One of my favorite pastimes while living in Los Angeles is to take in all of the art, especially immersive experiences, that I can. LA is constantly reinventing how we receive art, so it’s a must for anyone to check out what’s local here. When I heard about the new exhibit created and directed by Glenn Kaino called A FOREST FOR THE TREES, I was immediately excited about the idea behind it. A FOREST FOR THE TREES is being touted as a way to reconnect with the natural world and to understand our relationship with it as humans. Produced with the help of The Atlantic, the longstanding publisher originally created by famous writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, I had high hopes for this art installation, and I’ll call it an installation because I don’t feel like any other description really suits it.
Upon arrival for my time window (tickets purchased online come in timed intervals), I was guided into a small meeting space that also sold some merchandise, all indigenous made, as well as a few art pieces. When my time was up, I and a group of around 20 people were guided into a darkened room. Here I learned the story of the exhibit. The story plays out in great dramatic fashion and honestly, this may have been my favorite part of the entire experience.
After connecting with the forest through magic, we were allowed into the main hall and it was breathtaking to experience that first few steps. This might seem like a wild connection, but if you’ve been in the queue for the E.T. Adventure at Universal Studios in Florida, it was a similar feeling. You enter a darkened forest where looking through the fog and trees does feel kind of endless. I was fully transported to a different place. From this entry point, the rest of the experience was within this room. Here I met trees with robotic faces, a forest fire, and the most impressive large tree that lit up to the soundtrack.
As I walked through the space, I could smell the trees. I felt the heat from the fire and I did, in fact, feel closer to nature. I closed my eyes and listened to talking trees tell me about their lives, telling jokes to each other, and swaying with the beautiful atmospheric music….then it all ended. Thirty minutes into A FOREST FOR THE TREES, and like that, I was back out in the California sunlight listening to cars drive by on the highway. I always felt like I was being led from one thing to the next and that the show elements of this installation were set to a timer. That isn’t a bad thing, but with ticket prices being $30 on the weekends for an adult, I really wanted to get my money’s worth out of such an incredible space, but instead, I only got thirty minutes of time within.
If I can critique one other bit of this experience, the show is all set along a wooden walkway, which is fine, but never did it make me feel like I could truly explore. Instead, it had me moving along the path from one thing to the next. I’d personally love to see this experience changed up a little. When I first walked in and felt like I was in an endless forest, I didn’t want that feeling to end as quickly as it did. Instead, I quickly understood the layout of the installation and how it all worked. I think hiding each art piece within the forest rather than having a clear-cut path would have made it feel a bit more dramatic and that I was truly connecting with the forest.
This installation is beautiful despite my critiques. All of the wood used in the show was salvaged. Conservation was clearly on the mind of Glenna Kaino and his crew of artists and creators, who did a fantastic job transporting me to a special place. I just wish I had more time to spend there. I guess I’ll have to just go spend some time in a real forest now.
A FOREST FOR THE TREES is currently open Thursdays-Sundays in the Los Angeles Arts District. Tickets can be purchased in advance at aforestla.com.