Örö performances Trees

Performing with a Pine

Performance with a Pine 2.9.2021 9 pm

Or rather many pines? During my five-day visit to Örö, with the main purpose of performing with a pine for a live audience on 2 September at 9 pm, I also performed for camera with several pines, as I usually do on Örö. First of all I visited my old friend, ”the pine next door” daily, including the traveling days Monday and Friday. And I visited the pine on the shore that I speak with or to, and recorded my fifth talk with that pine, “Tala om det för Tallen 5” (tell it to the pine 5), archived here. Interestingly, I met some new pines, too, like ”the Snail Pine” and ”the Wind Pine” as well as sat ”On a Pine among Heather and Grass” and ”On a Pine among Heather and Juniper”. They are all archived on the RC, here. These new acquaintances I posed with for the camera placed in two opposite directions, to get a kind of double perspective, and edited the material into split=screen videos. Not all of the videos are very interesting, although the pines certainly were fascinating. There were many more of them, especially some wind pines that I want to work with when I return.

Swinging in a pine (with people) 26.6.2021 3 pm

These small performances with pines were in some sense a side effect of my main performance, included in the event program of the Öres exhibition, that is, the second part of the participatory swinging performance that took place on Midsummer day at 3 pm . In that performance I invited people to swing in a small swing attached to a pine near the hotel area and later edited a video where the swingers change while the movement continues. A short version of that video is available for view online here and here. Now I projected a longer version of that video onto the same site, on the trunk of the pine and the branches of the near by juniper, and tried to swing synchronised with the people on the video. For the projection to be visible the performance had to take place after sunset. What was planned as a live performance turned out to be an action mainly for the camera again, because the group that was to form the main audience cancelled their booking, probably due to the windy weather. To make matters worse there was a rainfall that same evening, right after I had spread the electricity cables, and set up the projector and my computer, which I managed to cover with my raincoat. Luckily the rain stopped before nine, and I performed gladly my 20 minute performance for and audience of two – and the camera. The recording is actually quite nice, available here and (soon) here. Not to mention the magnificent poster (see below). Based on this experience I nevertheless think I probably should stick to performing for camera in the future, or try to find a context with several performers…

poster for the performance with a pine.
Örö performances Trees

Midsummer in Örö

Many coincidences resulted in the opportunity to visit Örö again during an extended midsummer weekend 25-29 June, the most important of them being the Öres summer exhibition. My contribution to the exhibition consists of several parts, and my main task now was to organise the participatory performance “Swinging in a Pine” (working title) on Midsummer day 26 June at 3 pm. Hanging a small swing in one of the pines in the hotel area I planned to video record the visitors willing to swing there. All in all 19 people accepted the invitation, and now the next stage is to edit the video in such a manner that the movement continues while the swingers change. When ready the video will be visible on the Research Cataloge, here, and hopefully also on the Öres exhibition pages, probably here. Later, in the beginning of September, I will try to project the video back on the pine and swing synchronised with the people swinging on video. This is a technique I have experimented with on several occasions a few years back, and also described the process in an article in a book which is unfortunately not open access. (“Process as Performance or Variations of Swinging”. In Hetty Blades & Emma Meehan (eds.) Performing Process: Sharing Dance and Choreographic Practice. Intellect Books. 2018, pp 99-118.)

testing the swing

Besides for this performance I also came to install the triptych “On the Edge I-III”, based on still-images from the video, which is part of the online exhibition (see here), created during my Öres residency on the island in November 2020. The triptych could join the exhibition only now, a few days after the opening, because it was on display in the exhibition “How to do things with performance: epilogue” in Hietsu Paviljonki between 23-24 June as part of the University of the Arts Helsinki Research Pavillion #4.

On the Edge I-III (HTDTWP-epilogue, Research Pavillion)

After carrying the works from Helsinki to Örö by public transport, via Turku, I managed to find the space, which was assigned to me in the barrack near the residency house, thanks to the orange sign or name tag left in the room. After some experiments and attempts at placing the triptych in its planned order, I opted for a site-specific solution. The images fitted perfectly into the wooden shelf in the room, and I and III could be placed there. The middle part was placed on the opposite wall, visible from the door, to help people find the work.

