65 ft. woven tree evokes spiritual visions of the rainforest (Video)

Mark Niedermann
© Mark Niedermann

How can one bring the spirit of the Amazon rainforest into the heart of a bustling city? Aiming to inspire viewers with a sense of wonder at the beauty of a faraway place on the other side, Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto has installed a 20-metre-high (66-foot) woven sculpture inside of the central station in Zurich, Switzerland. Called GaiaMotherTree, the enormous, see-through piece is made with vibrantly coloured strips of fabric that have been hand-knotted into a web-like pattern, outlining the form of a huge tree.

The gigantic artwork is intended as a place for spontaneous interactions and bouts of contemplation. The woven tree is large enough to impress the hundreds of thousands of people that pass by everyday, yet its voluminous interior offers an awe-inspiring place to rest and wonder, thanks to the circle of seats inside. Among the branches and at the very centre, hang drop-like pouches filled with aromatic spices, seeds and dried leaves -- seducing all the senses.

Mark Niedermann© Mark Niedermann
The installation was done in collaboration with Fondation Beyeler and the Huni Kuin, an indigenous, Amazonian tribe living near the Brazilian and Peruvian borders. The concept behind the piece was to create a kind of "ritual tent," to help spread awareness of our inherent spiritual connection with nature, by "slowing down our time, for us to have time to breathe and feel life inside of us," says Neto.

Mark Niedermann© Mark Niedermann
Mark Niedermann© Mark Niedermann

The distinctive patterning of the tree reflects the shamanic and aesthetic traditions of the Huni Kuin, derived from the unique visions gained from their knowledge and relationships with healing plants and spirits of the rainforest. As Neto explains in this thought-provoking interview with Select:

Everything is visible in the spiritual dimension and one can not hide things in a sculpture. I have always worked for this spiritual dimension, which can be called God, of Great Spirit, it depends on the social and cultural context of each one. It turns out that [since 2013 when] I met the Huni Kuin people, who brought to me a spiritual dimension of the sacred, of nature, which I understood. I have met people who live with it every day, decode it and have an absolutely profound understanding, at the level of conversing with plants and generating a science, a knowledge. And generating healing. Everyone knows that nature heals. [..] In this process of rationalization of thought, people separated from nature.

This separation from nature is causing us to take everything and deliver nothing. We are self-destructing both socially and ecologically. Indigenous society has a wonderful balance, and it is a playful society, they believe in joy as the source of healing.

Mark Niedermann© Mark Niedermann

For those who are in the neighbourhood, the GaiaMotherTree installation will be up until July 29, 2018. To find out more, visit Fondation Beyeler.

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