TIME Innovation

Watch This Artistic European Couple Paint Faces on Trees

These tree faces appear in Denmark, France and Germany

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

“Game of Thrones” anyone? This ongoing art project gives faces to decaying trees. Started eight years ago by German collective Zonenkinder, The Tree Project gives a semblance of life to stumps and branches that are sadly no longer growing.

In Denmark, France and Germany, these tree faces are springing up everywhere, sometimes with great bushy hair-dos or with a handsome piece of mushroom-adorned headgear. Drawn entirely using bio-degradable materials, the faces fade slowly over time meaning that they blend perfectly with their surroundings rather than standing out.

The Tree Project – outside is an ongoing art project since 2006 inspired by the beauty and the decay of nature,” explains Zonenkinder. “We are constantly in search of new forms of expressions and we love to play with exceptional locations and surfaces like on trees in the woods.”

Check out the video—although it is in German it still shows the duo at work in the forest.

Read next: These Amazing Chemical Reactions Will Show You the True Beauty of Science

TIME Culture

‘Death of Klinghoffer': Private Grief Turned Into Public Entertainment

Protestors hold signs outside the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center on opening night of the opera, "The Death of Klinghoffer" on October 20, 2014 in New York City. The opera has been accused of anti-Semitism and, at its opening tonight, demonstrators, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, protested its inclusion in this year's schedule at the Metropolitan Opera.
Protestors hold signs outside the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center on opening night of the opera, "The Death of Klinghoffer" on October 20, 2014 in New York City. The opera has been accused of anti-Semitism and demonstrators protested its inclusion in this year's schedule at the Metropolitan Opera. Bryan Thomas—Getty Images

Walter Russell Mead is a professor of foreign policy and humanities at Bard College.

The opera is a morally questionable production.

When they told me last spring that the Met was going to present a controversial, anti-Semitic opera, my first response was to wonder why the Met would be launching a new Ring production so soon after the Giant Popsicle Sticks fiasco of the last one. After all, anti-Semitism is to Wagner, a great composer and deeply flawed human being, what ham is to a ham sandwich. When I found out that the opera in question was John Adam’s “Death of Klinghoffer”, I was a little non-plussed. I’ve listened to Klinghoffer on CD, but had never seen it performed and, politics aside, I thought it was a snoozer. If I’m going to watch evil, Jewish-looking untermenschen scheme against the glory of the gods, at least let me listen to music like the Ride of the Valkyries and Siegfried’s Idyll while the composer inflicts his political idiocy on an unoffending audience.

However, as readers of this site know, I am not of the boycotting persuasion, and when the Monday night opera series I had selected for other reasons included Klinghoffer’s Met premiere, I had no hesitation about going to see for myself. Having seen Merchant of Venice, both Parsifal and the Ring cycle, not to mention having read Mein Kampf, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and a tasteful compilation of editorials from Henry Ford’s newspaper, it seemed a little late in the day to start drawing lines in the sand.

Not everybody in New York shared my opinion; protestors blocked the street in front of Lincoln Center and we had to pass through police lines and barricades to get to the show. The lines at the entrance stretched far out into the plaza as the ushers conducted unusually thorough searches of bags at the door. With protestors shouting “Shame! Shame!” and speakers addressing the crowd in heavily miked voices, it was easily the most dramatic moment I’ve ever seen at a New York arts venue.

The excitement continued inside; some of the people opposed to the performance had tickets, and dozens stood to boo or cry out slogans like “Klinghoffer’s murderers will never be forgiven!” at various points during the performance. For history of opera aficionados, it was like a revival of the nineteenth century drama in European opera houses as rival factions of fans cheered or booed politically or musically controversial works.

For those who haven’t followed the latest tempest in the opera world, “The Death of Klinghoffer” is a 1991 opera with music by John Adams and a libretto by Alice Goodman. It is based, loosely, on the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro, a cruise ship, by a group of Palestinian terrorists. During the hijacking the Palestinians murdered Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair bound, 69 year old Jewish American passenger on the ship. A number of Jewish groups have voiced strong objections to the opera over the years on the grounds that it misrepresents the events on the ship and offers undue sympathy to the terrorists. Among those objecting to the opera are Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters Lisa and Ilsa; they issued a statement that the Met placed in the program saying, among other things, that the opera “rationalizes, romanticizes and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father. Our family was not consulted by the composer and librettist and had no role in the development of the opera.”

From my perspective, I am less than fully persuaded by their first charge; the opera may portray the murderers in a more sympathetic light than many might prefer, but is neither an endorsement of nor an apology for the murder. Terrorists, however reprehensible their actions, are human beings, and it is not beyond the province of art to seek to examine and understand, so far as is possible, their motives.

The real problem, and it is a serious one, involves the decision by John Adams and Alice Goodman to use a family’s tragedy for their art without the permission of the family’s members. Leon Klinghoffer was not a public figure; nothing gave Adams and Goodman a moral right to profit from his death or to use it for political or artistic purposes of their own without the permission of his loved ones. The opera not only shows the death of Lisa’s and Ilsa’s father, putting words in his mouth, it presents a fictionalized portrait of their mother’s shock and reaction on hearing the news.

