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Italian hits MoMA with 'treeman' for Earth Day

Environmentalists 'love the Arctic' in Circus Maximus

Italian hits MoMA with 'treeman' for Earth Day

New York, April 22 - Celebrated Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Frammartino is mixing Earth Day with contemporary art at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) with what visitors have dubbed 'The Treeman'. The nickname comes from the subject of his installation called 'Alberi' (Trees), on view at MoMA's PS1 gallery in Queens from April 18-27 and part of the Tribeca Film Festival. The film, which is essentially a 25-minute meditation on trees, features a group of men who emerge from the woods dressed in tree branches and leaves to be greeted by clapping town folk in the square. The performance-art piece, according to the artist, is based on folklore from the hills of the southern Basilicata region where the short was filmed. According to the ritual, now lost to history, peasants would welcome 'Romito', a tree-like man who rejected the idea of migration and "planted his roots in his own land". But the narrative is secondary to this film without dialogue. Projected on PS1's curved VW Dome screen, the viewer is treated to a near-Imax experience in which peripheral vision is immersed in crisp shots of vines and twigs, light glittering through branches, and 'treemen' foraging through the woods as the leaves crunch beneath their feet. The sounds of such motions are masterfully reproduced for the spectator. The overall effect of the video, which runs on a continuous loop, has been heralded by critics. "In its images Alberi contemplates the disappearance of mythological customs, like the tree-ritual, from contemporary culture," reads the exhibit description. "On a deeper level, however, the work conjures cinema's mystic and ritualistic powers on the eve of the medium's own extinction". Given the installation's timing around Earth Day, the word "extinction" may carry undertones. On Monday, environmentalists were out in full force across the world. Launched in 1970 in the United States, Earth Day today involves as many as one billion people from around the planet who vow to limit their negative impact on Earth and support sustainability. In Rome, activists stretched out a giant heart-shaped banner inside the ancient Circus Maximus in the run-up to Earth Day on Monday. The sign, which read "I ♥ Arctic", was laid out Saturday as part of an international Greenpeace campaign to block offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Similar displays were unveiled in roughly 280 cities, from Buenos Aires to Bangkok, and Copenhagen to Johannesburg. "Our dependence on fossil fuels is erroneously associated with progress and prosperity, when instead it brings destruction to the environment and the economy," said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International. "There is another way". Photos of the event will be compiled in a book and presented to the foreign ministers of countries in or near the Arctic who are meeting in May at the Arctic Council in Kiruna, Sweden.

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