How to Build a Forest

by Katie Pearl & Lisa D'Amour


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In this new installation performance by PearlDamour + Shawn Hall, we will assemble and disassemble an elaborate, simulated forest over the course of an 8-hour workshift at the Kitchen Theater in New York City. Viewers will be able to come and go throughout the day for as long as they want, watching from theater seats or getting up and entering the installation, becoming participants in the rapid appearance and disappearance of our simulated ecosystem.

This project was initially inspired by 100 trees that were lost on Lisa's family property just outside New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. We wanted to put them back up again, which is of course, impossible. We are building the installation with New Orleans-based visual artist Shawn Hall and the second presentation of the piece will happen in New Orleans in the Fall of 2011. Please watch our video above - all of the images in our video are from Shawn's amazing past work, or studies for this project. Our first presentation is in a huge space - 30 X 40 feet wide and 25 feet tall, and we need an adequate build space to prepare the installation as well as skilled labor so we can achieve the intricate level of detail in Shawn's design. Our minimum goal of $7500 will pay for 5 months of build space – allowing us to build consistently without moving from space to space, or squeezing ourselves into a too-small small space. If we reach our maximum goal, we can pay 3-4 seamstresses and fabricators 20 hours a week to realize Shawn's design.

Shawn's design is complex, and has a feeling of weightlessness, translucence and transformation – at one moment you might feel like you are in an old growth rain forest, at another, you might feel like you are in the middle of a deep sea landscape. We're passionate about creating a wondrous environment that will inspire people to come up inside the installation and see how things change when they take a closer look. If we can inspire this kind of participation, we'll be closer to what we want to convey – ecosystems are precious, and we are intimately connected to them, even when we choose to live in cities. When something beautiful (and life-sustaining) is lost, you can't just put it back together again. We want those who come into our installation to experience how long it takes for something to be created and how quickly it can be ended— whether that be a natural eco-system, an installation, or the landscape of an entire city. In building our fake forest inside a theater, we want our audience to think about the relationship of process to product, of what goes on behind the scenes of our lives vs. what happens “on stage” in our lives.

As an audience member/viewer, there will be multiple ways for you to engage with the installation. You may use a trail map that will lead you to hidden micro-patterns in the installation, or to builders who need help with simple tasks. One trail may lead you out of the theater and onto the street where you will be in the real urban ecosystem before bringing you back into our constructed one. You may decide to leave the performance and come back during the “completion phase,” a very brief period of time towards the end of the eight hours when the fake ecosystem seems magically “complete.” We imagine that you will be in the middle of enjoying the seemingly endless intricacy of it all when large work lights snap on, and the unromantic task of disassembling the forest begins. Within the hour, the space is completely barren again. The forest has disappeared.

This piece intentionally takes place in a big city, and is designed for city-dwellers who may feel “cut off” from the natural world. What happens when we ask an audience of tech-savvy New Yorkers, who stay connected to their world each day through internet and 4G networks, to SLOW DOWN and bring into focus the world of our appearing/disappearing Forest? Our aim is to encourage viewers to press pause on their impulsive touch screen realities and invite them to relate in real time to our tangible environment. And in the process, realize that they are not cut off from the natural world: they are living in it right now.

Please check out photos from past PearlDamour work at the bottom right of this page. And click on our profile, and then "showcases" to catch a glimpse of our last project with Shawn -- Nita & Zita, for which Shawn designed the sets. And visit Shawn's website to learn more about her work - just paste into your browser. Thank in advance for your support!

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    • January 27, 2011 Jason Craig Community Member

      Go Lisa! Go Katie! Go GO GO!

    • January 12, 2011 Gracie Terzian Community Member

      What a great project!

    • January 05, 2011 Anna Community Member

      Appalachian State is excited to be a part of this process! If any followers are around Western NC Feb.21-March 2,3 come to Boone.

    • December 16, 2010 Kristina Wong Artist

      This sounds like an amazing project. Good luck you three! I am a huge Pearl D'Amour fan! Love, Kristina