A one-of-a-kind sound sculpture will greet future visitors to Planet Word: a 20-foot weeping willow tree designed by contemporary artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Walking under its branches will trigger unique audio from some of its 500 hanging speakers — each of which will contain an archive of recordings in a distinct language. This immersive piece, titled Speaking WIllow, sets the tone for what to expect at Planet Word, where surprising ways to interact with language will await at every turn.

A rendering of Planet Word’s entry courtyard.

Lozano-Hemmer is known for his highly participatory works, including his current Pulse exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum. His work combines human and technological elements with virtuosity, and he describes his pieces as existing at “the intersection of architecture and performance art.”

Of Speaking Willow, he says, “this project is designed to create intimate, organic interaction with visitors entering Planet Word. The piece makes tangible the languages spoken by over 99% of the world’s population, in the form of a diverse array of voices.”

Planet Word will collaborate with the artist’s studio to curate the audio recordings featured, which will include notable and historically significant speeches, poems, and other emblematic voices.

If you can’t wait until the spring of 2020 to experience Lozano-Hemmer’s unique, interactive works, see Pulse at the Hirshhorn until April 28, and Voice Array at the Mexican Cultural Institute in D.C. until April 7. His works have also been featured in prominent galleries around the world and are in the collections of the Hirshhorn, MoMA, Guggenheim, Museo del Barrio in New York, the Tate and Science Museum in London, SFMOMA in San Francisco, and many others.