Louvre Abu Dhabi and Théâtre du Châtelet Highlight Environmental Awareness with the World Premiere of Singing Trees
Louvre Abu Dhabi and Théâtre du Châtelet, with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, had launched on February 24th the world premiere of Singing Trees, a new interactive installation created by award-winning digital artists from London, Umbrellium, in collaboration with Paris’ Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music (IRCAM) and independent producer, Katherine Jewkes.
His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi; His Excellency Saood Al Hosani, Acting Undersecretary, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi; Yousif Al Shaikh Alzaabi, Head of Administration Support Unit - Minister's Office, UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment; Ahmed Balhaif Al Nuaimi, Director, Abu Dhabi Region, UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment; Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi; Catherine Monlouis Félicité, Education and Cultural Engagement Director, Louvre Abu Dhabi; Alia Alshamsi, Acting Cultural Programming Manager, Louvre Abu Dhabi; Ruth Mackenzie, Artistic Director, Théâtre du Châtelet; Andrew Calaya Chetty, Chief Strategy Officer, Umbrellium; Claudia Maedler, Gulf Bureau Chief, Bloomberg News; Riad Hamade, Executive Editor, Middle East & North Africa, Bloomberg News
Combining innovative technology, music and an interactive visitor experience, Singing Trees offers a unique opportunity to engage with, and appreciate, nature. Activating the outdoor landscape of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Umbrellium gave a voice to the palm trees around the museum’s entrance using non-invasive, electronic belts attached to each tree. These belts enabled the trees to sing together as a choir that will change in response to the audiences’ interaction with the work. As visitors move closer to the trees, the choir becomes louder and more in-synch. Visitors are then invited to hug the tree to maximise the volume of the choir.
Singing Trees was on view at Louvre Abu Dhabi from 25 February through 7 March. After its Abu Dhabi premiere, the installation will be presented in cities around the world including in the garden of Paris’ Palais Royal from 10 to 20 September 2020, followed by presentations in London, New York and Paris again for the Olympics in 2024.
The trees sing a combination of songs in English, Arabic and French. In each country that exhibits the installation, new songs will be commissioned for the trees to sing. The featured musical pieces for Singing Trees at Louvre Abu Dhabi include Ayyala, a traditional Arabic song that reflects the artistic heritage of the UAE; “Greensleeves”, a traditional English folk song from the late 16th century and the French Medieval choir song “L’Amour de Moy.”
Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi said, “Singing Trees speaks to Louvre Abu Dhabi’s mission to provide an educational and innovative space for its visitors. Coinciding with UAE Innovation Month, this piece explores how technological advances can bring us closer to nature and heighten our understanding of the environment. We are grateful to our partners Théâtre du Châtelet and Bloomberg Philanthropies who made this project possible and look forward to seeing Singing Trees travel the world.”
Ruth Mackenzie, CBE, Artistic Director of Théâtre du Châtelet added, “With climate change now a part of our everyday lives, this installation physically manifests, with pioneering technology, the urgent need to listen to what nature is telling us and respond with care. Umbrellium have used non-invasive digital technology to give trees a voice and invite the public to listen and interact with them. Built in the city that created the Paris Accord on Climate Change, the Théâtre du Châtelet is an activist theatre. We are proud to be representing the City of Paris and working with Umbrelllium, IRCAM and our partners Louvre Abu Dhabi and Bloomberg Philanthropies to raise awareness around the vital issues impacting our planet.”
Based in London, Umbrellium has almost two decades of experience designing and building urban technology products and services for cities across the globe to engage communities and boost innovation. The key members of Umbrellium are Usman Haque, Creative Director; Andrew Caleya Chetty, Chief Strategy Officer; Ling Tan, Senior Designer and Coder and Nitipak Samsen, Senior Creative Technologist.
“Bloomberg Philanthropies believes that great public art strengthens cities by making them more exciting and attractive places to live, work and visit. It can help us see urban challenges in a new light and imagine solutions that can have a lasting impact as well as engage the public in shared experiences,” said Jemma Read, Global Head of Corporate Philanthropy, Bloomberg L.P. “Singing Trees is both a call to action and an installation that will inspire the collective power of the people .”
Sustainability and care for the environment are built into the technology behind Singing Trees. The trees are powered by renewable batteries, which are to be recharged using power drawn from the grid. IRCAM and Umbrellium have specifically designed the belts with energy-efficient equipment that can easily be recycled for future projects. Wherever possible, the artists will work with local companies and suppliers to lower travel impact and support the economy in each country that the installation will be exhibited in.