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Fleeting Wonders: A Floating Forest in New York City

Some trees hang in Queens. (Photo: Michael Neff/Suspended Forest

Always trying to go to a park when your friends want to check out museums (or vice versa)? Finally, an answer. This weekend and through January, take a hike through the Suspended Forest, a stand of foraged Christmas trees given new life in a gallery in the New York City borough of Queens. 

In the city, the weeks after the holidays bring a tree exodus. Still-green conifers slump on the sidewalks, waiting to be trucked off and mulched. ”In a lot of my work, I’m trying to elevate things that I find interesting and that I think have been overlooked,” says Suspended Forest creator Michael Neff. In early 2012, after his first winter in Brooklyn, “seeing these trees fell right in line with that.”  

So he elevated them. “I went and grabbed a couple of trees and went to this chained-off space under the BQE in Williamsburg, bought a ball of twine, and hung them up just to see,” Neff says. He saw something in it—so over the next few days, he kept going, until city workers clear-cut the whole thing. 

A Suspended Forest prototype, under the BQE in January 2012.

Early days of the first Suspended Forest, under the BQE in January 2012. (Photo: Michael Neff/Flickr)

The next year, he went back and did it again. ”I knew what I wanted, and I was ready,” he says. He enlisted his friends as a tree-gathering brigade and strung up spruces until he had what he envisioned—“a weird little piece of tweaked nature in what would otherwise be a very urban, dirty place.” 

Neff hanging trees in 2013. (Photo: Michael Neff/Flickr)

For this third growth, Neff decided to move to a gallery. Although he’ll miss the serendipity of his overpass forests, he hopes to accomplish new things with this one. “When I do this as a guerilla installation under the BQE, it lasts as long as the sanitation department decides it lasts,” he says. “I want to give it time to be there … I want people to have time for quiet contemplation, I want the trees to have time to dry out and drop their needles.” Plus, he adds, ”it smells fantastic in there.” 

Suspended Forest at the Knockdown Center opens Saturday, January 9th, at 5 p.m., and spins quietly every weekend through the end of the month.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to [email protected].