Final Visit to the Tatarian Maple

The final visit to the Tatarian maple in Nobelparken tog place as part of my presentation during the Research week of SKH or Stockholm University of the Arts 2020. The program and a description of my two-part contribution (in the detailed program) is available here.  We began with a walk to the tree, where I had attached a small name tag with a QR code linking to a page with a brief version of the video Year of the Pig with a Tatarian Maple (mini) . Then we continued up to Linnégatan, where I presented the project briefly and referenced some ideas by Matthew Hall and Michael Marder with the title “Plants as persons or persons as plants”. There was an interesting discussion as well.

The images here below are taken from SKH’s instagram flow.

 

Visiting Old Tjikko on Fulufjället

After sitting on Spruce stumps in Lill-Jansskogen it was an extraordinary feeling to visit their very, very old relative Old Tjikko on Fulufjället and spend a day together with it on the mountain. Camilla Johansson Bäcklund chose this tree, which I had never heard of, and we spent the day together with the spruce. More information about Old Tjikko on the website of the Fulufjället National Park.

It took quite some time to get up to the mountain and find the tree, so we started the rough time-lapse recordings, once every hour, only half past ten, and continued until half past seven, only, because we wanted to be back before midnight. I wrote a brief description of the trip on my personal website, here, and also transcribed my notes made after each recording, in Swedish, here.

I have spent days with trees before, but it was an unusual experience to do it with somebody else this time. To develop my experiences from “Performing with Plants” I have been thinking of a project called “Meetings with Remarkable Trees”, and even written one proposal related to it. It seemed like a very good sign to begin with a pilot project together with such a celebrity as Old Tjikko, which seems so small and insignificant, most of it clinging to the ground. Clone or not, the age of 9950 year is simply amazing!

 

Rainy Days

Three sessions a week seems to have become the ideal for my walk in the woods,  I realized, now, when only three months of the practice remains to complete. Three sessions simply, because three images are easily compiled in groups on the blog, and more importantly, because three sessions are usually fairly easy to fit in within a week, despite travels and seminars and other program. This week I spent Monday and Tuesday in Bergen, Norway, at the always inspiring Artistic Research Forum, and Wednesday morning, before the writing seminar with John-Paul Zaccarini at Linnégatan in the afternoon and the opening of Bogdan Szyber’s Museum of Artistic Research at Historiska museet or the Historical Museum in the evening, was spent in office work before I had the time to think. Thursday nearly disappeared, too, in an editorial board meeting in the morning and with Bogdan Szyber’s 80% doctoral seminarium in the afternoon, but this time I was prepared for the task and rushed to DOCH as soon as it ended to be able to make my walk in the woods before nightfall – despite the rain. On Friday I had finally time to make my own schedule, and could have made my walk during the sunny morning hours, but chose to leave till after lunch and well – there was the rain again! On Saturday I took the train to Karlstad and visited Avant film festival 2018 “Doing Haut and Pope: Loophole Cinema and More”, watching experimental films all day. Especially the live actions – some form of expanded cinema – in the evening where fascinating. And I did love all the action-based ”handmade” films by Bea Haut. Returning to Stockholm on Sunday, my first thought was to go and complete my third walk in the woods. And this time, surprisingly, no rain – it started later in the evening – only a chilly wind. So, here are the images for  this week:

Thursday evening – in rain:

Friday afternoon – in rain:

Sunday afternoon – in chilly wind:

And the images from the fourth stop (which is actually the third stop on my round) grouped in three.

Swinging:

Hanging:

And as a counter point to the over-exposed image of the pine needles above, some autumn leaves on the ground:

After Working with the Vegetal…

After an inspiring seminar, Working with the Vegetal, at Linnégatan I had time to make my “walk in the woods” before sunset. The image above is of the ground next to the camera tripod on my first stop, when I realized there was a tiny rowan, some small aspen, a small oak, and a young sycamore all growing next to each other. Although the sun was still high in the sky the light was bluish, and the mosquitoes were out. The difference in color when you compare with the light this morning, close to midday, is astonishing.



And the same difference is of course visible in the swinging and hanging images, too:


The seminar “Working with the Vegetal” was quite a success, in my opinion, especially since it was based on an open call and I did not know anybody from before. Of course I had transmitted the call via colleagues and friends, so obviously the word got around, but nevertheless it seemed so beautiful to have so many meaningful responses. The program is available on facebook, here. I began the day by describing briefly my project “Performing with plants” and showed some of the pages on the research catalogue, for instance the page documenting exactly these walks. Then dr. Emma Trott from University of Leeds presented a fascinating paper “Jon Silkin, Poet: ‘Plant-thinking’ ‘avant la lettre’?” about the strange flower poems of this poet, who was unfamiliar to most of us, and very interesting to get to know about. Dr Anna Svensson from Royal Institute of Technology discussed her attempt at preserving parts of the vegetation on a site of a future building and other practices related to botany with the title “The Herbarium as a practice – an example”.

