TreeToo Manifesto : Amelie Eise interviews Etienne Verbist
posted in Portugese art magazine Umbigo on 28 april 2020
Interview between Amelie Eise and Etienne Verbist, the creator of the TreeToo Manifesto, which aims to mobilise the global art community to protect our trees and nature – hoping that, as the manifesto claims, “you will never be able to look at a tree as you did before”.
Amelie Eise – What is the TreeToo Manifesto about? Is it another environmental protection group, is it a political movement?
Etienne Verbist – The manifesto is neither a political movement nor an environmental protection group. The Manifesto is a call for action written to mobilise everyone involved in the art world. Because not only can art show the beauty and the importance of our life with trees through artists´ works through time, borders, media, generations, and perceptions, it will also remind us how much we all stand to lose if trees, our strongest, quiet allies in this world through all times were to be destroyed.
AE – Why is it called TreeToo like MeToo?
EVB – Inspired by the -Buzz- of the MeToo affairs, politically correct or not, I aimed to find a slogan to get noticed immediately.
AE – What is it that binds art and trees?
EVB – Trees have inspired artists, writers, and activists around the globe and through time, for many reasons, religious and other. The examples are numerous, such as, just to name a few: Leonardo Da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, Joseph Beuys, Georg Baselitz, Aiweiwei, Banksy, Thijs Biersteker & Stefano Manusco, Carol Dunham, Albert Oehlen, Ugo Rondinone.
AE – Why is it important to mobilise this specific part of society, the artists?
EVB – Artists can create awareness, open your eyes, ears, heart, through works as different as the people populating this earth. Because taste and dispositions are different, people will understand through different channels. The situation of our world and trees and the associated urgency need to be visualised in any way we can think of. Artists can and must help save the world. As somebody who believes in the power of art and the necessary diversity of artworks, it seems clear to me that there is no other choice for the artist than to get involved.
AE – What can art achieve?
EVB – Art and culture have the potential to advance society through new ideas. We ask that the art world in its different forms, artists, gallerists, game changers of all sorts become pioneers in climate protection by creating art works, exhibitions, to tirelessly remind us of what we stand to gain. And what we might lose.
AE – What can artists do other than underwrite the manifesto?
EVB – They can reflect on nature or tree-related topics in their artwork. I invite artists, for example, to create a twig with a message or set up an exhibition around the theme of trees. The twig is an attempt to provide a new source of
inspiration with new creative opportunities and promote imaginative responses to contemporary issues like climate change. In addition, I created a platform www.treetoo.art, where artists and artworks of all times relating to trees, in all the different mediums of expression can be exhibited to achieve our common goal.
AE – What will happen with the manifesto and all the signatures?
EVB – The manifesto will be sent to the DAVOS World Economic Forum and linked with www.1t.org, a platform for the trillion-tree community. 1t.org exists to connect, empower and mobilise a global reforestation community of millions, unleashing their potential to act at an unprecedented scale and speed, to ensure the conservation and restoration of one trillion trees within this decade. Also, we curate for an exhibition.
AE – What are you hoping to achieve?
EVB – The TreeToo Manifesto has been created to help visualize in any way art and artists can, an urgent deed: to ensure the conservation and restoration of one trillion trees within this decade.
AE – In the manifesto, you mention wanting to create a platform for other artists- can you tell us more? Is it going to be a purely digital platform, will there be an exhibition?
EVB – The platform is created under the name www.treetoo.art. We invite artist to participate by endorsing us: www.treetoo.art/call-for-action. In addition, we are curating for an exhibition via this endorsement.
AE – What other projects are out there that you know of and how can the TreeToo Manifesto reach out to other initiatives?
EVB – There are many hundreds of organisations doing important work to conserve and restore forests at scale – for example, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021 -2030, the Bonn Challenge, the Trillion Trees Initiative, the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, plant-for-the-planet.org, treedom, Ecosia and many others. The TreeToo Manifesto and the associated platform can help connect the different actors and facilitate communication and visualisation of a common goal for instance on www.treetoo.art.
AE – Who is behind the TreeToo Manifesto? what motivated you to start this?
EVB – I wrote the manifesto being aware of the fact that the moment is NOW. There is significant momentum and action around reforestation and climate change. I am an early adaptor of crowd sourcing, disruptive business modelling and disruptive art. I am also a board advisor to a broad range of companies on innovation and new technology and as a curator of websites like Arty-Farty.fun and Tree.Too.art – the smallest tree & art related museum in the world. I believe that my past and current experiences in the field of crowdsourcing could and should be put to use for such an important task as the saving of our planet.For clarification: crowdsourcing, the practice of engaging a ‘crowd’ or group for a common goal, often innovation, problem solving, or efficiency, can take place on many different levels and across various industries. I want to connect it to art and creativity. Thanks to our growing connectivity, it is now easier than ever for individuals to collectively contribute – whether with ideas, time, expertise, or funds – to a project or cause. I can help with that. It is as simple as that.
AE – What is with the flagged twigs? are you an activist? An artist? Both?
EVB – I am neither an artist, nor an activist, I just want to inspire artists thus helping to create a better world. The twig I use as a symbol for TreeToo. Why flagged, painted with the national colours? I am fully convinced that nationalism will not save the world. We have to think global and act global, in harmony not in conflict.
AE – What’s the story of trees and sex?
EVB – Trees are living things, they communicate, they help each other, they even have sex. Trees reproduce asexually, or through cultivation by humans and sexually, through the exchange of pollen between male and female reproductive systems. A single tree can produce both male and female flowers, relying on adaptations such as different blooming times to prevent self-pollination. Trees have X and Y chromosomes. The Y chromosome carries genes that are not only crucial for sex determination but individual survival. As a twig has the shape of the Y chromosome, I chose the twig as a symbol for the manifesto.
AE – What is your vision for the TreeToo movement?
EVB – I believe art can help save The world: through art, compellingly motivating world leaders to take action, the climate crisis needs to be tackled. I believe it is our duty, as artists, art aficionados, nutcases and tree lovers, to visualize what the world needs for the survival of all: the air we breathe, the love and care we feel, the mindfulness we need. We must inspire and motivate all those who have set out to conserve and restore forests and therefore life on earth. This is our contribution.
AE – What is your favourite tree?
EVB – I have no favourite tree. I have some favourite trees. In my garden, I plant trees on special occasions. When a child is born, a parent dies, I plant a tree related to their personality and every day when I walk in my garden, I greet my beloved.
AE – What is your favourite artwork related to trees?
Forest Man by Germaine Richiers.