HAPPENINGText: Garry Waller

This month’s article from New York looks at the Urban Forest project that started September 1st and continues through to November 1st. An art project, the aim of which was to give designers, photographers and artists the chance to flex their creative muscle around the theme of ‘the tree’ within an urban setting.

The exact brief; To design banners “with the form, idea or a characteristic of a tree and consider using [them] to interpret and explore an issue that [we] feel is pressing, or an idea [we] find entertaining or intriguing”. Using this official brief as their point of reference, the end result is 185 vinyl banners; 6FT x 3FT in size which start from 42nd St. and work their way up to 53 St., spanning 3 avenues across.

I was first drawn to it when a work colleague who sits next to me had an oversized map on his desk which depicted Times Square divided up into alphabetized sections, seen here: The designers taking part in the project are assigned a street depending on where their name sits within the map. Names of participants include a few ‘design celebrities’ and known companies as well as many lesser known’s, but overall the work is representative of the design profession as a whole.

In terms of the brief it was wide open and anything was game, this becomes evident as you walk around and see the assortment of ideas and styles that resulted. Photography, painting, drawing, collage, computer graphics or a mixed bag of techniques represent the collective ideas and styles of many, breathing variety and life into the project.

Collectively the work is impressive for it’s enthusiasm to bring designers and their ideas onto the streets and into public view. But no matter how clever the concept or compelling the visual, the banners had an uphill battle competing for attention within the visually hostile and busy setting of Times Square. It’s probably true to say that much of the work that is hanging in the street goes overlooked by most passers by, as huge LEDs, billboards, storefronts and the ever present danger of getting killed by traffic distracts people from really noticing.

Also impressive is the fact that your favorite banner designs are available to purchase as T-shirts and ultimately, every single banner will end up being made into a tote bag and auctioned off for a good cause when the show is over. Trees would be proud of us!

Urban Forest project
Date: September 1st – November 1st, 2006
Place: New York City

Text: Garry Waller
Photos: Garry Waller

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