image courtesy of Ken Wolf

This is not a new phenomenon; plants and trees have rooted where ever habitable, but recently The New York Times wrote about trees taking root in the shelter of abandoned silos.  There is even a Flickr group devoted to these trees.  The oldest photograph in this group dates back to the summer of 2008.

Dwindling agriculture, through the rise of major factory farms, caused many family farms to close.  As The New York Times states, “because it can be more expensive to tear these down than to leave the task to time, they are left to teeter.”  The collapse of small farms left silos barren for decades.  They became free for mother-nature to re-imagine herself.

It brings me great joy to see nature reclaim these structures.  Perhaps, now more that ever, with the Mayan Calendar ending in 2012, people often wonder about the end of the world–but it is a misnomer.  The world will not end, just the era of man.  Earth is a resilient planet. It has transformed and replenished itself over and over, and these silos are just a sprinkling of its possibilities. Though it has moments of ridiculousness, there was a series on the History Channel called Life After People that goes in-depth on how nature may reclaim the structures. It has twenty episodes, ranging from the fact based ideas of trees growing in crumbling buildings to cats learning to fly. Can’t wait.

image courtesy of Ken Wolf

These images are also striking, especially when seen on flickr, in their resemblance to the stoic imagery of German photographer team, Bernd and Hilla Becher. This prolific duo created clean, objective documentation of industrial structures built with function over form, or as they say, ‘buildings where anonymity is accepted to be the style.’ Though their subject is often bleak looking, there is a lot of design and humor in these works. The structures are usually displayed in overwhelming grids. In a grid, the seemingly ordered pipes and rails, that flood the composition, turn chaotic and confusing. This quirky eye can be seen in the snapshots of trees growing in silos as well. The flat landscape and isolated structures feel cold and clinical. The structure has a impenetrable feeling. Yet, tuffs of tree branches peak out from the open tops or cracked sides of the these cinderblock behemoths. The juxtaposition of deteriorating structures and the natural resilience of trees becomes a punch line to man’s hubris…

Or, with much less schadenfreude, they can be seen as a friendly reminder: As we try to pull ourselves out of the fiscal and environmental recession, perhaps we should return to natural living try and mimic the ecosystem. After-all, it has persevered at least a century of direct destruction, pollution, yet continues to grow.

Contributor Brad Silk is an artist, curator, hedonist, and unprofessional who has worked with New York City galleries since 2007. He is Assistant Director at Numberthirtyfive Gallery (numberthirtyfive.com) and will be working with HEREarts Center (here.org) and Art Connects NY (artconnectsny.org). As an artist and curator with both commercial and not-for-profit spaces, he has a unique view into the art world.