Yevgeniya Kaganovich: Divergent Fates: Tree Intuits Chair

Yevgeniya Kaganovich’s first residency at Lynden was built around grow, a four-year durational project that transformed recycled plastic bags into plant-like forms that grew into plantings and systems. Fortuitously, Kaganovich encountered a mushroom ring on the grounds at Lynden on the last day of the project. Back in her studio, she began to experiment with the propagation of mushrooms in and on the plastic forms. These growing experiments led her to think about time, matter, and transformation.

This led to Divergent Fates, a new multiyear project. Divergent Fates aims to explore the existence and experience of things through their own unique phenomenology, rather than through a human lens. Working with three archetypes—Tree, Chair, Paper—Kaganovich imagines the possible lives of a tree as it changes into furniture, or paper–and sometimes back again.

At Lynden, Kaganovich asks: If a tree were to intuit a chair, what would that chair be like? By growing and shaping trees into chairs, through a process of intentional planting, bending, and grafting, this piece imagines the tree’s conception and understanding of the chair.

Yevgeniya Kaganovich
Divergent Fates: Tree Intuits Chair
Divergent Fates begins with a series of questions: Does Paper remember being a tree? Are Paper and Tree aware of each other and their divergent fates? Can I return Paper to its original state as a tree? Can I reverse engineer a tree out of paper and chairs? Reverse a trope?
I examined my methods of making as fertile ground for this transmutation through material experimentation. Trained as a metalsmith, I have explored a wide range of materials over many years, and often look to materials for answers.

My first experiments were with paper and wax. I fabricated logs by rolling recycled newspapers coated in paraffin. When I cut the logs in half and smoothed the exposed surfaces, they resemble tree rings.
Other experiments included rolling tightly, or pressing paper mulch into the imagined space between bark and trunk. This produces a ghostly shell. As I created these speculative objects, I was asking them to see/imagine/remember Tree from the perspective of Paper.
If a tree were to foresee the existence of a chair, would that chair be organized by the tree’s internal logic? Since a tree is a fractal object, would a chair imagined by that tree be fractal? Would it be a system of chairs connected by roots? I made a sculpture out of scrap wood, the largest component being a frame of a chair, with four smaller chairs coming off of each of its legs, which in turn have smaller chairs sprouting from their legs.

Can I un-carve wood, un-mulch paper, unmake a chair?
Tree Intuits Chair
Year I
Over the course of four or five years, I will produce several usable sculptures by growing chairs from saplings at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. This will require intentional planting, grafting branches to create recognizable chair structures, and shaping the saplings into chair shapes by building supports and employing bending devices.
In March 2019 we planted 34 poplar and quaking aspen saplings in patterns that defined the chair designs and seating areas.
The Metalsmith team (the students assisting me with this project) competed with Lynden’s land managers to dig the most holes.
I’m learning how to graft, to persuade branches to grow at right angles to the tree trunk to form the horizontal elements of the chair. Of course, this is not what the branches want to do.
It was very exciting when the first grafts started taking and budding.
Eventually, the wax tape binding the grafts disintegrates. I’m interested in the aesthetic potential of these joins/scars.
In early summer we built supports for the chair/trees. Lilly, one of my student assistants, found these railings/chair legs to make the supports. Power of suggestion?
We used cleat tubes to bend the saplings as they grow.
We planted three sets of chairs: two facing one another, two facing away, and this one: side-by-side overlooking the pond. In this configuration, the tiny trees will grow and bend around the supports and eventually be grafted together at the back of the chairs.
Here are the trees in early summer.
And here are the same trees in midsummer.
While the grafting can only happen during a limited window in spring, we tend to the trees throughout the growing season by watering, repairing bindings, and weeding.
Coming soon:
Year II
In which we replace saplings damaged in the fall by overenthusiastic deer and make new grafts.