2016/17 Trinity College Trees Project

Trinity Trees Team 2 at PROBE at TCD

The 2016/17 Trinity College Trees Project, Making Visible the Invisible, celebrated scientific, conservation and artistic research into the physiology of eight trees situated on the main campus of Trinity College Dublin.

Over a period of eighteen months TCD staff  Professor David Taylor,  David Hackett,  Clodagh Dooley and Olivia Hassett meet regularly to collaborate on this ambitious project. Two sets of Scanning Electron microscopic sampling and imaging were undertaken to reflect the changing seasons and conditions during the project.

In response to the collaborative research and microscopic imagery collected the artist created a series of site specific innovative art works, which were installed in the eight trees throughout the campus. A series of performances by Hassett with the Oregon Maple in the main square formed part of PROBE European Researchers night event September 29th 2017 launching the exhibition to much acclaim.

The Trinity College Trees exhibition was supported by a series of guided walks while also offering a self guided walk and supporting audio piece detailing information on each tree and the inspiration behind the installed artworks.

This blog outlines the project background information, research and inspiration behind these works.

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Belated farewell to 170 year old Maple

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Image taken of the Oregon Maple

One of the oldest trees in Trinity College Dublin collapsed early on the 2nd of June 2018.

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The large Oregon Maple was and it’s sister tree opposite is one of the largest specimens of Oregon Maples to be found in Ireland or Britain. Both Maples graced the front square in Trinity College Dublin since the 1840’s.

In 2017 this tree was one of eight that were chosen to be investigated by the Trinity College Trees Team. The Oregon Maple not only formed part of the subsequent exhibition in October 2017 but was the subject matter of my performance during the exhibition opening night, which also formed part of the TCD and Science Gallery organised PROBE event.

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Images taken during the installation of the Oregon Maple artwork, part of the Trinity College Trees Exhibition October 2017.

I was informed of the demise of the Maple beside the Henry Moore sculpture while boarding a plane to South Africa via London. There was scant information at this point as to why this tree had fallen that night. Both trees had weathered Ireland’s recent storm Emma and hurricane Ophelia in 2017.

In fact there were numerous ongoing tests and safety assessments done by the diligent grounds staff and specialist contractors to asses both trees’ viability, the most recent taken about two months prior to the tree collapse. The surveys did show that both trees were diseased, the one that still stands more so than the one that fell. The tree experts estimated that the tree would definitely not be around in forty years time and regular testing of the trees was recommended.

It was a shock to all students, staff and the general public when the news of the tree’s collapse became known to all. None more to me as I boarded numerous planes to South Africa only returning a week ago. Numerous times I thought and spoke of the fallen tree to my family. I felt a deep sadness that such a majestic enormous seemingly invincible tree had collapsed under it’s own weight.

As I was incommunicado for such a long time I was unable to visit Trinity College until the middle of last week. I heard there had been a huge outpouring on social media and I visited the twitter page, which was alight for days after the collapse with numerous comments of sadness, many past students, staff and the general public sharing photographs and memories relating to the tree. Numerous articles also appeared online and in the newspapers.

During my visit to Trinity College last week it really brought it home to me how huge this tree was and the enormity of the empty void where the tree had stood for so long. See below an image of the tree stump surrounded by patchy damaged grass. In the background it’s sister tree stands alone now. All are aware that this tree is now in a very precarious position, especially due to Ireland’s ongoing drought making the less flexible due to a low water content. I decided to take a photo of the remaining Oregon Maple as I know a decision on it’s fate will be taken soon.

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As to the future direction of the 2018 Trinity College Trees project who’s focus is solely on these two Oregon Maples it is a little up in the air at the moment. The scientific and artistic premises for the project still remain valid but the resultant artwork concepts must now be revisited, revised and be flexible enough to respond to the fragility and shifting nature of the stories of these two trees and their place in this world.

