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Archive for August, 2011

Un-Realized Project Report- August 2011 Edition

We had been requested to put in a proposal to the Jewish Museum of San Francisco to make a public work for their upcoming exhibition centered around the holiday of Tu’Bshvat. Even though the project will not be happening, the proposal is reproduced below.

Instead of the Thorn: a Fourth Year Orchard for Tu B’Shvat

Artists: Susanne Cockrell and Ted Purves

Proposal for a mobile orchard on the Plaza of the Contemporary Jewish Museum to celebrate the ancient Jewish Holy Day Tu B’Shvat  2012.

Project Overview

We are proposing to install a movable orchard of four year-old clapping fruit trees on the plaza of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. This orchard will be a space for public contemplation, museum programming and the dispersal of fresh fruit to the community. Key to the proposal is the age of the trees, as the fruit of fours year-old trees, according to Biblical tradition, must be offered up as praise to the lord, in the form of tzedakah or offering. We envision that this orchard will act as a contemporary manifestation of these traditions, and at the same time, tie them to current efforts around urban ecology, sustainable cities and food justice.

23 And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.
24 But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the LORD withal.
25 And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the  increase thereof: I am the LORD your God.  Leviticus 19:23-25 (King James Version)

Project Details

Instead of the Thorn is a temporary orchard that consists of a series of triangular planting containers that can be moved and reconfigured to create a variety of outdoor spaces on the plaza. Constructed from reused materials, approximately 4’ on three sides, and attached to casters, the containers are designed to create geometric formations and to be arranged to frame outdoor events such as workshops, tastings and film screenings. A longer wooden pole, ~ 2 feet taller than the trees, will be placed in each container. Atop each of the poles will be a wooden “clapper” device, which will spin, clap and sing in the wind and fog.

Each container, approximately 45 gallons each, will hold three fruit trees planted closely together, approximately 18″ apart, creating a smaller triangle formation. The three trees will grow as one unit sharing the same root-stock. Each of the trees selected will be approximately three years old, so that when the exhibition opens during the time of Tu’bishvat, all of the trees will enter their fourth year. This is notably a crucial year in the cycle put forth by Leviticus, for it is the year that all fruits from the trees are to be offered forth unto the Lord. Over the centuries, the nature of this offering has varied, the fruits were either a burnt offering or were distributed to the poor. We envision that the fruit harvested from this project will be similarly “offered” and will be given away to local charities and non-profits as well as museum attendees.

The trees in the containers will include dwarf varieties of pomegranates, figs, green olives, lemons, apples, apricots, and grapes. These trees have been chosen because they grow successfully in this bioregion and will bare fruit growing in the microclimate of downtown San Francisco. Many of these trees are mentioned in the bible and have a long association with the marking of Tu’bishvat .  The containers will also be planted with other edible plants such as berries and vegetables, herbs and flowers. Planting in this way creates a harmonious ecosystem of compatible plants and demonstrates the benefits of diversity in strengthening the system as a whole.

The trees are envisioned as an out door center and gathering area on the plaza. They can frame public programming that might include a Tu B’Shvat seder, fruit and nut tastings with farmers from regional farms, how-to demonstrations about planting and growing fruit trees in the city, preserving locally foraged fruit, and a fall harvest feast. Programming will be developed in partnership with the museum and local organizations that develop similar programming such as The Studio For Urban Projects, Garden for the Environment and Alemany Farm. Our hope is that containers will be constructed in collaboration with local Jewish environmental organizations, such as a local chapter of Hazon and Urban Adamah in Berkeley, with the intention that they would, the following winter, make sure the trees are planted in lower income neighborhoods, schools or community centers that would benefit from the food the trees produce.

“The points of connection between trees, the larger environment and Jewish tradition are rich and many: In prophecies surrounding the coming of the Messiah, it is noted that one day the trees will sing and clap their hands; in the Kabbalistic tradition, the 10 Sefirot, or “qualities” of being, are arrayed in Etz Chaim, the Tree of Life — also a name for the Torah; Eve and then Adam eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; and in a famous, mystical story from the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva and three others ascend into the mysterious realm of “pardes,” the orchard” [2]



Project FAQ’s

What will this orchard look like?

The trees that create Instead of the Thorn will be planted in triangular planting containers that can be moved and reconfigured to create a variety of outdoor spaces on the plaza. Each container, approximately 45 gallons each, will hold three fruit trees planted closely together, approximately 18″ apart, creating a smaller triangle formation. The three trees will grow as one unit sharing the same root-stock. Constructed from reused materials, approximately 4’ on three sides, the containers are designed to be movable,  to create geometric formations and to be arranged to frame outdoor events such as workshops, tastings and film screenings. A longer wooden pole, ~ 2 feet taller than the trees, will be placed in each container. Atop each of the poles will be a wooden “clapper” device, which will spin, clap and sing in the wind and fog.

Why the clapper device?

When we researched the ancient traditions surround Tu’Bsvhat, there were frequent references to the connection between this holiday and a phrase in Isaiah 55, which proclaims, “all the trees of the field shall clap their hands”. We thought this was awesome, and wanted to make it real.

Why does the orchard move around?

The trees are envisioned as an open-air, gathering space on the plaza. As the installation will be up for many months, its ideal to make them movable so that they could be used to frame different, evolving types of event. It will also help the tree growth to be able to follow the sun, since there are so many tall buildings nearby. Depending on logistics and security, we envision that they will either be built with rugged casters, or that they will have pallet-lifts constructed into them (or both).  We also really like the idea that the trees move around (and clap), because it amplifies the sense that they “live and work” on the plaza, and activates them in relationship to daily life.

Why is it important that the trees are all the same age?

Each of the trees selected will be approximately three years old, so that when the exhibition opens during the time of Tu’bishvat, all of the trees will enter their fourth year. This is notably a crucial year in the cycle put forth by Leviticus, for it is the year that all fruits from the trees are to be offered forth unto the Lord. Over the centuries, the nature of this offering has varied; the fruits were either a burnt offering or were distributed to the poor. We envision that the fruit harvested from this project will be similarly “offered” and will be given away to local charities and non-profits as well as museum attendees.

What kinds of trees will be in the orchard?

The trees in the containers will include dwarf varieties of pomegranates, figs, green olives, lemons, apples, apricots, and grapes. These trees have been chosen because they grow successfully in this bioregion and will bare fruit growing in the microclimate of downtown San Francisco. Many of these trees are mentioned in the bible and have a long association with the marking of Tu’bishvat.  The containers will also be planted with other edible plants such as berries and vegetables, herbs and flowers. Planting in this way creates a harmonious ecosystem of compatible plants and demonstrates the benefits of diversity in strengthening the system as a whole.

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