If a tree falls in the woods, it will be immortalized as amazingly clever artwork if Fu’ad Khasawneh is anywhere nearby. The Assistant Dean and his colleagues at the University of Jordan transformed the detritus of a powerful winter storm into a remarkable display of public art.
They have upcycled dozens of cypress trees destroyed by recent heavy weather in Amman.
Named “Cypress Memory”, the three-phase art project emerged in the aftermath of December’s “Storm Alexa” when over 1,800 trees within the campus’ historic forests were destroyed by heavy ice. Amman’s streets were clogged with downed branches and upsided tree trunks for weeks afterwards, but where most saw reason to complain about sluggish municipal reaction, Khasawneh saw an opportunity to let imagination soar.
“We asked ourselves, how can we make these trees into something artistic and beautiful, and turn a catastrophe into art?”, he told BarakaBits. Using Twitter and Facebook to broadcast the project, Khasawneh incited over 50 students and university staff to brave the frigid weather and take up the terrifying tools of the tree-cutting trade – chainsaws and axes, cherry-picking lifts and hammers.
On January 5 they began transforming the organic wreckage into a swiftly designed sculpture garden. People worked individually or in teams, creating 30 different pieces. Each work symbolizes a unique message either specifically about the storm, or about the state of the Arab world in general.
“We worked with the trees for 10 days, from morning to evening,” said Khasawneh, “We loved that everyone expressed what he wanted from inside himself, transforming this chaos into something beautiful and returning life to broken branches.”
There’s an eye-grabbing cache of giant colored pencils. Student Jasmine al-Kurdi tackled the notion of tyrannical power. Khasawneh described his own creation, entitled “Containment”, as symbolizing “how many people from different faculties, sects, and religions studied under these sheltering trees”, a reminder that we are all from one source, the earth.
Support from the university community and wider Amman has been strong, and students have grown fiercely protective of the new “forest” of art. When a sculpture was vandalized, the artists created five more.
“We are determined to keep working,” Khasawneh said, “All we need is financial support.” He plans to commence Phase Two, to be called “Spring Memory”, will commence this month if funds can be raised for materials and tools. “Summer Memory”, the final phase, targets a May start, and will feature artists from across the world.
See a video of Phase One, below. Interested in supporting these artistic tree-cutters? Contact the professor via his Facebook page (link here).
All images from Professor Khasaweh’s Facebook page