Performing with trees as stillness practice?


The image above, with the strange sculpture in the foreground, is another view of the beech at Djurgården, seen not from the path but from the summer cafeteria next to it, which I visited for the first time today. The term ‘stillness practice’ in the title occurred to me when I tried to articulate in what way my current project of performing with trees could be related to movement practices, somatic practices or choreographic practices in their broadest sense. Although it started as a pun – stillness rather than movement – the term is actually a fairly apt description for what I am doing or trying to do while performing with trees.

The piece I was trying to describe – The Tide in Kan Tiang – was not conceived as part of the project of performing with plants; at that time (December 2015) I was more interested in the tide than in the tree that I was posing for camera with. But looking at the work now I realise that standing next to the tree every hour for a day could be described as a stillness practice. Of course the term immediately associates to all kind of meditation or mindfulness practices, and why not.

When I visit the trees in Stockholm, the time schedule is completely different, but stillness is part of the practice here, too. I return to the sycamore and to the beech during one full year but only a few times a month, often with something like two weeks between the visits. While sitting in the tree I am practicing a kind of stillness, though. And here, too, the process – both in terms of the topic, the changes in the environment over the year, and as a mode of  showing the production process of the work by documenting each session in a rough time-lapse manner – is at the core of the work.

The reason I am thinking of process is another text I was working with this weekend, trying to put the finishing touch on. It is called “Process as Performance or Variations of Swinging” and is  not about stillness but swinging and process, for a book with the working title Performing Process: Sharing Practice, edited by Emma Meehan and Hetty Blades. It is through them that I have come to realise how much more related with choreographic or movement practices than with theatrical practices, my work is today. Officially I place this project, too, at the intersection of performance art, environmental art and contemporary media (or video) art. The same project of swinging together I have used as an example in an article called “Performing Landscape – Swinging Together or Playing with Projections”, published in Body, Space, & Technology Journal Vol. 16. (NB. flash needed). But I have not yet published anything about this project of performing with plants.


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Annette Arlander