After the lunch break Veera Weetzel from Linköping University described one part of her PhD project with the title “Watery plant-human collaborations” and especially her idea of nourishing tiny water cress plants with human tears. Professor Sigrid Sandström from Royal Institute of Art presented “Preliminary thoughts on an abandoned botanical collection” and provoked interesting discussions on what actually makes an archive relevant and for whom. Professor Martin Avila from Konstfack (University of Arts, Crafts and Design) presented with the title “Spices-Species, a case of Symbiotic tactics” an example of design thinking in terms of ecosystems and multi species relations focusing on the Passion flower, and inspired us to look at systemic relations. Choreographer Caitlin Dear from Stockholm University of the Arts described her practice of encountering specific trees with the title “Tree Time – Choreographing Interspecies Sociality”, and finally Åsa Sonjasdotter, PhD candidate in art at University of Gothenburg spoke via Skype from Gotland with the title “Potato perspective – greetings from the field” describing her work with growing local variants of emmer wheat, potato and turnip there.

The day took us from poetry to potatoes via collections and experimental arrangements of various kinds. It is truly fascinating how the vegetal can be approached in so many ways. But why am I surprised? If more than ninety percent of all bio mass on the planet is vegetal, it is no wonder that working with the vegetal can mean many things. There was enough of shared aspects, however, for the conversations to feel meaningful. Probably we should try to create another event in the autumn…

Recovering with the Woods

Recovering from a flu caught on a trip to the 9th SAR (Society for Artistic Research) conference ARWEI (Artistic Research Will Eat Itself) in Plymouth – an exciting conference for that matter – felt like being in tune with the surroundings. It seems like the woods are recovering from the harsh times of winter and preparing for (or, actually already in the midst of) a super active spring time of growth. On Wednesday the sky was grey before noon during my rounds, but on Thursday the sun was shining bright and resulted in rather strange-looking green images with the pines up on the hill – despite my diligent adjusting of the white balance after hanging my paper in a plastic folder on the branches in question. But of course the light is green when reflected from the greenery, only our eyes don’t see it like that… Probably my mistake was that I adjusted the light after fixing the white-balance, oh-no! But I am slowly learning, making all the possible mistakes at least once.




An alternative title to this post could be “The Ants Awaken” because that is exactly what happened today, on Friday. After two days of summer weather the woods are about to burst into life. The spruces and pines do not look that different, of course, but the mosses are greener and all the small creatures are moving around again. The big spruce stub was alive with big ants and some other insects, too, and I could only hope that I would not crush them while sitting there, or that they would not try to get into my clothes to investigate if my skin was edible. I tried to take photos of them crawling around but always seemed to miss them. When I looked at the long list of snapshots I realized there was an ant in the very first one (see image above), caught as if by mistake.



It has been such a pleasure to be able to repeat the round for three mornings in a row. Next week will be conference time again, now in Helsinki, and busy. There will be a Conversation on Performance Art with Essi Kausalainen and Sara Pathirane at Muugallery on Monday, a Library Talk with Stacey Sacks at SADA here in Stockholm on Tuesday, and a short excerpt from the performance created for the SAR conference with HTDTWP (How To Do Things With Performance?) performed at The Spring Research Day at Kiasma Museum on Wednesday (the time is wrong in the schedule, though). For the rest of the week I am going to join the Radical Relevances conference at Aalto University, where they show a video called Rainy Day in Rekdal, a small performance I made with a downy birch on Lofoten last summer. – I wonder when I will be able to walk in these woods again? Maybe Tuesday afternoon, if all goes well, or then next Saturday?

New home base at DOCH

The plant in the picture is my new mascot, which has its home base on the window sill next to my desk at DOCH (School of Dance and Circus), part of Stockholm University of the Arts, where I will begin the second phase of the artistic research project “Performing with Plants” (2018-2019). The plant has many names in English, like golden polypody, golden serpent fern, cabbage palm fern, gold-foot fern, and hare-foot fern; officially it is called Phlebodium Aureum – well, we all have our names, don’t we.
My new existence at Uniarts gets an inspiring start though the research week that takes place right now, se the program. Although I could not join in and tell about my own project I get a good picture of what is happening in terms of research at all the schools and the profile areas right now.
Despite my first action being to acquire this mascot I have not planned to focus on house plants, rather I aim to continue collaborating with trees and other larger creatures. The first thing I will do, however, is to edit the material gathered last year. Most of it is documented on the Research Catalogue, where I update my various experiments – see here (and follow the time line). More about that soon…

Almost Sunny January

This was my second weekend in Stockholm this year, an the weather was great for sitting with trees, dry and not too cold, almost sunny today. In the same manner as during the previous weekend I made a session in Humlegården and at the shore of Djurgården immediately on arrival on Saturday, in the early afternoon, to be in time before the early dusk and its bluish light. And I made a second session on Sunday before noon at Humlegården and directly after that in the early afternoon at Djurgården. There the sunlight made quit a difference; people passing by cast their shadows on the branches. At Djurgården the line I drew with my foot in the snow to remember the place of the tripod from Saturday to Sunday last weekend was still visible as a dark patch on the ground, and made the adjustment of the image a lot easier. I hope I will slowly learn approximately where the tripod should be, so it does not take so long to find the proper place.