Thank you to Clodagh Dooley

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The Trinity College Trees team would like to say thank you to Dr. Clodagh Dooley for all her amazing work with us on last years project.  Clodagh was a Researcher in Residence in The Advanced Microscopy Laboratory (AML) which is a part of CRANN (Centre for Research in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology) and the AMBER centre (Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research).  We have Clodagh to thank for all the amazing microscope images taken last year.

Clodagh was due to keep working with us this year but has been head hunted by the forensic lab in Phoenix Park.  We are really sorry to lose her from our team but are delighted and wish her all the best with her new career!

About this blog

This blog celebrates a specific selection of the stunning selection of Trees in Trinity College Dublin.

Early in January of this year the Trinity College Trees team in conjunction with Dr. Conor Buckley of TCD initiated a new study on the two large Oregon Maple trees in College Square.   This 2018 project will build on the research and success of their 2017 project, which involved eight tress (including one of the Oregon Maples in the 2018 project) on the Trinity College Dublin campus.

This blog aims to outlines the conservation, scientific and artistic development and outcomes from both the 2017 and 2018 projects.

The Trinity College Trees Team are tree specialist (David Hackett), scientist (Prof. David Taylor), microscope expert (Dr. Clodagh Dooley), bioplastic specialist (Dr. Conor Buckley) and artist (Olivia Hassett) all based in Trinity College Dublin.

The team aim to make visible fascinating microscopic elements of the trees. This will allow for an unique way of engaging with the trees in an urban setting.

In 2017 in response to the research and microscopic imagery collected the artist created of a series of innovative art works, which were installed in eight trees throughout the campus. This exhibition launched in September 2017 and was supported by a self guided walk with a supporting audio piece that offered detailed information on each tree and the inspiration behind the installed artworks.

For the 2018 project the team propose to undertake a programme of scientific and arboreal sampling and tests to explore the structural integrity of the two majestic but fragile Oregon Maple Trees in College Square.  Proposed artistic responses will include a months display of new artworks installed in both trees, live performance and indoor exhibition on the TCD campus.

Mooney Goes Wild rescheduled to air this Sunday 5th of November at 22.00

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Due to unforeseen circumstances RTE Radio 1’s Mooney Goes Wild team had to reschedule the interview with the Trinity Trees Exhibition team. The interview will air instead this Sunday 5th of November between 22.00 and 23.00.

Tune in to hear each of the Trinity College Trees team talking about their areas of expertise all of which came together to produce the exhibition currently on display in Trinity College Dublin until the 12th of November 2017.

Installed artworks: Day 8 – The Yew Tree

yew tree with red berriesThe evergreen Yew with its dark green, needle-like leaves and red berries are toxic to humans and as a result they were identified as the trees of death but were also seen as a symbol of the transcendence of death due to their longevity. The project team were particularly interested in the Yew tree because of the fact that such a highly toxic tree also contained key medicinal components in the fight against various forms of cancer. Compounds found in the bark are nowadays manufactured chemically in the development of the Taxol drug.

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To follow find images taken by Clodagh Dooley with the Scanning Electron Microscope.

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The final artwork is a hand etched representation of one of the wonderful images created by Dooley on a sheet of fluorescent yellow perspex.  See SEM image below.

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The artwork itself is to be found attached to the gates of the railings, which surround the triangular section of the physic garden. The artist chose the gate as the site to install the work because for her it symbolised the entrance and exit point along the boundary of the garden. This reflected her ongoing interest in engaging with notions of the skin as an in-between space between the inside and outside of the body, where skin pores play a vital role in excreting waste products and protecting against bacteria and pathogens. This is followed through in her interest in the breathing pores, the soma on the bark of the Yew tree, images of which were hand etched and drilled into a section of yellow perspex.  To follow are a selection of SEM images of these soma. 

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Also included in the artwork are sections of medical tubing filled with yellow paint, which trace through the drilled breathing holes and intertwine around each other. This is not unlike how the Yew tree’s trunk avoids succumbing to disease and splitting under the weight of advanced growth by growing upwards and twisting it’s root structure in and around itself for support.

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Finally see below image of installed artwork.

Olivia Hassett Yew tree artwork lo res