“the growth responses of trees is a history we can learn to read"
Introduction, Project Components, and Scope
a citywide enviro-social sculpture that encourages individual action
and encourages dialogue around contemporary environmental issues.
The project involves the planting of pairs of genetically identical
trees in 18 public places throughout San Francisco’s diverse
microclimates. As the trees are biologically identical, in the
subsequent years they will render visible the social and
environmental differences to which they are exposed. Current sites
planted between 1999 and 2004 include Bernal Heights, Berkeley Art
Museum, Tilden Park, various Palo Alto parks, Sanchez Art Center,
the San Francisco Art Institute, Warm Water Cove, and others.
involves various long-term and short-term components and is
currently in the midst of securing signage for each pair of trees.
How is OneTrees
exhibited in a gallery setting? What will I see at Sanchez Art
was first exhibited in San Francisco at Pond in 2003. In
celebration of its one year anniversary, the
exhibition will travel to Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica,
California, a OneTrees
site and venue that
seeks to create visual art experiences that significantly transform the
lives of youth and families in the community through outreach and
education programs, public exhibitions, and affordable studio space.
work included in this exhibition (sculptures, prints, and
installations) expands on themes explored in
and is authored by a group of artists. The bulk of artwork by
Natalie Jeremijenko, OneTrees
originator, employs various high and low tech media that give form
to otherwise abstract or evanescent phenomena, challenging the
viewer to reconsider the immediate urban environment. Formally
engaging and art-historically allusive, the exhibition's various
components contain a strong political message: in highlighting the
differences between genetically identical organisms, Jeremijenko's
work dismantles the fallacy of genetic determinism (the belief that
genes determine form) and affirms the significance of environmental
Frequently Asked Questions
attribute the tree’s name to the naturally occurring paradox
exhibited by hybridized species in which a hybrid offspring may not
display characteristics of either of its parents. Specifically,
when the black walnut flower is fertilized with the English Walnut,
its offspring, the Paradox walnut, will occasionally throw a
paradox—it is much more vigorous than either of its parents, growing
much larger and faster.
Magnificent, vigorous, and beautiful trees noted for its pleasant
smell, the Paradox Walnut is an ideal urban tree: it does not
produce pollen (walnut pollen is an allergen to many people); does
not drop nuts (the city authorities discourage fruit and nut
dropping tree in urban contexts because they constitute a ‘tripping
hazard’ and as such pose litigation risk); has deep-water seeking
roots (i.e. the roots are less likely to pull up pavement or
interfere with piping and underground services); and can withstand
the difficulties of surviving in the urban environment.
Q: What is
Pond’s relationship to OneTrees?
Pond is a non-profit all-volunteer
organization dedicated to showcasing experimental public art.
Located in San Francisco, Pond has collaborated with Jeremijenko on
various levels, has organized the tree plantings, and has worked as
a fiscal sponsor to the project.
Q: How can I
get involved with OneTrees? What volunteer opportunities
Current volunteer opportunities
include assisting with monthly maintenance of trees, securing
signage for the trees, creating scientific measures by which we can
measure and compare the trees’ empirical growth, and more. Contact
Pond directly for more information…
Q: How does
planting the trees in diverse local ‘microclimates’ help us
understand San Francisco’s different biospheres? What defines a
is a small localized area in which the climate differs from the
general climate due to the variances in
precipitation, humidity, heat and access to light, soil conditions,
particulate matter, carbon dioxide levels, CO2 levels, and many
other pollutants and environmental stressors. Microclimates can
occur in localized areas due to nearby man-made features.
First exhibited at
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 1998/99, OneTrees
has morphed into a citywide environmental social sculpture that
encourages individual action and dialogue relevant to issues in
contemporary environmental debates.
artist Natalie Jeremijenko developed the project OneTrees,
actually one thousand tree(s), clones, micro-propagated in culture.
The clones were exhibited together as plantlets at Yerba Buena
Center for the Arts, San Francisco, Exit Art in New York and the
Exploratorium. This was the only time they were seen together. For
the past several years many of the trees have been growing in a
nursery in Mendocino. The time has finally come for the trees to be
sited in their permanent homes. We are currently coordinating the
plantings of 100 pairs of genetically identical trees in public
places throughout San Francisco¹s diverse microclimates.
various short-term and long-term components provide an opportunity
for communities to engage the project at its various stages. As the
OneTrees are biologically identical, in the subsequent
years they will render the social and environmental differences to
which they are exposed.
The trees' growth
will record the experiences and contingencies that each public site
provides. Each of the tree(s) can be compared by viewers in the
public places they are planted, to become a demonstration, a long,
quiet and persisting spectacle of the Bay Area's diverse
environment. Essentially, OneTrees functions as a
dynamic instrument that maps the microclimates of the Bay Area.
is actually a Paradox Walnut, a fast-growing hybrid first found in
California in the mid 19th century by Luther Burbank and known to
mature within a human lifetime (80 years to be exact). Magnificent,
vigorous, and beautiful trees noted for its pleasant smell, the
Paradox Walnut is an ideal urban tree: it does not produce pollen
(walnut pollen is an allergen to many people); do not drop nuts (the
city authorities discourage fruit and nut dropping tree in urban
contexts because they constitute a tripping hazard¹ and as such pose
litigation risk); has deep-water seeking roots (i.e. the roots are
less likely to pull up pavement or interfere with piping and
underground services); and can withstand the difficulties of
surviving in the urban environment.
planting sites include the Bessie Carmichael Elementary School
(Marina district), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (Soma), the San
Francisco Art Institute (North Beach), and the garden at the foot of
a pedestrian stairway at Cumberland and Castro (Castro district).
In May of 2003, documentation of the planting sites and related
interpretive material will be showcased in a gallery exhibition
curated by Pond.
projects include a collaborative public art project at the SFAI tree
site created by youths from the Boys and Girls' Clubs of San
Francisco, students at the San Francisco Art Institute, and lead
artist Amy Berk. Additional components include a bike tour of the
tree sites, a bike map, panel discussions and a lecture series.
Jeremijenko, 1999 Rockefeller fellow, is a design engineer and
technoartist. She was recently named one of the top one hundred
young innovators by the MIT Technology Review. Jeremijenko did
graduate engineering studies at Stanford University towards her
Ph.D. in design engineering, and was most recently the director of
the Engineering Design Studio at Yale University developing and
implementing new courses in technological innovation. She has
recently taken a research position at the Media Research Lab/Center
for Advanced Technology in the Computer Science Dept., NYU. For
more information about Natalie Jeremijenko's related projects visit