The Tree Whispers Hudson
an installation by Mark Bernard     at Rotary Park in Kingston, NY     from July through August 2009

The piece was vandalized two months after installation,
and was subsequently reworked and installed in Rosendale

The Tree Whispers Hudson

"The Tree Whispers Hudson" is an interactive art installation located in Rotary Park in Kingston, NY. The piece intends to both surprise and inform unsuspecting park visitors, using its pleading demeanor and a relentlessly spewed dissertation on the natural and human history of the area. The installation is entirely solar powered. This work is part of the 2009 Kingston Sculpture Biennial, an effort of the Art Society of Kingston. Come see the earnest work of 30 local artists commenting on the Hudson River's environment, and the 400 year anniversary of Henry Hudson's first sail up this great river. The exhibit runs from July through the end of October, 2009.
Directions to the Installation

The work is located in Kingston Point's Rotary Park. Many locals who are familiar with Kingston Point Beach don't even know about this part of the park, since it's more tucked-away than the beach area.

Click here for a Google map directly to the gazebo that is next to the installation. Note that Google's directions will get you to the gate of Rotary Park, but will not provide you with walking directions within the park. I've included my own here:

As you face the big oil tank complex at the east, river end of Delaware Avenue, the gate to Rotary Park is on the right.

Enter through the gates, and take the first grassy path/road that exits to the right, and goes up a hill.

As the hill levels off, there will be a fork. Take the left path and look for a gazebo, now almost straight ahead, up on a hill, about 30 feet away. It's tucked into some trees, but should be visible.

Walk up to the gazebo. You can tell it's the right one because there's a bench inside of it, and another bench in front of it facing the river. The river-facing side of the gazebo has a plaque at the top, dedicated by the Hogan family.

The Art Society of Kingston's has a printable PDF map of all the work in the exhibition, but please note that my piece is located incorrectly, 100 feet south of where it really is. Both my Google map and the Biennial site's Google map have the correct location. Otherwise, this online resource is great for locating the other wonderful pieces in the Biennial.
Artist's Statement

The theme of the 2009 Sculpture Biennial challenged my usual direction of integrating of computer technology into my art. How could I reconcile using electronic equipment in a natural environment, when the theme is "Go Green and Keep the Hudson Clean?"

As a culture, we are perpetually distracted by technology, I believe to an obsessive level. I'm beginning to feel that contemporary technology is almost specifically designed to pull us away from our connection to our natural environment, and from our bond with our friends and community. Computers and the internet keep us inside our homes, rather than physically interacting with our friends and nature. Even when we leave the house, cell phones keep us from being present and connected when we're outside in the world.

I sought to completely hide the technology, and generally downplay its presence. I did not want any equipment to become the focus of the piece. Rather, technology would be employed to instill a certain intelligence and soul into a piece of wood. This would hopefully keep the audience's attention on the beauty of the Hudson River and its surrounding natural setting. In using a computer to facilitate a broadening of a human being's attention to their environment, I intend to suggest that it is not the technology that is at fault here, but rather our preoccupation and escapist tendencies that have placed a wedge between ourselves and our natural and social environments.

Developing the piece took approximately 250 hours of labor and $1,500 in materials. About 75% of the work and expense came from the need to run independently of the electrical grid, which was not the original intention. The system goes into low power mode during the day when no one is near, and completely powers down at night. In the morning when the sun rises, light hitting the solar panel tells the system to power back up.
About the Artist

Mark Bernard is a computer and mechanical engineer living in Rosendale, NY, just south of Kingston. He has worked on numerous art and commercial projects since he was 17. Mark created a system that interprets a pianist's playing and in turn plays accompaniment on two other player pianos. He developed industrial robots that built and tuned Woodstock Percussion wind chimes, and has offered technical services to many area artists since the early 80s. Mark collaborated with artist Carolyn Lambert for the 2005 Kingston Sculpture Biennial, creating the surrealistic video surveillance installation The Camera Had a Nervous Twitch.

Thanks to the inspiration and assistance of Cary Kittner, Amie Worley, Stefan Lisowski, Louie Torchio, Tanessa Hartwig, Carolyn Lambert, Jay Hogan, Historian Ed Ford, Patrick Wadden and Arm-of-the-Sea Theater, the City of Kingston, Lisa Carpinelli, Cory Spitzer, Caegan Quimby and Emily, Dan Feldman, Adam Widoff, Chris Bernard, and of course, the Art Society of Kingston and curator Meagan Gallagher.

Conceptual drawing for 'The Tree Whispers Hudson'
An early conceptual drawing. Click here for a PDF of the original proposal.

Thank you,