Remember Ōhiʻa, 2021
Interactive Digital Media Installation
Artists of Hawaii Now
Honolulu Museum of Art
*John Young Award 2021 Recipient
The ʻōhi‘a tree and its blossom, lehua, are resilient. One of the first plants to break through lava, it is critical in sustaining other native life. Ōhiʻa lehua is sacred, the physical manifestation of several Hawaiian deities, such as the god of war (Kū), the goddess of hula (Laka), and the goddess of the Hawai‘i volcano (Pele). As ʻōhi‘a lehua manifests life, it also manifests spaces, relationships, and the world we are familiar with today.
This installation fuses nature with technology and provides alternative ways to observe and sustain these vital trees. The virtual space creates a parallel reality where visitors may consider the connections between the ōhi‘a lehua trees, themselves, and others.
To activate the installation, participants face the monitors and imagine looking out a window at a lava field and witnessing the growth of ōhi‘a trees.
They must place your full weight on the floor panel to trigger sensors and protect the tree.
The 3-D tree models depict the effects of Rapid Ōhiʻa Death (ROD), a fungal disease also known as Ceratocystis fimbriata. The tree on the left is battling ROD. Once infected, a tree may succumb within days. If you trigger the sensor, a healthy ʻōhi‘a lehua appears. Your stance connects you to this tree, highlighting the positive impact conservation plays in the preservation of this native species.
The tree on the right appears to thrive, but if you trigger the sensor, the tree will slowly die. This is a reminder of how easily ROD spreads through human contact.
Acknowledgments and Resources
To learn more about ROD, visit University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resource’s resource page at https://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/rod/. Or consider growing ʻōhi‘a lehua in your neighborhood. To help ʻōhi‘a lehua and other native plants to thrive once again, please visit the Ohia Legacy Initiative at http://www.ohialegacy.org/.