Sycamore or Maple?

After almost a month since my last visit to the trees in Stockholm everything looked different. The beech formed a green shade, almost like a tent I had to enter to place my tripod and camera before climbing up to this hiding place between its branches. And the maple I have been comfortably sitting on proved to be no ordinary maple at all, but a sycamore or sycamore maple, Acer pseudoplatanus. It seems that the maple common in the Nordic countries Acer platanoides, is called Norway maple in English, “skogslönn” in Swedish and “metsävaahtera” in Finnish, literally “forest maple”. My friend in Humlegården is called “tysk lönn” or “German maple” in Sweden and “vuorivaahtera” or “Mountain maple” in Finland. The flowers are different, as you can see from the image above (taken of an other tree of the same species, with the branches placed lower) and the leaves are different, too. I probably made the mistake of assuming my friend was an ordinary maple because of the leaves on the ground – there are two ordinary maples growing next to it so the dry leaves get mixed.

This lack of awareness seemed particularly grave since I was returning from an event focusing on plants. Plantarium was a two-day symposium or conference organised by Marianna Szczygielska and Olga Cielemęcka at Linköping University on 1-2 June 2017. The key-note speakers were Michael Marder, who spoke with the tile “On Lack and Plenitude in the Vegetal World” and Catriona Sandilands who spoke with the title “Phytopolitics: Four Forays in Vegetation”. The workshops or participatory performances were “downward facing plant / happy plant pose: a multi species yoga session” led by Mirko Nicolić and “Vegetal Speed Dating” led by Christina Stadlbauer and Regula Heggli. In the evening there was a screening with a short video by Malin Arnell and Pablo Zueta titled Sporing Lips of Transposed Desire (2011) and a documentary film Pojktanten (in English She Male Snails) by Ester Martin Bergsmark (2012).  Most of the work the second day took place in small groups where we discussed the papers and materials sent in advance. I was placed in a group led by Monika Rogowska-Stangret and really enjoyed the feedback and discussions, although time felt short, as always. I showed a small video work, The Tide in Kan Tiang, as an example of performing with plants. My abstract in the collection of abstracts read as follows:

Performing with plants A small tree grows in a rocky cove near Kan Tiang beach on the Island of Koh Lanta in Thailand. On one of the last days of the year 2015 I stand next to it for a day with two hour intervals in order to experience the tide together with it. The resulting video work The Tide in Kan Tiang (11 min 52 sec) was shown in gallery Forum Box (mediaboxi) in Helsinki in April 2017 and serves as an example of performing with plants in a simple and everyday manner. This work I could show and present as part of the workshop in Linköping. It is an example of a practice, which forms the background to an artistic research project recently begun, “performing with plants – att sam-agera med växter”, funded by the Kone Foundation at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (2017) and Vetenskapsrådet at Stockholm University or the Arts (2018-2019). Since the project has only started I am eager to find researchers interested in related topics, to learn about current developments and would gladly present the plan for the project briefly in Linköping. See website with ongoing documentation: here. Moreover, I include links to some previous publications dealing with works related to plants in my bio, although I think I could probably best contribute to this event as an artist.

While returning to the trees in Stockholm I remembered the question posed by Essi Kausalainen, an artist who has worked a lot with plants, in another seminar on plants. She asked why I framed my images horisontally and not vertically, to include more of the trees within the fram. And that is a good question with many and complicated possible answers, related to video projectors etc. A horizontal framing suites the crippled beech quite well, because it is growing more like a bush, sideways. The sycamore maple, however, I wanted to try to capture in some  vertical still photos:

And of course I did my usual video recordings, too, on Saturday afternoon and Sunday around noon. This time I used an external microphone, but forgot it for the first session with the sycamore. Thus it is possible to listen to the difference in sound quality between the two versions, at least when editing.

In order to document the flowers or rather seeds of the beech, too, and not only the sycamore, as in the image above, I insert a close up of them here at the end.

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Annette Arlander