No family not already in public life deserves to have their most intimate and painful moments taken over and made into a public spectacle against their will. You couldn’t take liberties with Mickey and Minnie Mouse without having Disney lawyers come at you with cease and desist orders; Leon Klinghoffer’s family deserves more consideration than a fictional rodent and without in any way seeking to curtail free speech, one can regret the decision of two famous and well established artists to turn someone else’s private grief into a public entertainment.

If I were Peter Gelb, I would have declined to put the opera on, but not on political grounds. I would not have wanted to associate myself with what amounts to psychological rape, and I would not have staged it against the wishes of the murdered man’s family. Dehumanizing Leon Klinghoffer, turning him from a human being into a symbol in their political theater, is what the terrorists did on the Achille Lauro; John Adams and Alice Goodman echo this violation by trampling on the family’s privacy and wishes, stripping the Klinghoffers of their rights and dignity and using them as props. There were other ways to write an opera about the tragic conflict between the Palestinian and Jewish national movements.

The New York Times reviewed the same performance I saw, and the Times critic slid by the ethical vacuum at the heart of the work:

Yet, in death, Leon Klinghoffer became a public figure, an innocent but defiant hero, lost to what still seems like a never-ending conflict in the Middle East.

That is a bloodless way to put it and overlooks the reality that Adams and Goodman, by treating the Klinghoffers as public property and disregarding their wishes as so much worthless babbling from untermenschen and little people unworthy of consideration by Serious Artists, have not merely dared; they have transgressed.

As to the musical and dramatic qualities of the work, the verdict is mixed. Whatever his moral blind spots may be, John Adams is one of the most talented American composers of our time, and this opera, while not as musically compelling as “Nixon in China,” contains elements and passages that one cannot but admire. While his minimalist approach to music strikes some as repetitive, Adams’ keen ear for the capabilities of different instruments makes for a rich and varied sound that is capable of great lyrical beauty and dramatic intensity. Adams’ style is a romantic minimalism that builds and swells in glorious profusion and while the opera has its longueurs, at its best the music is powerful and appealing.

Adams’ greatest weakness, and it is a serious one for an opera composer, has to do with his difficulty in writing effective music for singers engaged in ordinary speech. Particularly in the recitatives, and there are a lot of long winded recitatives in this opera, the vocal lines can be much less pleasing and inventive than the orchestral music. Words like boring, cliche and predictable came frequently to mind. The libretto adds to his difficulties; a self conscious and not particularly successful effort to achieve a high poetic tone through allusive language and extended soliloquies often comes across as awkward and long. At its worst, the work features singers interminably droning dull lyrics as the audience waits restlessly for a chorus to break the monotony.

As I struggled to understand why Adams and Goodman chose to steal the Klinghoffers’ story rather than to make up a fictional one, or to find a historical tale that could take on the contemporary issues that engaged them, I found myself thinking of the portrayal of Henry Kissinger in “Nixon in China.” In that opera, also with music by John Adams and a libretto by Alice Goodman, most of the characters are treated with imagination and sympathy—even figures like Richard and Pat Nixon. This helps make that opera one of the most successful contemporary works of art, and adds layers of complexity and depth to the work that, combined with some extraordinary music, might put this opera among the classics.

But when it comes to Kissinger, Adams and Goodman turn him into a clownish villain. In part that may be because they felt that sympathetic portraits of the two Nixons and Henry Kissinger would be too much for a liberal, post-Watergate audience to bear. I’ve always felt that this was an opportunity lost; their criticism of Kissinger would have been more effective and the opera as a whole significantly stronger if they had given him his due. One feels that it was a lack of artistic confidence that led them to take the low road in portraying Dr. K; at some level they didn’t quite believe that the music and libretto could succeed unless they threw in some cheap stunts and tricks.

It’s possible that a similar lack of confidence contributed to the decision to take the low road with the Klinghoffers. It is hard, even for a composer as accomplished and admired as Adams, to get operas into regular production in these times. Opera is expensive, and audiences often fight shy of contemporary works. (At the Met’s Klinghoffer premiere, many patrons didn’t return for the second act; half the seats in the rows immediately in front of me were empty after intermission.) Without the frisson that comes from ‘real’ events and the lure of political controversy, would this opera have had the international success it has enjoyed? Did the composer and librettist feel that they needed to trash the Klinghoffer family’s privacy to get their work the attention they wanted for it—or to make it sharp and powerful in a way that they felt that their imaginations and artistic talents couldn’t achieve without sliming the Klinghoffers?

John Adams is a very good composer. If in the future he places more faith in the power of his art, and rejects unworthy compromises and short cuts, his work would be richer and deeper.