I realised that by sitting in trees I am actually recycling a strategy I have used before, during the year 2006 on Harakka Island in Helsinki. In Year of the Dog – Sitting in a Tree http://www.av-arkki.fi/en/works/year-of-the-dog-sitting-in-a-tree/ and Day and Night of the Dog http://www.av-arkki.fi/en/works/day-and-night-of-the-dog/ I deliberately showed only my shoulder in order for the tree to have the central stage. The images I am making now are much more focused on me as a human performer, what a paradox!

Saturday:

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Sunday:

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Damp and Dark December

Saturday afternoon in Stockholm, wet snow everywhere, hard to say when the  snow turns to rain and vice versa. I headed first to Humlegården, around two in the afternoon and thought I would have plenty of time, but by the time I was at Djurgården dusk was approaching fast. Around three o’clock the light was diminishing; the sun was setting somewhere behind the thick cloud cover.

In Humlegården I made two “sittings”, one close and one further away. I was careless with my scarf; in the images you can see that it is not covering my back properly. In the close up version you can also distinguish the plastic bag I am sitting on. The image is strangely “soft”, perhaps the camera tries to follow my gaze and focus on the other trees in the park…

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At Djurgården I was impressed by the black branches of the beech – I guess it is a beech, but I am not sure – and tried to frame the image in the same way as last time, only lifting it up a little, so my head would come into the picture. The result is something altogether different again. Perhaps I should accept that this weird snake tree with its boa constrictor -arms will always embrace me in new ways…

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Wind and Snow Again

After a clear morning the snowfall started before noon, and seemed to get worse, so there was no use waiting for it to pass. The sun sets early, between three and four in the afternoon so there was not much time to spend. I decided snowfall could be nice in the image, the flakes were big (and wet) so I hurried to Humlegården to begin with. I had my pale pink scarf with me this time, and hoped to have the park for my self due to bad weather. But snow is not considered bad weather, of course; there were lots of families rolling big snowballs on the ground. The wet snow combined with the dry leaves made for huge snow balls that small children were excitedly pushing around. I made one test image with the camera a little further away, in order to show more of the park.

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Quickly checking the result made me  decide to stick to my previous framing, more or less, and also to wear my pale scarf and remove my red cap. So I sat for a while leaning on the big trunk, a rather comfortable seat, actually, but wet and cold. I remembered that I used to carry a small piece of plastic to sit on during all my years sitting in various places on Harakka Island. For these images in Stockholm I have not yet created a proper routine.

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Time seemed to be flying and dusk was approaching fast so I hurried down to the shore and walked to my other tree partner at Djurgården. It took me a while to find almost the same place for the camera as last time, since there are no clear markers on the ground. The first test image I made with ny ordinary clothes on, and was not very impressed by the image.

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For the “real” version I removed my cap, put on my scarf (on top of my coat, since it was getting cold) and decided to sit higher up on the branches. The tree is very comfortable to sit in and has a veritable nest for sitting in. I decided to sit for a little longer, hoping for the snow flakes to hit the camera lens and blur the image a little like the raindrops in Falmouth.

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The wind was getting stronger and sitting in the tree I was gasping for air first, before settling into the “suffering”, breathing slowly, accepting the cold, registering the shifts in the force of the wind. I sat there and enjoyed the beauty of the image, both the one I imagined recorded by the camera, and the one I was looking at while sitting in the tree. At some point I imagined I could simply hold on until nightfall, but soon gave up. It was too cold, and it looked like quite some time until dusk. There was a group of noisy strollers passing the tree, and I was afraid they would notice the camera and do something with it. Luckily that did not happen. I also imagined that the strong gusts of wind would hit the tripod and saw the camera lying on the ground in the snow, and so on. But I kept on sitting for a few more minutes, but then gave up. The cold was creeping into my bones and the wind was blowing into my ear… I did not want to get ill, so I climbed down.

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The camera was still standing on the tripod, recording a slightly foggy image; part of the lens was covered with snow, and I wonder how the snow did not show more in the actual image. By now I was really cold, so I quickly packed my things and hurried to the cafeteria at the entrance of the park, the place where I am writing these notes. Although it did not look anything like what I imagined while sitting in my sculpture nest in the tree, and though the change between the beginning and the end, as illustrated by the two images above, was surprisingly small, this session perhaps could be made into a small video….

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First Attempt at Humlegården

As part of my artistic research project “Att samarbeta/ sam-agera med växter” or “performing with plants”, which I am planning at the moment, I have decided to choose three trees in Stockholm to perform for camera with and to visit repeatedly during a year. My plan is to begin with at least one tree in January 2017, although I probably will start the official VT funded project in Stockholm only in 2018. And thus I am looking around now, searching for suitable trees, doing some attempts, like the one today in the park Humlegården in the centre.

The first tree, one I remembered from my visit a few weeks a go, was not as easy to collaborate with, as I imagined:

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The other tree, an old sycamore, which I noticed already during my first visits, and which seemed “too easy” at first, seemed to me now to be the ideal partner for this exercise:

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I also tried to move the camera on tripod a little closer, to see if the sculptural form of the divided trunk could be used better:

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More experiments next time, but I think this could perhaps be one of the trees, really…