Fake Trees

COLLECTOR: JOSÉ CARNEIRO, 200 ITEMS

A friend once told me that all the trees in the world would someday be gone because human beings would be able to reproduce perfect replicas in plastic. That idea never left me. In 2004, while walking along a street, I saw a shop window with a toy train set in it, and there it was — a great set of trees. So I bought the first seven. The collection has since grown to more than 200 trees.

The fake trees in my collection are all up to 8 inches in height. The best way to describe the collection is a forest that fits in the palm of your hand. I like the idea, very common in collections, that one object placed next to another reaches another dimension. One tree is like a short novel, and all together they form an epic narrative. They work like a photo album, as it’s easy to establish memory-based relationships with them, to remember when and where I bought them, or who gave me each tree.

Each tree is also an object of desire for its optimal representation of reality. In the impossibility of living in a remote area or away from a big urban center, I collect an iconic representation of green space. The collection’s value is only sentimental. It’s like a can of memories of my life, like a diary. I would never sell it. I’m planning to leave it as a legacy to my future kids. Hopefully they’ll like the project and will want to continue collecting.

Ordinary people usually think that we’re a little bit crazy, that we don’t have better things to do. Collectors are creating breadcrumb trails of their lives.
José Carneiro, 38, Porto, Portugal

It’s difficult to have a favorite one. Some of them are really beautiful, others are really funny and unusual. But I have one that was given to me by my wife, the one that defines the height limit of the collection. It’s a Pinipom tree from when she was a little girl. I’m always on the lookout for them.

I prefer to get them ‘in loco’ instead of buying them off the Internet. If I find them in a market or shop, I’ll always have that moment in my memory, and that’s the beauty of the whole process: the instant when it becomes part of my life. I don’t speak about the collection to many people, but all my closest friends know. Some of them try to bring additional pieces when they travel to other countries. Usually people think they’re real trees and get a little disappointed when they find out they’re fake. But their fakeness is their beauty.