At the end of the Met performance, the boos were silent. Michaela Martens as Marilyn Klinghoffer sang a closing aria that united the audience in admiration of her inspired interpretation of Adams’ haunting music. Those who stayed for the full performance gave her and the cast a standing ovation. I applauded too, and I salute Adams’ talent, but Ilsa and Lisa still didn’t deserve what he did to them—and he didn’t have to do it to create something great.

Walter Russell Mead is a professor of foreign policy and humanities at Bard College and the editor at large at the American Interest. A version of this article originally appeared in the American Interest. The views expressed are solely his own.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Pop Culture

See Banksy’s Art From Around the World

After his latest mural parodies the painting 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'

The prolific and secretive street artist has brought his unique social commentary to streets around the world. Take a look back at a number of his works from throughout his career, up to his latest mural that parodies the painting ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring.’

TIME Fine Art

Have a Seat This Halloween in a Chair That Casts a Spooky Shadow

Designer Yaara Dekel's ‘Coppelius Chair’ reveals a spooky shadow face

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

Beware of this chair, for at first glance it might seem ordinary, but once light casts its shadow, a shadowy demon presents itself! ‘Coppelius Chair’ by designer Yaara Dekel is a piece of furniture that will not only scare you, but also make you think. It delves into Sigmund Freud’s concept of ‘the uncanny,’ that is to say, something as familiar as a chair can give off feelings of unfamiliarity at the same time.

One moment, you’re looking at a chair, the next it’s a menacing face – but still the same chair!

“However, at a certain hour of the day, when the room is lit, an inexplicable, monstrous projection appears, which symbolically ‘overshadows’ the feelings the original chair provokes,” as DesignBoom describes it.

(via Design Boom)

TIME Fine Art

See This Incredible Colorful Art Created From Found Objects

Jane Perkins uses odds and ends to recreate famous portraits

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

Classic artworks and photographs have been given a very contemporary twist in Jane Perkins’ Plastic Classics collection. Instead of using paint or pencils, Perkins uses anything she can find to recreate these masterpieces, including toys, shells, buttons, beads, jewelry, curtain hooks and springs.

No extra color is added into the artworks either—everything you see in her work is used exactly as found, which is quite an amazing feat. Perkins says impressionist paintings are the perfect inspiration for her work since they need to be viewed in two ways: up close and from a distance.

Since Jane Perkins started making these works of art back in 2008, she’s found representation, showcased her work in galleries, and sold her work to buyers in London, New York and Singapore. Not a bad living for using odds and ends from around the house!

(via Blue Bower Bird)

TIME Fine Art

These Are Some of Ai Weiwei’s Most Influential Works of Art

Multi-talented Chinese contemporary artist Ai Wei Wei, who specializes in political and cultural criticism, brilliantly conveys his message through a variety of mediums

TIME Philippines

Imelda Marcos Has Had Part of Her Art Collection Seized

TO GO WITH AFP STORY "Lifestyle-Philippi
Former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos is seen in her apartment in Manila on June 27, 2007. Romeo Gacad—AFP/Getty Images

Authorities claim artworks were bought with embezzled state funds

A number of art works belonging to Imelda Marcos, wife of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, have been seized by authorities, who claim they were bought with embezzled state funds.

Works by Picasso and Gauguin are believed to be among the pieces still in the former First Lady’s possession, reports the BBC, as is Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. Authorities are keen to trace the other artworks.

The 85-year-old Marcos, who was elected to the Philippine congress in 2010, has repeatedly denied her estimated $10 billion fortune was acquired illicitly.

Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines from 1965 until his ouster in 1986. He died three years later.

[BBC]

TIME Fine Art

Scientist Reveals Secrets Behind 500-Year-Old Leonardo Da Vinci Masterpiece

The painting by Leonardo Da Vinci  called "The Lady with Ermine", that goes on exhibit later this mo..
The Lady with Ermine by Leonardo Da Vinci photographed on Nov. 18, 1998. Stefano Rellandini—Reuters

The Lady With an Ermine is believed to have been painted in 1489 or 1490

Using a new light technique, a French scientist has revealed that one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous paintings did not originally look as it does today.

The Lady With an Ermine is believed to have been painted in 1489 or 1490, and depicts Cecilia Gallerani, a young woman from the Milanese court in Italy who was the mistress of the Duke of Milan, holding a white ermine.

It was thought the painting had always depicted the ceremonial animal, but Pascal Cotte has just discovered that Da Vinci actually painted two previous versions, the BBC reports.

After three years of examining the work using a new reflective-light technique called Layer Amplification Method, or LAM, he learned that the first iteration was without the ermine and a second had changes to the lady’s dress.

Experts described the revelation as “thrilling.”

Cotte’s technique works by projecting a series of intense lights onto the canvas while a camera measures the reflections. From the measurements Cotte can analyze what was painted beneath.

“The LAM technique gives us the capability to peel the painting like an onion, removing the surface to see what’s happening inside and behind the different layers of paint,” he told the BBC.

The painting is usually housed at the National Museum in Krakow, Poland.

[BBC]

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