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    This is an interesting article that stimulated some interesting conversation about the ethics of horticulture and whether or not trees have agency in how they heal from such activities, but what does this have to do with lobste.rs?

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      As I was reading this wonderful writeup, I had a nagging feeling that most certainly ‘someone on the internet’ will bring up some half-assed moralizing down to bear on the author. And sure enough, it’ the first comment on lobsters.

      I think it’s a beautiful and inspiring project, making one think about the passage of time and how natural processes are constantly acting on human works.

      @mariusor, I recommend you go troll some bonsai artists, they too are nothing but assholes who carve hearts in trees.

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        We do have an ethical obligation to consider how our presence distorts nature. Many folks bend trees for many purposes. I reuse fallen wood. But we should at least consider the effects we have on nature, if for no other reason than that we treat nature like we treat ourselves.

        I could analogize bonsai to foot-binding, for example. And I say that as somebody who considered practicing bonsai.

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          Foot binding is a social act in which women are deliberately crippled in exchange for access to certain social arrangements in which they don’t need to be able to walk well. The whole practice collapsed once the social arrangement went away. It’s very different than just getting a cool gauge piercing or whatever.

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            Thank you Corbin for addressing the substance of my admittedly hot-headed comment. It did give me food for thought.

            I am definitely in agreement with you on the need to consider the impact of our actions on the environment. I have a bunch of 80-year old apple trees in my yard which were definitely derailed, by human hands, from their natural growth trajectory. This was done in the interest of horticulture, and I still benefit from the actions of the now-deceased original gardener. All in all I think the outcome is positive, and perhaps will even benefit others in the future if my particular heritage variety of apple gets preserved and replicated in other gardens. In terms of environmental impact, I’d say it’s better for each backyard to have a “disfigured” but fruitful apple tree than to not have one, and rely on industrial agriculture for nutrition.

            Regarding the analogy with foot-binding, which I think does hold to a large extent (i.e it involves frustrating the built-in development pattern of another, without the other’s consent) – the key difference is of course the species of the object of the operation.

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              Scale matters too, I think.

              I’m a gardener who grows vegetables, and I grow almost everything from seed - it’s fun and cheap. That means many successive rounds of culling: I germinate seeds, discard the weakest and move the strongest to nursery pots, step out the strongest starts to acclimatize to the weather, plant the healthiest, and eventually thin the garden to only the strongest possible plants. I may start the planting season with two or three dozen seeds and end up with two plants in the ground. Then throughout the year, I harvest and save seeds for next, often repeating the same selecting/culling process.

              Am I distorting nature? Absolutely, hundreds of times a year - thousands, perhaps, if I consider how many plants I put in the ground. But is my distortion significant? I don’t think so; I don’t think that, even under Kant’s categorical imperative, every back-yard gardener in the universe selecting for their own best plants is a problem. It fed the world, after all!

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                My friend who is a botanist told me about research he did into how naïve selection produces worse results. Assume you have a plot with many variants of wheat, and at the end of the season, you select the best in the bunch for next year. If you’re not careful, the ones you select are the biggest hoarders of nutrients. If you had a plot with all that genotype, it would do poorly, because they’re all just expertly hoarding nutrients away from each other. The ones you want are the ones that are best at growing themselves while still sharing nutrients with their fellow plants. It’s an interesting theory and he’s done some experiment work to show that it applies in the real world too.

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                  The ones you want are the ones that are best at growing themselves while still sharing nutrients with their fellow plants.

                  So maybe you’d also want to select some of the ones next to the biggest plant to grow in their own trials as well.

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            I think it’s a beautiful and inspiring project, making one think about the passage of time and how natural processes are constantly acting on human works.

            I mean… on the one hand, yes, but then on the other hand… what, we ran out of ways to make one think about the passage of time and how natural processes are constantly acting on human works without carving into things, so it was kind of inevitable? What’s wrong with just planting a tree in a parking lot and snapping photos of that? It captures the same thing, minus the tree damage and leaving an extra human mark on a previously undisturbed place in the middle of the forest.

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              As I alluded in my comment above, we carve up and twist apple trees so that the actually give us apples. If you just let them go wild you won’t get any apples. Where do you get your apples from? Are you going to lecture a gardener who does things like grafting, culling, etc., to every tree she owns?

              The same applies here: the artist applied his knowledge of tree biology and his knowledge of typography to get a font made by a tree. I think that’s pretty damn cool. I am very impressed! You can download a TTF! how cool is that?

              Also, it’s not ‘in the middle of a forest’, but on his parents’ property, and the beech trees were planted by his parents. It’s his family’s garden and he’s using it to create art. I don’t get the condemnation, I think people are really misapplying their moral instincts here.

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                Are you going to lecture a gardener who does things like grafting, culling, etc., to every tree she owns?

                No, only the gardeners who do things like grafting, culling etc. just to write a meditative blog post about the meaning of time, without otherwise producing a single apple :-). I stand corrected on the forest matter, but I still think carving up trees just for the cool factor isn’t nice. I also like, and eat, beef, and I am morally conflicted about it. But I’m not at all morally conflicted about carving up a living cow just for the cool factor, as in, I also think it’s not nice. Whether I eat fruit (or beef) has no bearing on whether stabbing trees (or cows) for fun is okay.