On the Edge II, Öres exhibition, Örö
On the Edge I and III, Öres exhibition, Örö
the sign

Besides these tasks directly related to the exhibition, I alsohad the opportunity to continue my private performances, on the one hand with “the pine next door”, which I began in January 2021, holding hands with one of the two pines growing next to each other daily, every day when I am on the island. And on the other hand my talks with the pine on the shore, recording the fourth “Tala om det för tallen” (Tell it to the Pine), which is already transcribed and edited, available online. Both these recurring performances are documented on the same page, here.

The island is very different in summer time, especially when full of visitors, who nevertheless merged surprisingly well into the surroundings. The party people were probably staying in the harbour and the bar there, and the ones walking or bicycling around the island were here exactly because they appreciate the peace and silence of the place. Some of them might even be interested in finding the well signposted artworks among the army remains. The feeling of summer paradise is nevertheless overwhelming, and I do not feel like looking for new pine trees to perform with, not now. One reason might simply be that I have encountered quite a few of them already. But, there is no lack of more pine trees to meet, to sit on, to talk to, to holds hands with, or simply to admire on this island…

Helsinki performances Trees

With a Pine

On 31 october, Halloween or All Saints’ Day or Shamhain or whatever you prefer to call it, I participated in the second Be-coming Tree Live Art event via zoom. See press release:

My part I described briefly:

Annette Arlander will perform ”With a Pine” in Brunnsparken or Kaivopuisto Park in Helsinki, together with a small pine tree, which she has visited a few times last summer and written letters to as part of her project Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees.

The organisers wanted three sentences to make a collage, and there my contribution was as follows:

My tree friend is a small pine tree growing on a rocky area in Kaivopuisto Park in the centre of Helsinki. The tree is special by being so exceptionally unremarkable, by living on such a limited spot of soil and by being one of my pen pals this summer. I have learned, among other things, that choosing a tree friend because they resemble a previous friend is not necessarily the best starting point for a relationship, but not completely impossible.

This was all before the event. I was alone with the pine, with occasional passers-by of course, and with two tripods: one for my phone and the zoom connection, the other for my ordinary camera for recording the video. Because the camera can record only twenty-one minutes at a time, I made my writing session in three parts, returning behind the camera to restart it twice, and to check that everything was fine with my phone. The organisers will hopefully share a recording of the zoom compilation at some point. The letters I will transcribe from my notes and add to the RC, here. The images I have of the event itself are video stills:

A snapshot after the event, taken with my phone removed from the tripod in the image
Helsinki performances Trees

Be-coming Tree with a Pine

My meetings with trees tend to be based on repetition, repeated visits, rather than durational performances, long sessions together with a tree. When the action is to balance on your toes and reach up with your arms, in a yoga pose of sorts, 21 breaths is plenty. This, time, however, I was supposed to continue for an hour, in order to participate in the Live Art event via zoom called Be-Coming Tree. A quote from the event description:

“The Zoom live art event will showcase a network of artists communing simultaneously with their local trees and woodlands across the globe. The initiative wants to grow kinship and mutuality with more-than-human forms of life through a heartfelt, collective and connective action of communion with nature throught a creative use of Zoom: the most used video conferencing platform these days. Audiences can use the chat room as they witness this global experience. /–/ With performances by and from:
O. Pen Be (UK), Danielle Imara (UK), Jatun Risba (SLO), Surya Tüchler (GER), Emma Cole (UK), Annette Arlander (FIN), Yolande Brener (USA), Caroline Frizell (UK), Anne Murray (HUN), Izabela Waszak (SCT), Sumedha Bhattacharyya (IND), Phil Barton (UK), Nitesh Kushwaha (IND), Satadru Sovan (IND), Chaturi Nissansala(LK), Lucy Stockton-Smith (UK), Prashant Jha (IND), Dinesh Solanki (IND), Agathe Gizard (GER), Pierce Starre (UK)” For a full description of the event, see here.

Since I was to finish my daily sessions with a small pine tree on Harakka Island only the day before, the most natural thing was to perform with the same pine. The only way I could think of to extend my 21-breath performance to last for an hour, was to repeat the action for ten breaths at a time, with ten breaths of resting in between. It was not too hard, the weather was fine – the sun was almost too hot and the occasional cloud felt like a relief, as did the small gusts of wind from the north. The setting up was quite a hassle; I have not used zoom on my phone before, and my small tripod was rather unstable. Luckily Marika Maijala agreed to act as my assistant, guarding my phone and telling me when the thing was over. She also took some nice photos and video clips.

video still Marika Maijala
video still Marika Maijala
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.