Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tree of Life

I learned of artist Tania Kovats' "TREE" project via RSA Arts & Ecology. Kovat's installation was commissioned by the British Natural History Museum to honor Charles Darwin's bicentenary. Her "cross section" of a 200-year-old oak tree was installed on an angled ceiling inside the museum. The work appears quite impressive.

Particularly magical, however, is Kovats' inspiration, Darwin's famous phylogenetic tree diagram, an early representation of the "tree of life" included in one of his notebooks. Just above the sketch, Darwin wrote, "I think." Given the cultural and scientific ramifications of Darwin's grand idea, the page would have the aura of sacred scripture even without the text, but the hastily written "I think" suggests, as Kovats puts it, "a moment of exchange between thought and the mark that [he] made." Thus, the moment of revolutionary conception is recorded, caught for contemplation.

Darwin's notebook page is, like the Voyager 1 record, both an artifact and a profoundly moving work of art, testament to the promise of humanity and Aristotle's eudamonia.

Photo credit: ripped from RSA Arts & Ecology

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