Waving Back (2018)

How would we relate differently to trees if we could actually have a conversation with them?

Humans and trees live in a complex symbiotic relationship but it is only usually apparent over seasons, years, or lifetimes. Waving Back makes the relationship visible and immediate by sensing people around the tree and waving limbs at them. Different limbs wave at people in different places and visitors can explore and play with the tree to see how it reacts.

The project was commissioned as part of Brisbane City Council’s Botanica Festival from April 6-15, 2018, held in conjunction with the 2018 Commonwealth Games. It was a site-specific installation on a fraxinus uhdei tree in the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens.

The piece works by sensing people in a detection cone around one of 6 ultrasonic sensors mounted on the tree. After detecting a person, a corresponding limb, driven by a motor and custom cam arrangement waves a limb back and forth. As a person moves around the tree, different limbs will wave. The re-attached waving limbs were taken from another tree of the same species that was being removed by arborists.

Video to come soon!