,确保涂料不会损害树木和周遭环境。

艺理会在答复本报询问时并未证实,“蓝色之树”活动是否将改期举行,或是完全喊停。不过蔡爱莲说,该局感谢公众和环保人士的反馈,目前正在向更多专家咨询,并会适时公布进展。

颜料主要成分

是水和全有机材料

据知,“蓝色之树”是艺理会在本月5日至22日举办的“你的邻里艺术”(Arts in Your Neighbourhood)活动中的一个项目。

根据“你的邻里艺术”网站介绍,用来给树木上色的涂料“对生物和环境都安全”,曾在14个城市的“蓝色之树”活动中使用过。它不是油漆,主要成分是水和全有机材料,涂在树干上的颜色过一阵子便会退去。

环境保育网站Wild Singapore创办人陈莉娅(Ria Tan)受访时说,温带树木同热带树木有很大差别,“蓝色之树”活动在其他城市举办过并不代表适合在本地举办。

她说:“即使涂料不会伤害树木,如何确保树干上的青苔、藻类和寄居在上面的蜘蛛等小生物不受影响?我们住在花园中的城市,很多人知道树干其实并不简单,它不仅关系树木健康,上面也有一个生态系统。”

朱明富(51岁,城市规划咨询师)也极力反对把树干涂蓝的做法。他认为,艺术家希望宣导环保意识,却号召公众把树干涂成蓝色,破坏大自然本身的美丽,这与活动的初衷背道而驰。

他说:“环保意识是应该引导人们尊重大自然本身,这个活动却要公众去给树木涂色,等于在宣扬人可以主宰大自然的思想……有时行为艺术家会通过出格的做法吸引眼球,作为花园城市的民众和机构,应该有相关的保护意识。”

NParks does U-turn on art project to colour trees blue after backlash
NAC, botanist say paint is environmentally safe, but conservationists raise doubts
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 13 Nov 15;

Blue Trees at the Vancouver Biennale, Cananda. Photo: Konstantin Dimopoulos

Trees at Dhoby Ghaut Green. Photo: Daryl Kang

SINGAPORE — In an about-turn, the National Parks Board (NParks) said yesterday that the bark of the trees at Dhoby Ghaut Green cannot be coloured blue, as it withdrew support for a community art project that had been slammed by some members of the public.

The well-travelled installation by Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos, called The Blue Trees, aimed to raise awareness of deforestation. It was to have taken place last weekend, with volunteers helping paint the trunks and branches of the trees with a water-based colourant. But the National Arts Council (NAC) postponed it to give the trees time to recover from the recent haze episode, or to find alternative solutions.

NParks initially agreed to support the use of the trees after the NAC’s assurance that the colourant had been used on trees in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Testimonials by overseas tree organisations and arborists said the colourant would not harm the trees.

NParks said it told NAC last Wednesday — a day before NAC announced that the event would be postponed — that it would not be supporting the installation.

“NParks should have been mindful of the sensitivities of the community towards our trees and the potential impact on insect biodiversity,” said Ms Kalthom A Latiff, NParks’ deputy director of arts and heritage parks. “It has therefore reviewed this and has conveyed to NAC that it will not be supporting this project.”

NParks’ permission was needed for the installation as the trees are on park land.

The NAC’s director of arts and community Chua Ai Liang said it respects NParks’ latest position and will discuss it with Mr Dimopoulos.

“We hope we can find a way to collaborate even as the project evolves from its original concept,” said Ms Chua.

Mr Dimopoulos could not be reached for comment by press time.

The art installation had sparked robust debate here, with disapproving comments posted on the event’s ticketing website.

“Trees host whole ecosystems of algae, lichens, fungi, ferns, ants, woodlice, insect larvae, mantis and birds, such as woodpeckers which feed on insects,” wrote Mr Lee Kee Seng. “It’s very bad for nature, very anti-nature.”

Mr Marcus Ng wanted to know how long it would take for the trees to revert to their natural state and the exact composition of the colourant used. Another commenter, planning and urban design strategist Choo Meng Foo, 51, told TODAY he was invited by NParks to a meeting last week with the NAC and Mr Dimopoulos after he made his concerns known. Mr Choo, who considers the colouring of the trees a “violent act against nature”, said it would also encourage participants to disrespect nature and think of nature as being at man’s disposal.

In a list of frequently asked questions put up on the ticketing website, the NAC said the colourant was developed by the artist for the installation and is “biologically and environmentally safe”. The colourant has been used in 14 cities around the world, with tree organisations and certified arborists attesting to its safety for the trees and other living organisms.

The colourant is not paint and consists mostly of water and 100 per cent organic material, “some of which can also be commonly found in children’s face paint”, the NAC said. It can be easily removed with water, the council said. The NAC had also conducted tests with specialists to ensure the health of the trees and other living organisms would not be compromised, said Ms Chua.

The Blue Trees was launched in April 2011 at the Vancouver Biennale and has travelled to countries like the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand. According to a 2012 report by The Seattle Times, the colourant is made from azurite (a blue copper mineral) and water.

Conservationist Tony O’Dempsey said natural pigments are not necessarily harmless. “How do we know (the colourant) won’t harm the fungi, lichens, and insect life that live on and inside the bark of the tree? Our concern is that the colouration materials suspended in the paint (will) clog pores in the bark as well as the breathing pores on the abdomens of insects and spiders,” said Mr O’Dempsey, chairman of the Nature Society Singapore’s Plant Group, who was speaking in a personal capacity.

But Professor Evan DeLucia of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Plant Biology said water-based paint that is diluted will not choke off all the ability of the bark to exchange gas from the atmosphere to the living tissue within, and would have no effect on the tree. The painting of stems has long been used in the horticultural and forestry industry, for purposes such as the reflection of light (by white paint) and to stop frost damage in winter.

