UNESCO Arts, Science & Technology

Natalie Jeremijenko
One Tree

Natalie Jeremijenko, 1999 Rockefeller fellow, is a design engineer and technoartist. She was recently named one of the top one hundred young innovators by the MIT Technology Review. Her work includes digital, electromechanical, and interactive systems in addition to biotechnological work that have recently been included in the Rotterdam Film Festival (2000), the Guggenheim Museum, New York (1999), the Museum Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, the LUX Gallery, London (1999), the Whitney Biennial '97, Documenta '97, Ars Electronic prix '96, presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A large project was commissioned for the opening of new museum MASSMoCA ( ). She did graduate engineering studies at Stanford University towards her Ph.D. in design engineering, and was most recently the director of the Engineering Design Studio at Yale University developing and implementing new courses in technological innovation. She has recently taken a research position at the Media Research Lab/Center for Advanced Technology in the Computer Science Dept., NYU. Other research positions include several years at Xerox PARC in the computer science lab, and the Advanced Computer Graphics Lab, RMIT. She has also been on faculty in digital media and computer art at the School of Visual Art, New York and the San Francisco Art Institute. She is known to work for the Bureau of Inverse Technology.

Cloning has made it possible to Xerox copy organic life and fundamentally confound the traditional understanding of individualism and authenticity. In the public sphere, genetics is often reduced to "finding the gene for (fill in the blank)," misrepresenting the complex interactions of the organism with environmental influences. The swelling cultural debate that contrasts genetic determinism and environmental influence has consequences for understanding our own agency in the world, be it predetermined by genetic inevitability or constructed by our actions and environment. The OneTree project is a forum for public involvement in this debate, a shared experience with actual material consequences.

OneTree is actually one hundred tree(s), clones of a single tree micropropagated in culture. These clones were originally exhibited together as plantlets at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, in 1999. This was the only time they were seen together. In the spring of 2001, the clones will be planted in public sites throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including Golden Gate Park, 220 private properties, San Francisco school district sites, Bay Area Rapid Transit stations, Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center, and Union Square. A selection of international sites are also being negotiated. Friends of the Urban Forest are coordinating the planting. Because the trees are biologically identical, they will render the social and environmental differences to which they are exposed in subsequent years. The trees slow and consistent growth will record the unique experiences and contingencies of each public site. The tree(s) will become a networked instrument that maps the microclimates of the Bay Area, connected through their biological materiality. People can view the tree(s) and compare them, a long, quiet, and persisting testament to the Bay Areas diverse environment.