                As for where I get my apples & co.: yes, I’m aware that we carve up and twist apple trees to give us apples. That being said, if we want to be pedantic about it, back when I was a kid, I had apples, a bunch of different types of prunes, sour cherries, pears and quince from my grandparents’ garden, so yeah, I know where they come from. They pretty much let the trees go wild. “You won’t get any apples” is very much a stretch. They will happily make apples – probably not enough to run a fruit selling business off of them, but certainly enough for a family of six to have apples – and, as I very painfully recall, you don’t even need to pick them if you’re lazy, they fall down on their own. The pear tree is still up, in fact, and at least in the last 35 years it’s never been touched in any way short of picking the pears on the lowest two or three branches. It still makes enough pears for me to make pear brandy out of them every summer.

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                  I concede your point about the various approaches as to what is necessary and unnecessary tree “care” :)

                  No, only the gardeners who do things like grafting, culling etc. just to write a meditative blog post about the meaning of time, without otherwise producing a single apple :-).

                  But my argument is that there was an apple produced, by all means. You can enjoy it here: https://bjoernkarmann.dk/occlusion_grotesque/OcclusionGrotesque.zip

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              Eh. I hear what you’re saying, but you can’t ignore the fact that “carving letters into trees” has an extremely strong cultural connection to “idiot disrespectful teenagers”.

              I can overlook that and appreciate the art. I do think it’s a neat result. But then I read this:

              The project challenges how we humans are terraforming and controlling nature to their own desires, which has become problematic to an almost un-reversible state. Here the roles have been flipped, as nature is given agency to lead the process, and the designer is invited to let go of control and have nature take over.

              Nature is given agency, here? Pull the other one.

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                You see beautiful and wonderful writeup, I see an asshole with an inflated sense of self. I think it’s fair that we each hold to our own opinions and be at peace with that. Disrespecting me because I voiced it is not something I like though.

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                  I apologize at venting my frustration at you in particular.

                  This is a public forum though, and just as you voiced your opinion in public, so did I. Our opinions differ, but repeatedly labeling other as “assholes” (you did in in your original post and in the one above) sets up a heated tone for the entire conversation. I took the flame bait, you might say.

                  Regarding ‘inflated sense of self’ – my experience with artists in general (I’ve lived with artists) is that it’s somewhat of a common psychological theme with them, and we’re better off judging the art, not the artist.

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                I think this is an interesting project. While the language of the write up feels like the kind of inflated language I associate with art projects, I think the process documentation and resulting font are cool.

                My initial feeling about the project is similar to others here— that its pointlessly cruel to the tree. But on further reflection I realized I don’t think I can defend the validity of that feeling. For one thing, AFAIK plants don’t feel pain. He also didn’t kill the tree and it seems to have healed up just fine. So on the cruelty scale this seems no worse than mowing the lawn.

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                  This is a wonderful project. I wrote my master’s thesis about time as a design material, and this fits in perfectly with that theme. The idea is that can be thought of as a material in that a part of the expression of a design can only be achieved through time. Like how a designer will consider the way leather ages when creating a bag or shoes, or architects using materials like copper, steel, or concrete.

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                    This is cool. How do you have the idea to do something like this?

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                      I hated this. In my opinion nothing was gained from this exercise that couldn’t have been gleaned with a simple simulation of surface deformation for the curves of the font.

                      Masking this as an exploration of learning “on nature’s terms” is just a pretentious way of carving kyle+karen=love surrounded by a little heart in the middle of the forest. I was thought that only assholes do that.

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                        You could have made the same (correct, imo) point without adding an insult.

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                          I do feel strongly about a guy putting words like on the internet:

                          The project challenges how we humans are terraforming and controlling nature to their own desires, which has become problematic to an almost un-reversible state. Here the roles have been flipped, as nature is given agency to lead the process, and the designer is invited to let go of control and have nature take over.

                          And then terraforms nature by carving into a tree and pretending nature has now somehow gained “agency” by his self interpreted benevolent act. Give me a break.

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                            Give me a break.

                            maybe take one. If you get angry at some random artsy website, you may need some time away from computers. I know for sure that I need that occasionally.

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                          There’s a few points in the writeup that separate this from the random infatuation carving in the forest:

                          • The tree was planted by his parents.
                          • The type of tree and its age was required before a carving can take place.
                          • The author is aware of how to carve tree bark without harming it.
                          • “No trees were harmed in this experiment.”

                          It’s clear that after 5 years from the carving, the healing of the carving has been successful and the tree is healthy.

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                            The author is aware of how to carve tree bark without harming it.

                            This claim is not backed by evidence. The author is aware of how not to kill a tree on a 1-2 year timescale via girdling, but you can’t reasonably claim that it wasn’t harmed.

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                            Do you think a simple simulation of surface deformation is somehow free? Or that other forms of artistic expression should be condemned for their slight environmental impact because they don’t produce a quantifiable value?

                            Like I just can’t wrap my head around any kind of internally consistent worldview where this response makes sense. It feels like, instead of being a principled stand in defense of nature, it’s a backlash against what you see as pretentiousness, but actively setting out to shut down projects that make other people happy for no other reason than that you don’t like them is a lot more asshole behavior than carving things on trees.

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                            Biological Computing!