When I returned to the exhibit on the last weekend of its run, I was excited to see how a month of foot-traffic had altered the scene. I got up early and rode the bus out to Queens, enjoying the early morning quiet and the graffiti views. After a long brunch I walked into the exhibit and saw a group of contemporary dancers being filmed in the space. The room smelled lightly of pine and the afternoon sun streamed through the windows. The strange serenity I was expecting during the opening was upon me.
Needles littered the floor, but, all things considered, the forest was in good shape. A partial explanation for this, I learned from Neff, was that after a particularly bad year for tree sales, most of the forest was actually procured directly from sellers, spending little to no time out on the sidewalks. Without hundreds of other people to distract me, the effect of 40 trees in one place was more impactful. The scale of it made me understand the feeling that prompted Neff to start the project back in 2012.
“I had never lived in a place as dense as New York” he said. “After New Years and after the holidays, there are these stacks of trees – and in front of some of these high-rise buildings they’re big stacks of trees. And even if it’s not [high-rise buildings], there are trees littering the sidewalks everywhere. I’d never experienced anything like that… I saw these things and thought ‘wow – this is a reminder of how dense New York City is, and also, this is interesting – here is a material I can use. And it’s free.’”