PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Last fall, Asher Woodworth dressed like a tree and began a painfully slow walk through the streets of Portland. We found out why Wednesday in his first television interview.
Woodworth gained worldwide fame when a tweet about his leisurely stroll through the streets of Portland went viral. He was arrested and charged with obstructing a public way.
Where did the idea for tree guy come from?
Police have arrested a man dressed as tree for blocking traffic on Congress Street...as God is my witness. pic.twitter.com/VUFQY6Vyv0— TVTEDDY (@TVTEDDY) October 24, 2016
"I was looking at a book of photographs by Charles Freger who has documented all these rural, ceremonial costumes from Europe … like people covered in boughs, hay or straw," Woodworth told NEWS CENTER. "So I was meditating just to sort of clear my mind. The vision for this performance just kind of appeared."
"My intention wasn’t to block traffic or to slow anybody down," he said. "My intention was to walk slowly and see what happened."
The intersection he chose happened to be right in front of our studios at the corner of High and Congress streets.
"This intersection is really interesting. This feels to me like the heart and soul of Portland – kind of the center of Portland," Woodworth said. "I feel a particular hectic energy and anxiety as a pedestrian when I try to cross this intersection. I’m not an urban planner. I don’t study that kind of thing, but there is a hectic energy that I wanted to contrast and point out."
Woodworth said he thought he might get a little attention locally, but then he saw tweets coming in from Australia, Canada, New York and Los Angeles.
"When I did the performance, I didn’t expect much of a reaction. It was a performance for the people out on the street that day," Woodworth said. "The fact that your video went viral and it became this social media sensation was not an aspect of the performance I was ready for."
So in the end, was getting arrested worth it? He said it was because it made people think about something outside of their daily routine.
"Anytime you can make someone smile or pop them out of their everyday prosaic mode, I think that’s fantastic," Woodworth said. "I’m interested in catching a spirit. I think that’s what happened here. Something blew by and I kind of caught it through me."
Woodworth said he has been thinking about his next performance but doesn’t want to plan anything out. Whatever it is, he just wants it to happen.
As for the tree costume, he said his friend helped him create it and it took him a couple of hours to put it together.