Madison Sq. Park
New York, NY
BROADWAY: 1000 Steps, a project by Mary Miss/City as Living Laboratory, is an initiative to make sustainability tangible through the arts by means of collaborations between artists/designers, scientists and community members to engage in a conversation and speculative thinking about climate change and sustainability.
40’ in Diameter
Chalk, bonsai, water, steel, moss
ROOTS was a public event – an installation spanning sunrise to sunset, one in a series of programs produced by City as Living Laboratory, dedicated to celebrating the urban landscape of the City of New York and stimulating an open, creative dialogue at the intersection of art and science.
The public was invited to experience the continuous work at any time between dawn and nightfall; that public was a diverse cross-section of the city itself, as artists, musicians, scientists and foresters – intentional audience members, mixed with those who came upon it by chance – office workers hurrying from place to place, animated tourists traversing the city’s sights, community members who frequented the park on a daily basis as personal respite, green oasis and gathering space.
Amidst this swirl of activity, a large reflecting pool, concealed within the intimate, urban grove at the park’s northern perimeter, stood at the center of a large elliptical space. At the center of this pool, atop a low green island, a precise bonsai rose and twisted, echoing the grand, ancient English Elms that punctuate the park.
Radiating from the center, a series of pure white, lightening-like rays stretched across the pool’s circular basin toward its edge – the long arteries of the great tree suggested by the miniature yet ancient form floating upon the mirror-like, still water. Inspired by actual scans of the park’s root systems conducted with ground penetrating radar by urban arborist Dr. Nina Lauren Bassuk (Cornell University), the work mapped a section of the nearby great English Elm Tree’s foundations, origin and core.
Over the course of the day, the pool of reflected sky and water gave way to the city’s nightscape, skyscrapers’ long lights drawing columns of orange, blue and white on the pond’s surface, a swirl of leaves chasing across the root system traced onto the pool’s broad, stone floor.
ROOTS was an animate collage; a set of instruments conceived to reveal the invisible, to decode the long story and life of trees in our urban landscape. The work was a play upon the concept of time and scale, as it explored the complexity of a tree’s life and the profound, palliative and therapeutic effects trees have on the environment and those who inhabit it.
Roots was created in collaboration with Dr. Nina Lauren Bassuk (Urban Horticulture Institute, Cornell University) and is a chapter in the development of a larger Jones/Ginzel work, BEHOLD, intended to magnify and draw awareness to the Great Trees of the City of New York.
The Northern Reflecting Pool in Manhattan’s vibrant Madison Square Park, located in the heart of the Flatiron District, bordered by the iconic New York Life Insurance and the MetLife Buildings, just one block north of the Flatiron Building and eight blocks south of the Empire State Building. A constellation of 19-Century sculptures is complemented by a yearlong international art program; the elaborate fountain at the park’s center is balanced by a modern reflecting pool. The park is distinguished by a stand of old English Elms, some of the Great Trees of New York City, “which have been growing in the park for as long as anyone can remember.”