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The suspended forest

by Michael Neff

Paraphrasing Holden Caulfield’s question that accompanied several generations of readers (“I wonder where the ducks go when the lake freezes over.” J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye), we could ask ourselves the same question about the Christmas trees that are abandoned once the holidays come to an end.


A particularly poetic response is that of New York artist Michael Neff with his site-specific installation Suspended Forest, conceived in 2012 and which today has become a tradition for residents of Brooklyn, an opportunity to prolong the warm atmosphere of the holidays but also to give the fir trees a chance to show off their beauty one last time.

Four years ago, Neff’s attention was caught by the great number of discarded Christmas trees, which in the first week of January were left like trash on the sidewalks of his neighborhood. The artist thus decided to start collecting as many as possible to incorporate them into an installation in Williamsburg, beneath the BQE, the causeway that splits the neighborhood in half. Using string to hang them and construction scraps as weights, the trees seemed to magically float above the street. City authorities dismantled the installation – which had not been authorized – after a few days, but Neff, with the help of his wife and a friend, did it again the following year, and the year after, increasing the number of trees each time and gaining the approval of local residents.

This year, for the first time, thanks to the project’s success, Suspended Forest was hosted in a sanctioned art space, the Knockdown Center in Queens, where - from 9 to 31 January – forty majestic trees floated and swayed above the concrete floor. For an idea of the degree to which the installation has become a fixed tradition for the neighborhood, one need only consider that the inauguration was attended by around 3,000 people.