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Symbolizing life, wisdom, and organic growth, the willow tree is a fitting metaphor for the unique but interrelated languages spoken today. Artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer conceived of his interactive sculpture Speaking Willow to celebrate the world’s rich linguistic diversity. As visitors pass beneath the tree’s branches, they activate the bell-shaped speakers suspended directly overhead. Each speaker has been programmed with sample recordings of a different language. Together, they represent the native tongues of over 99% of the planet’s population. A walk around Speaking Willow evokes a journey around the world; it reminds us that language is what defines our specific communities and connects our many cultures.
“Speaking Willow is a biomimetic sculpture with speakers that gently sway in the wind and respond to the presence of passers-by. The interaction is subtle and evokes the fragility and beauty of spoken communication, aural perception, and oral history. The recordings consist of general statements relating to each language and its culture, highlighting the distinct rhythms, intonations, emphases, and textures that make each one unique.” —Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
The fabrication work required complex fabrication and unique hot dip galvanizing dipping methods to craft the trunk and branches from A500 tubing. The work was then animated by 3.6 miles of Ethernet cable, fed through the branches, and fitted with individual speakers and lighting elements. UAP was engaged from the design development stage of this project through fabrication, galvanizing and installation.
As visitors walk under the tree’s branches, the bell-shaped flower speakers, speaks 364 different languages recorded on a SD card that has been programmed with the different languages. When you walk around the Speaking Willow Tree it takes you a journey around the world of over 99% of the native tongues of the planet’s population
Located in Downtown Washington DC, the Speaking Willow Tree will be visible to millions of visitors throughout the year at the Planet World Museum courtyard. The galvanized steel used will provide decades of maintenance free corrosion protection that is crucial to protect the inside electrical components. The artist also chose to use galvanize the Speaking Willow Tree for aesthetic reasons to achieve a timeless look for years to come. All the light gage steel tubing members required a smooth finish, free of zinc build-up and smooth to the touch inside and out of each tree branch and truck, protecting it from visitors and the 3.6 miles Ethernet cable fed throughout the tree.
Washington, DC United States
Aesthetics, Coating Durability, Corrosion Performance
The trunk and branches of the tree made up of steel tubing and steel plates
V&S Amboy Galvanizing
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