As part of the City of London Festival, which took place earlier this week, Trees for Cities, a charity concerned with deforestation, set up an art installation in collaboration with Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos and coloured the trees blue to raise public awareness of the importance of our trees.
‘The idea is to get people to become aware of urban trees, their importance for our environment, and the fact that they are on decline,’ says Sharon Johnson, the CEO of Trees for Cities. ‘By colouring them blue we get people to stop and look at all the trees they usually don’t notice and make them realise that they shouldn’t be taken for granted.’
Trees for Cities was founded when a group of young Londoners recognised the urge for more trees in the capital as they are essential to our lives. During the past twenty years the charity has planted over 400,000 trees across the country and is committed to continue planting more, also internationally.
Konstantin Dimopoulos, a sculptor, installation and performance artist, is the creative mind behind the ‘Blue Trees’ project. With his installation he intends to provoke discussions about the issue of deforestation. He first showcased the artwork in 2005 in Melbourne, Australia, and he has successfully taken the installation to various other cities such as Huston, Seattle, Sacramento and Vancouver among others. ‘Only thirty percent of forests are left on our planet. I thought that as an artist I can make people become aware of that fact through an installation that makes trees stand out so people notice and appreciate them,’ Konstantin explains.
‘Many people think “ok, if we loose a tree or two – that doesn’t make a difference”,’ says Sharon, visibly disappointed. ‘It takes a long time until trees grow and have a certain size. Many trees in London were planted hundreds of years ago and are very old. So it’s important to keep planting new ones for the future and the next generations. People are often in a hurry and everything is fast-paced. Our idea is to get them to pause and reflect on the issue.’
Indeed people do stop and look at the attention-grabbing fluorescent blue trunks. They take flyers, talk to the organisers and the volunteers and take pictures. The reactions of the public are almost exclusively positive and they are curious to learn more. ‘There is a reason why I do this installations in public spaces and not in a galleries and it’s because this way we can reach more people,’ says Konstantin. ‘The number of people, who visit a gallery is limited. The number of people, who pass St Paul’s isn’t.’
The artist pauses and watches the volunteers, the public, the trees. ‘Who would have stopped to look at those trees before we started painting?’ he asks. ‘Nobody! Now even people, who don’t actually care about trees gather around the blue trunks. That’s what we want.’