Helsinki performances Trees

Performing Live with an Apple Tree

Performing for a live audience feels almost absurd in these Corona days, especially since I usually only perform for the camera. Now, when everybody else is performing via zoom or other media, I was invited to give a lecture performance at a private festival – yes, a three-day garden party with Finno-Ugric folklorists or ethnographers, sociologists, artists and general intellectuals, in short, a great event. My planning consisted of asking the host whether there was a projector, so I could show a video, or then a tree. No projector, but several trees – fine. I translated a short text about my project Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees into Finnish, checked that I could show the video with the Spruce of Independence on my iPad and send it around among the audience, and decided to choose the tree once on the spot and to ask the audience to document my standing with the tree with their phones and send to me by email. There was a beautiful apple tree in the garden, remarkably high, actually, and after a brief introductory talk I invited people to come to the tree and then did what I do for the camera, raise my arms, and try to balance on my toes for a while. Due to my nervousness, or my shoes or both, I did not stay put longer than one minute, but that was enough. This was like a prototype performance, and I would be happy to make more similar type of brief performances with other trees at other parties. The documentation is compiled on the RC, here.

Helsinki Trees

Remarkable Spruces

Is it because Old Tjikko, an ancient spruce, was the first tree in this series of meetings with remarkable and unremarkable trees, or because spruces are some of the trees most common to the Nordic countries, or for some other reason, that I seem to be attached to spruces these days? After befriending the pine on Hundudden in Stockholm in the beginning of the year and then finding another pine in Brunnsparken or Kaivopuisto Park in Helsinki to console myself with – not being able to travel to Stockholm from Helsinki in these covid-times – I chose the spruce on Harakka Island as another pen pal to visit. Speaking of “the” spruce is appropriate in this case; it is the only spruce tree on the island, and a tall one at that. With these two small pines and the spruce I have been writing to them sitting next to them, in Swedish with the pines and in Finnish with the spruce, performing writing for the camera, as it were. When I learned about the Spruce of Independence – a truly remarkable tree, at least nationally in Finland, because it was planted from a seed at the time of the Finnish declaration of independence in 19017 – I thought I would perhaps sit and write next to that tree as well, or then make a time-lapse video for a day together with it, as it grows very near to where I live. When I finished my daily Corona Diary with the maple tree in the yard on Tehtaankatu at the end of May, I suddenly realized I could continue the practice of “becoming a tree” together with the spruce of independence, that is, standing in a yoga pose, balancing on my toes with arms stretched upwards. Said and done, I began on the second June and today on the third I tried to repeat the same image – not really succeeding, unfortunately, the framing is slightly off to the left, but in future images I know now to adjust it. The funny addition today was the English speaking lady sitting and reading in the grass. I told her she would be visible in the image and she said she did not mind, but politely turned her back towards the camera. Perhaps this surprise made me fumble with the framing, or then the fact that I placed the camera tripod so close to the trunk of a huge maple tree – to remember the position – that adjusting the framing was actually difficult. Anyway, this was a beginning, and a proper continuation of my meetings with remarkable spruces.

First image, 2 June 2020.
Second image 3 June 2020
Snapshot with my phone some days before
The spruce of Harakka Island
Helsinki Trees

Quarantine in Helsinki

What can you do in these exceptional times when Covid-19 is limiting the activities of most people, and especially those, who have arrived from abroad? Two weeks quarantine in your own home is not that bad, though, because you are allowed to move outdoors as long as you keep some distance to people. But this does not include trees. After a week of trying to adjust to this new world, cold, bright and windy, I finally decided to find some tree companions to pass time with. I walked in parks that I seldom visit and tried to find something that would remind me of the Pine on Hundudden in Stockholm, which I cannot visit now. But I could not find anything. All the parks were so well cleaned and open, and also filled with people – a sunny weekend and nothing else to do. Finally, today, I realized I could try to perform with the maple tree in my home yard, as I did with the oak on Galway road in Johannesburg. Why not? So, I simply began, and this is the image I will try to repeat:

After this decision I took a walk to the nearby Brunnsparken or Kaivopuisto, not really expecting to find anything. And there, on top of the nearest rocks was a small pine, as if waiting for me. I experimented with several camera angles, and decided to leave out the streets and the sea and the recognisable buildings and place my camera facing north; the view could be from anywhere. I tried various poses and realized this little pine would be nice to stand next to as well. My plan was to sit down and write to it, with it, though. It was already late afternoon and too cold to write, and I decided to return tomorrow for a proper start. This pine tree is nevertheless the one I will try to befriend and collaborate with in Helsinki for now…

Today, Monday I finally tried writing, with a cap and gloves, and for a moment only, because it started snowing! Getting a cold while in quarantine would be somewhat of a paradox – or just in line with the times… In the future my (hopefully) regular visits to the Maple tree in the yard on Tehtaankatu and my irregular visits to the Pine in Brunnsparken will be documented as video stills on the Research Catalogue: The Maple and The Pine.