Painstakingly over more than a decade, Israeli artist Shai Zakai has created a monument to man’s interaction with his environment and the consequences – overwhelmingly negative – of that interaction.
“Forest Tunes: The Library” is an installation consisting of collected items, photographs, video, text and a book.
The centerpiece of The Library is a collection of items held in over 150 boxes. Stacked in an installation that mimics a library, each box contains an item, usually a botanic specimen of some sort, from the many that the artist has collected over more than a decade. Box by box, the collection patiently, and somewhat depressingly, builds a story of inexorable destruction of natural landscape.
The artist collects the specimens as part of her daily work. Each box contains a relic of nature destroyed and is accompanied by an explanation, a remembrance if you will, of the events, the damage and destruction, that led to the specimen being collected and stored.
Leaves from a banana tree (below) commemorate the cutting down of a banana plantation. Cyclamen bulbs are a testament to the thousands of natural cyclamen habitats destroyed through development and road building. Here are some of the words that accompany these specimens:
“The Jewish National Fund does not transplant the plants, nor does it organize rescue operations to remove thousands of cyclamen, asphodel, narcissus, and iris bulbs that were found on the path of the road. If we multiply this by the number of new roads paved over the years, the result is clear.”
Shai Zakai has built a reliquary of nature destroyed; a memento mori to the seemingly inevitable death of all things natural in the destructive wake of human expansion. When installed in an otherwise empty space, the black shelves, black boxes and black floor create a funereal atmosphere that is the polar opposite of the life, fecundity and color of the nature that was.