Colouring of the bark will damage the insects and spiders that live on it, but “it’s hard to imagine those would not re-establish very quickly after all the paint is washed away”, said Prof DeLucia, who studied forestry and plant physiology. The colourants, however, should not be painted near the tips of the trees’ buds, he said.

Expressing his personal opinion, Prof DeLucia said: “As a global society, we should do everything we can to support artistic expression. And even when it makes us uncomfortable ... we should be very protective of that right to communicate through artistic expression.”

Mr O’Dempsey questioned the need to change trees to an “unnatural” colour to generate discussion about deforestation, when there is already sufficient beauty in natural flora. Evidence is also needed to show the critters will indeed re-establish themselves, he said.

“There are more than enough professionally edited documentaries and media reports regarding deforestation, not to mention scientific information, which should be more than sufficient to evoke meaningful conversations regarding deforestation,” he said.


Blue Trees art canned
NParks withdraws support after tree lovers' protests against artist painting trees
Lea Wee Straits Times 14 Nov 15;

Nature lovers have embraced the cancellation of an art project that planned to colour trees blue.

The Blue Trees, an installation by Egypt-born artist Konstantin Dimopoulos, was supposed to take place over the weekend of Nov 7 and 8 at Dhoby Ghaut Green.

Volunteers were meant to paint the trunks and branches of about 20 trees with a blue water-based colourant to draw attention to the importance of trees and inspire conversation about deforestation.

Following protests by tree lovers, the National Parks Board withdrew its support and the event was cancelled. As the trees are on park land, NParks' permission was needed for the event to proceed.

Artist and urban design consultant Choo Meng Foo, 51, says he is elated by the news.

"I consider the colouring of the trees a violent act against nature," he says. "It would also encourage participants to disrespect nature and think of nature as being at man's disposal."

He was among the first people to raise his concerns about the project. He wrote two letters, including one to the National Arts Council, the event organiser.

Environmentalist Ria Tan, 54, who runs wildlife website Wildsingapore, also cheered the news of NParks' decision on her Facebook page.

She told Life: "Trees are not something lifeless like furniture that you can go and paint. They are part of a living web of life consisting of birds and other creatures.

"Each tree is home to tiny plants and animals living on and under its bark. Even if the colourant does not harm the tree, how do we ensure that the colourant does not harm other organisms?"

There has been disagreement on exactly how environmentally detrimental the blue paint is.

The National Arts Council said the colourant was developed by the artist for the installation and is "biologically and environmentally safe".

It has been used in 14 cities around the world, and the artist has provided testimonials by overseas tree organisations and certified arborists vouching for the safety of the colourant with regards to the trees, the surroundings and other life forms.

The colourant is not paint and consists mostly of water and 100 per cent organic material, "some of which can also be commonly found in children's face paint" and easily removed with water, the council said.

Nonetheless, NParks, which had initially given the green light for the project, decided to withdraw its support, as it wants to be "mindful of the sensitivities of the community towards our trees and the potential impact on insect biodiversity", says Ms Kalthom A. Latiff, deputy director of Arts & Heritage Parks at the agency.

The Blue Trees is a project under the National Arts Council's Arts in the Neighbourhood programme. About 150 people had signed up to be volunteers in the tree-painting sessions.

When contacted yesterday, the art council's director for arts and community Chua Ai Liang says that while it respects NParks' latest position, it will "discuss this with the artist and hope to find a way to collaborate even as the project evolves from its original concept".

The artist, who was in town last week, has since left. His latest post on his Facebook page shows a photograph of the Blue Trees project in Germany.

Attempts to reach him were not successful.

The Blue Trees was launched in April 2011 at the Vancouver Biennale and has travelled to countries such as the United States, Britain and New Zealand.

It was named one of the Top 100 Activism Trends for ideas that changed the world in 2012.

Singapore is not the only place where some members of the public had expressed unhappiness with the installation.

In Squamish, a city in Canada, newspaper editor Christine Endicott wrote in the Squamish Chief in April this year that "Squamish is a unique place, where visitors come to escape to nature... It's baffling that we have a plan to alter (local) nature, based on the vision of an artist who does not live here".

Dr Shawn Lum, a botanist and a lecturer at the Asian School of the Environment at Nanyang Technological University, says painting the branches and trunks of the trees is unlikely to damage the tree as a whole.

Dr Lum, who is also the president of Nature Society Singapore, says: "It will likely hurt or even kill some of the tiny oganisms living on the trees, but these organisms are likely to regenerate or return over time.

"The question we need to ask as a community is whether we want to risk this short-term impact on these micro-ecosystems to make an artistic statement, which may turn out to be a powerful one affecting many people."

3 comments:

  1. Non-polluting to trees? Trees are more than trees. There is an ecology, a living microcosm on every single tree. Paint the ants on it? The mosses, lichens and other plants, insects, worms, and microbes on the bark of the tree and choke up its lenticels as well? Can any rational and ecological minded person call this 'art'? Ridiculous. Polluting the environment and downgrading art, that is what I say.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm ashamed to be Singaporean. We have jumped to criticise without understanding the process. The artist lives an eco life and his work respects the environment which is why it is so successful globally. For him to consider Singapore was an honour.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kimberley Foo, I only asked polite questions and asked for an opportunity to learn more. I posted these question on the artist's page. The artist deleted my questions. Why did he do this instead of engaging and explaining? After all, his art was intended to provoke discussion, right? I found that very odd.

    Here is a link to what I asked the artist. Do you think this constitutes jumping to criticise?

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153233892613595&set=p.10153233892613595&type=3&theater

    ReplyDelete

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