Trees of Tomorrow is a guided, speculative tour of the trees of Flushing, Queens — exposing the ways trees shape, and are shaped by, neighborhoods, economies, and soils of Flushing; a complementary self-guided tour publication, echoing a futuristic theme; and a speculative workstation where, in collaboration with teens from John Bowne High School Agricultural Program, we collectively collapse the nature/society divide through art, stories and cultivations of Flushing’s trees and tree grafting. Trees of Tomorrow asks how to empower new naturalcultural futures that enable local solidarity and survival across species.
Trees of Tomorrow (ToT) plays on the 1939–40 New York World’s Fair which took place in Flushing, Queens. Press materials from the event declared, and we further:
“To its visitors the Fair will say: Here are the materials, ideas, and forces at work in our world. These are the [trees] with which the World of Tomorrow must be made. They are all interesting and much effort has been expended to lay them before you in an interesting way. Familiarity with [trees] is the best preparation for the future.”
Considering trees as food, medicine, resource, ornament, as laborers, and as companions in urban ecologies, ToT challenges the hidden politics of ornamental trees and how they are perceived. A speculative tour, tour publication, and workstation inquire about and engage Katsura, Willow, Gingko, Ornamental Plum and Cherry, Sweet Gum, Sycamore, and Apple, for example.
At our speculative workstation, we reimagine the “nature” of city trees. We explore methods through which mere ornamentality can be subverted. We work with Ginkgo fruit as food, make Sweet Gum into medicine for a post-antibiotic future, and graft trees to recharge plant/animal/insect relationships.
ToT’s speculative tour reimagines what Flushing’s trees have been and may become. The tour and publication thus links possible futures with indigenous settlement, the first commercial nursery in the colonies and more recent histories such as the effects of extreme weather on local trees. To encourage accessibility, the tour and associated printed guide do not rely on the English language.
Trees are a bridge across the different ethnicities and socioeconomic forces that comprise Flushing. To this end, we work in partnership with Social Practice Queens at Queens College and John Bowne High School Agricultural Program, and in alliance with neighborhood groups and city agencies such as NYC Parks, the Queensboro Historian, Bowne House, and Quaker Meeting House.