We rarely get to showcase talent such as Agnes Denes, a visionary who blends mathematics, philosophy and art. Today, you’re in for a treat!
Denes first gained worldwide recognition in 1982 when she single-handedly planted 1,000 wheat seeds on a four-acre empty lot, right next to the World Trade Center. The grains grew to yield 1,000 pounds of wheat which were shipped to 28 cities around the world as part of an art show about ending world hunger. In 1996, Denes embarked on one of her most ambitious projects, the kind that literally survives the artist and the object of the ZME feature for the day. At the time she had a mountain of soil piled into an elliptical cone over a gravel pit near Ylöjärvi, Finland, which measured 420 meters long, 270 meters wide, and 28 meters tall. That’s not all, by far. Over the mountain 11,000 trees were planted by 11,000 people in a golden section and “sunflower/pineapple” pattern around her mathematically designed mound.
While a few trees have deviated from their course or perished since their first planting, the pattern can be still seen today. Not long after the project was completed, the Finnish government passed a law that gave the tree planters and their heirs the right to pass on their living legacy of a tree for at least 20 generations.
“The forest will be kept for the next 400 years, thereby creating the first manmade virgin forest. It will take that long for the environment to re-create itself. The 11,000 people who came to plant the trees received a certificate valid for four centuries that they can leave to their children as custodians of the trees. My forests are mathematical in order to combine the human intellect with the majesty of nature. I restore the land, rejuvenate it, and fill it with wonders of new human understanding,” Denes said.
A time capsule, a work of geometric art and a feat of utility nonetheless. I can only hope to see the Tree Mountain grow and be protected till 2396. Who knows what it will become until then.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!