Welcome to the Daily Climb blog. Yesterday, April 3rd 2008, I completed one full year of climbing a tree every day. I never missed a day, no matter the weather or my state of health. During every climb I took pictures and afterwards wrote a journal entry about the experience. On occasion I also collected leaves, buds, seeds, twigs, bark, and other items that I found on the way. Starting April 5th 2008 I will post the first journal entry with the corresponding picture and scan. That entry will be from April 5th 2007. Then every day for the next year I will post all the entries, pictures, scans, videos, and whatever other things may apply in order to share my project with you. Thank you for your support and thanks to everyone who helped me in this past year.
My name is Todd Smith. I turned 27 yesterday and currently live in the Louisville, KY area. I am an artist and my work is about climbing trees. When I was a junior at Amherst College I took an art class about contemporary art. We were discussing minimalist sculptures one day and I shared with the class my desire to climb these structures whenever I see them. My professor than gave me a challenge to make a piece of work that incorporates that way of seeing the world. The result was a video made by strapping a camera to my head and walking in a straight line, then whatever objects I encountered along this path I would climb them. Ever since then I have not stopped making work about sharing my perspective as a climber, only I have focused more specifically on climbing trees.
In the beginning of 2007 I applied for a work exchange residency at the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts in Mount St. Francis, IN. I was accepted and flew from Portland, OR to Louisville, KY on April 3rd and on the next day started my residency. In those three years prior out on the West coast I had been drawing and planning many different tree climb related ideas. One idea in particular, the daily climb project, was inspired partly from Ze Frank’s The Show. Ze, a Webmaster extraordinaire based in Brooklyn, NY, posted a daily video log from March 17th 2006 to March 17th 2007. Though his subject matter ranged widely and was unrelated to trees or climbing, I found the idea of a daily project intriguing. So starting on the second day of my six-month residency, I climbed my first of over 200 trees.
The Daily Climb concept:
At first I only thought I would climb for six months. I planned to climb a different tree everyday, take a picture of it, tie a ribbon at my high point within the tree, and write a journal entry about the experience. As the project progressed things began to change. I felt bad for leaving the colored ribbons up in the trees so I decided that I would split the six months in two. After climbing a new tree for 90 days, I would go back and climb them all over again, taking down the ribbons and comparing the experiences. At the beginning I never took the camera into the tree and only shot from the ground for fear I would drop and break it. Then one day I forgot to take it out of my pocket and decided to shoot from up in the tree. After that I always brought the camera with me.
In September of 2007 I had my first show at the Mary Anderson Center that showcased the journal entries and photographs of the first 90 days. With the enthusiasm for the project from viewers, friends, and the media, and my own desire to continue on after the six months, I extended the project to one year. Again, I split the six months into two parts- 90 days of new climbs and 90 days of reclimbs.
My hope in sharing this project with you is that you will become a regular follower of my daily posts. I will do my best to add any additional relevant information and anecdotes, make the experience interactive, and encourage everyone to post their own comments and criticisms. The journal entries start off very short with little to no personal reflections. This changes dramatically over time and I hope you stick around through the year to see how the project transforms.
As a disclaimer, I’ll say that writing has never been a talent of mine, more often a struggle, but I have put in a year of committing to it on a daily basis. I do strongly encourage suggestions and comments even if they are negative. Ultimately I would love to have this project made into a book and if editing is inevitable, I need your help. I’ll also love to hear any ideas for new projects, or even better to hear that you have climbed a tree yourself. Be careful out there and if you need any help climbing, I’ve gotten pretty good so ask me.
Also, the reason I am not just scanning the pages of my journals are because they are completely illegible… sometimes even to me. I have also changed from all caps to the proper format making it easier to read. I had a complaint at my show that when I typed them up in all caps they were hard to read. So, see, I do take criticism and use it to better my work. Please, please, please, make comments; I want to hear anything you have to say.