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Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Nurse Log in Downtown Seattle

We visited the Neukom Vivarium in the Olympic Sculpture Park downtown Seattle today. So should you!

From an interview with the artist, Mark Dion, on the PBS website:
ART:21:      "What does it mean to take a tree from its natural setting and place it in a gallery context?"

DION:     "I think that one of the important things about this work is that it’s really not an intensely positive, back-to-nature kind of experience. In some ways, this project is an abomination. We’re taking a tree that is an ecosystem—a dead tree, but a living system—and we are re-contextualizing it and taking it to another site. We’re putting it in a sort of Sleeping Beauty coffin, a greenhouse we’re building around it. And we’re pumping it up with a life support system—an incredibly complex system of air, humidity, water, and soil enhancement—to keep it going. All those things are substituting what nature does—emphasizing how, once that’s gone, it’s incredibly difficult, expensive, and technological to approximate that system—to take this tree and to build the next generation of forests on it. So this piece is in some way perverse. It shows that, despite all of our technology and money, when we destroy a natural system it’s virtually impossible to get it back. In a sense we’re building a failure."

This huge nurse log in the Vivarium downtown came from the Green River watershed, but it could be from any of the increasingly rare low-elevation ancient forests of the west side of the Cascades. A prime example is the Baker River valley upstream from the head of Baker Lake, adjacent to North Cascades National Park.

Ancient forest of the Baker River - real and intact now, but for how long? The American Alps Program seeks to bring this and other* intact ancient ecosystems into National Park protection. Because if it is lost, it will be impossible to get it back.
*Other ancient forest study areas of American Alps adjacent to NCNP include lower Thunder and Big Beaver Creeks and the Cascade River valley.

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