Maya Lin Unveils “Unchopping a Tree” in Copenhagen

maya lin


Artist and architect Maya Lin is perhaps best known for her memorials–a series that includes the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Her latest memorial, a multi-sited, multi-medium piece called “What is Missing,” is about an issue close to Lin’s heart: conservation. And today in Copenhagen, Lin is unveiling “Unchopping a Tree”, one of the most moving pieces thus far from the larger “What is Missing” memorial.

The video, which is inspired by a W.S. Merwin poem of the same name, focuses on how we would feel if deforestation came to the city parks that we love the most. Lin decided to debut the video at the Support REDD+ Gala in Copenhagen to highlight the importance of enacting REDD, a UN program that will pay developing countries to cut down on deforestation. “I want to get out the message that by preventing deforestation, we can reduce emissions and save species,” Lin said.


The “Unchopping a Tree” video is far from the last installation in the “What is Missing” memorial. Next up for the project is a five-minute video on MTV’s billboard in Times Square. The video, scheduled to debut on Earth Day 2010, will show viewers how they can prevent deforestation. On Earth Day 2011, the as yet to be officially launched “What is Missing” site will ask readers to contribute a memory or story of something that is missing from the planet. “It will be a collective online memorial with links to permanent installations around the world, “Lin said.

“What is Missing” will be Lin’s last memorial, but she says that it will last for the rest of her life. “I’ve known for quite some time that my last memorial would be something near and dear to me,” she explained. But Lin points that just because it’s a memorial doesn’t mean it’s only about mourning extinct species. “It’s about scale, abundance, the sound of the common songbird, oxygen, the ocean, the visibility of the stars at night. It reveals things that are disappearing that you might not realize are disappearing.”


About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.