Judging by the lack of colorful streamers along Avenida de las Americas, Discovery Green has moved on to its next public art installation. In other words, wish Arcade goodbye, and say Hello, Trees!
The work of Montreal-based Daily tous les jours, Hello, Trees! A Walking Serenade crisscrosses the length of the Brown Foundation Promenade as a tunnel of white arches with a mouthpiece at each end. When you talk into the funnel, a beam of light emerges to travel along the arches while speakers at various intervals transmit versions of your message. You're encouraged to follow the light down the promenade as your words are modulated to mimic a Daft Punk-style robot voice that gradually transitions into pure melody. The rhythm of your speech remains, but your words transform into pleasant piano chords as the beam of light traverses the walkway.
Mouna Andraos, the founder of Daily tour les jours, says the concept finds root in the promenade's century-old live oaks, which are remnants of the park's residential past and the only specimens found within Downtown Houston. During the research phase, her team met with a biologist who explained how trees communicate using chemical signals through the air and via their root systems.
"That became the inspiration," says Andraos. "Can we celebrate these communication patterns and us as humans try to communicate with nature and send messages with nature?"
The name of the project came from the first words spoken into the mouthpiece, and the simplicity made it a natural fit. Susanne Theis, Discovery Green's director of programming, emphasized how the art's name, concept, and function—the whole package—were commissioned to emphasize the park's canopy.
"These live oaks have supported each other for more than 100 years, while everything else has been cut down," she says. "There's not one thing you can see looking 360 degrees that is older than 1987. These live oaks have really supported each other and existed through all that."
Houston Poet Laureate Deborah Mouton will read her work using Hello, Trees!, and Kam Franklin of The Suffers will sing alongside friend Lisa Harris. There may even be a collaboration with Houston Grand Opera, given the proximity to the company's temporary Resilience Theater set up inside the George R. Brown Convention Center.
All told, there are many creative ways to interact with Hello, Trees!, and we wondered if either party had considered the mind of a teenager, which would surely see this as a colorful microphone to shout amplified obscenities into a public park filled with families and children. In fact, they had—but they're not worried.
"We were laughing," says Andraos. "Your insult is not going to have much weight. Really quickly, you're going to see with this work that you're making beauty regardless. It's a vain attempt to sabotage that."
That's not to say people don't have sweeter plans for the art, too; multiple people have already inquired about using Hello, Trees! to propose to their spouses to-be. In this non-hooligan endeavor, we wish them luck.
Hello Trees! A Walking Serenade, thru Feb. 25. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. 713-400-7336. More info at discoverygreen.com.