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The Tree That Fell
Solo Exhibition The Substation, Singapore
Date: 2015

Artists: Robert ZHAO Renhui 赵仁辉

In 2014, I spent a few nights under one of the Banyan trees at the back of The Substation for a project. A few months later, all the trees there were chopped to make way for a new building, except for the largest one, which was uprooted and kept somewhere till it finds a new home. During the demolition, I salvaged some of the tree trucks and kept them, not really knowing what I would do with them.

A year later, I found that the trunks were mostly intact, and there were little insects and plants growing in them. Only one of the segments was reduced to an ashy powder by powderpost beetles.

I started thinking about the idea of disappearance in nature, and how long, without intervention, a tree takes to disappear. As an experiment, I started sanding all the wood down manually to see how long I can reduce it to dust.

It took me nine months.

Meanwhile, I know that the large Banyan tree will be transplanted in a few years time. It takes forever for a tree to disappear in the forest, but in Singapore, we can grow a 30-metre tree in just a few days. It is almost a miracle.

Slow disappearances and instant trees: Time is warped in the tree world in Singapore.

- Robert Zhao Renhui, incollaboration with The Substation for Septfest

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