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Make A Forest Part II

By injecting a religious theme into the relationship between man and tree, artist Frank Bruggeman has raised awareness about deforestation in a community that doesn't have time to think much about trees.

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 02-02-2012

Last week we looked at Mkgk and Raw Colour’s project for Make A Forest.  This week we look at “Confession Tree”  - a project by artist, Frank Bruggeman.

Bruggeman traveled to Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia.  There a well-known local tree in the Manzana Uno Square was selected as the location for a one-day installation.

The tree is a native South American Toborochi.  “This Tobotochi will surely understand all human sins and weaknesses,” says Bruggeman.  “It is a city tree and has never seen the forest.”

A confession box was erected around the tree with three questions put to would-be confessors.

Have you ever sawn or cut down a tropical hardwood tree illegally?
Have you ever brought home garden furniture that is (possibly) made of illegally obtained tropical hardwood, or used such wood for a floor covering or paneling purposes?
Have you ever committed any other act of violence, abuse or negligence against tropical hardwood trees?

Punishment ranged from a good whipping with a provided rod, to a compulsory hugging of a tree, or an order to buy a redemption tree.

“Two hundred small trees of fifteen different indigenous species were available,” says Bruggeman.  “They each had a label urging owners to take good care of them.”

The project works as both a tribute and a reminder.

About two hundred and fifty people participated in the confession with reactions ranging from bemused to very serious.

“Most people chose to hug a tree or buy a redemption tree,” says Bruggeman.  “Only the really courageous ones chose to whip themselves.  I think it worked because normal people with a normal routine don’t really have much time to think about ecology.  Nature awareness is just not at the forefront of people’s minds.”

Bolivia is historically Catholic so everyone was familiar with the confession box as a concept.  Alongside the box was a billboard with explanations and images.  “That worked to really generate conversation so the whole thing worked on two levels,” says Bruggeman.

The team was pleased because even though this is art, it touched a non-art-going locals who would otherwise miss the message delivered in a more traditional art setting.

“This wasn’t supposed to offer a solution to deforestation,” says Bruggeman, “but I think it did reach people and offer them a different way of thinking about a problem that belongs to us all.”

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