Message Tree

Message Tree

November 28, 2008
Photo by: HYBE

In an era when phones and the Internet allow us to send messages across continents and oceans in a matter of seconds, communication and correspondence have taken on a new dimension of possibility, even if they have shed some of their onetime charm, or verbosity.

Leaf: Autumn 2012 is an interactive sculpture in the shape of a minimalistic, metal tree that seeks to return artistry and élan—and add an element of chance—to messaging. Created by the interactive design studio HYBE, the piece is located in an arts complex in Seoul.

True to its biological counterpart, the sculpture mimics the falling of autumn leaves, though the foliage in this case carries messages printed on white receipt paper. Visitors draw these missives using a tablet connected to mini thermal printers at the end of every tree branch. As a new message is drawn and completed, a random leaf—a note previously entered into the cybernetic tree’s memory—falls to the floor, and the printed messages amass into a pile surrounding the tree.

The sculpture brings back a sense of physicality and of time’s passage to messaging. It simultaneously generates an awareness of real-world interconnectivity. As strangers come and leave their messages or pick up and read fallen ones, a wide-ranging community is formed among participants and observers, among strangers who will never know one another aside from reading these notes.

The handwritten quality of these tiny notes and the way the paper messages fall like leaves contribute to the sculpture’s romantic and nostalgic ambiance. One participant might leave a cheerful greeting, while another passerby might find a confession of love. It is just this sort of chance discovery that transforms messaging into a rich narrative.  

Leaf: Autumn 2012 is located in Seoul at Culture Station Seoul 284.