Since the beginning of 2020 my encounters with trees have resulted in quite a few video works, more or less remarkable, some of them archived on the Research Catalogue, here. While the archive is focused on documenting the process, often in still images, this selection focuses on one video at a time – perhaps weekly, as the title suggests – with the latest choice on top. The videos are introduced and contextualised briefly, although meant to be watched as they are, often as a form of “slow video”, if you wish.
This small split-screen video, Under the Pine (3 min 20 sec) is the last “video of the week” at least for a while. I recorded it on 7th June 2022 with the pine in Kaivopuisto Park in Helsinki that I usually perform with while there, as part of my current project Pondering with Pines. There might be some videos on that project blog, later on, see here. The reason I chose this small video to end with is not only the importance of that pine for my current practice, but rather that I showed this video as part of my presentation at the IFTR conference in Reykjavik, last week.
This split screen video The Pine Gate 1-2 (4 min 10 sec) made on Örö Island on 12 May 2021 is one of many “double views” that I made with the bent pines on the western shore of the island. Today I chose it as the video of the week because it was recently shown in the collection of videos running nonstop in the exhibition in the Telegraph Gallery on Harakka Island. It was one in a long list of videos made with pines on Örö, in alphabetical order, but somehow stayed in my minds eye as one of the more interesting ones.The whole list, with small thumbnail images, is available with the documentation of the exhibition, here.
The video of the week, The Pine Revisited, is an old work, created as part of my work in the project HTDTWP (How to do Things with Performance) and originally for our performance at the SAR conference in Plymouth in 2018. And it includes two old works made in 2007 inserted into it. The video is relevant right now because it is shown as the main work in the small exhibition in the Telegraph Gallery on Harakka Island, The Pine Revisited and other video works (see here) together with a brief sequel, Revisiting the Pine Again, which was the previous video of the week. More information about the exhibition is available on the RC, here.
The video of the week Revisiting the Pine Again (7 min 25 sec) is a very recent one, performed on 3 May on Harakka Island as part of my current project Pondering with Pines – more information on the project blog, here. The video is actually shown right now in the exhibition The Pine Revisited and other video works in the Telegraph Gallery there (24.5.- 5.6. 2022). I made this short video, where I try to talk to the same pine that I visited weekly during the year of the dog (2006-2007) to be shown together with the work The Pine Revisited, (16 min 36 sec) made in with the same on 28 February 2018. That video as well as some information about the exhibition is available on the RC, here
The video of this week, Sitting on a Pine (5 min 25 sec) is from Örö again, from my first visit there in November 2020. The choice was prompted by the fact that I had the opportunity to spend a few days on Örö this week and to perform with some pines there, including this old friend. On my last day there, when the wind was calmer, I decided to revisit this spectacularly bent pine on the western shore and recorded a conversation with it or them, or rather a talk. This time the image is recorded from a slightly different angle, though. The video is edited and the talk transcribed on the RC here.
The video of this week, Among the Pines I-II (5 min 3 sec) is from my first visit to Örö Island in November 2020, during and Öres residency there, a small split-screen video combining two alternative poses in the same image. Unlike most of my videos with pines on the island this one does not focus on one single tree. The video is also showing more of the landscape and less of the human figure, which is here almost disappearing into the scenery. ‘Almost’ makes all the difference, however, because the presence of the human turns the pines into a scenery, rather than the spectacular ‘dancing’ protagonists they might be without the human presence. The choice of this almost forgotten video is prompted by my current brief visit to Örö, where I am now enjoying the pines in spring.
The choice of Dear Ficus Macrophylla II (14 min 13 sec) from 2019 as the video of the week is prompted by the publication of the proceedings of CARPA 7 – Elastic writing in Artistic Research, see here. My contribution to the conference in 2021 was based on the video Dear Ficus Macropylla I which I chose as the video of the week at that time (you can find it further down on this same page). The text “Writing with Trees” in the proceedings is a transcript of the voice-over to a video, see here. The video chosen here is another letter I have edited three versions of, this basic one, another one where entering and exiting the image is included as well as a third one Dear Ficus Macrophylla II (mix) where the writer is slowly disappearing with the help of a slow crossfade. The various versions are available on the Rc, here. The text that I am writing has not been added to the video, but is also available for reading on the RC, here.
The video of the week Writing in a Pine (with text) 5 min 20 sec was made on 16 November 2020 on Örö during an Öres residency, and the language in the letter to the pine I am sitting in is Swedish. The letter is read, recorded and added as a voice over to the video, and the text is also translated into English and added as subtitles. The reason for this choice of video is the performance “Practicicing with Pines” in Myymälä2 gallery on Tuesday this week (26.4.). This video was included in one of the compilations I made for the performance, called Practicing with Pines (writing), without the sound, though. There is a documentation of the event on the YouTube Channel of the gallery available here. It was an interesting experience, and I realized afterwards that I should have continued practicing after I invited the audience to join in, instead of stopping and leaving the floor to them. The set up in the two rooms was quite nice, however, and the sound worked better than I could have hoped thanks to the professional expertise of the organisers. My attempt at showing the live writing with a direct camera projection was not very successful, the text was not really visible, so I decided to read it aloud while writing, which worked quite well. Something to try again in the future.
The video for this week, Swinging in a Pine – Örö Rockaby(e), 22 min 55 sec, is made of one real-time session with a pine on Örö, 13 May 2021 if I trust my files. I made a few attempts at swinging in various pines while preparing for the participatory performance as part of the Öres 2021 exhibition (see here, scroll down the page for the swinging video). This pine grows right next to the road called soldathemsvägen or sotilaskodin tie, which leads towards the southern part of the island. And although it was ideal in many ways, the location was too far from the hotel and restaurant area and easy electricity. The title Örö Rockaby(e) refers to Samuel Beckett’s play Rockabye and of course also to the resemblance to a lullaby – the video might actually work in putting you to sleep… I chose this video now because it will be shown as part of my performance “Practicing with Pines” in Myymälä 2 gallery next week, on Tuesday 26 April, as part of the event “Seven of Seven” there (see program). I will try to swing together with the video, and invite the audience to try that too, if all goes well.
The video of this week, The Pine Next Door (mini), (10 min) is a time-lapse video performed with a pine tree on Örö Island, near the area with the rentable houses in the central parts of the island, where I stayed during my first visit in 2021. The daily performance of holding on to the pine was repeated during the year, in several periods between 7 January and 21 November, always when I had the chance to visit Örö for a week. Now, in 2022, I have not been to the island, not even a single time, and I realise my weeks in Stockholm have replaced those visits to Örö. That was not the only reason I came to think of this video, I was reminded of it when looking for material to propose to a planned summer exhibition on the island. The work is here included as a mini-version; the longer version with one-minute clips is 54 min 14 sec, also available on vimeo, here, and the documentation of the process in still images is on the RC, as usual, here.
One more video from my productive residency at Eckerö Post and Customs House in July 2021, Askträdet på Eckerö – The Ash Tree in Eckerö (med text – with text) 6 min 11 sec. The video was made as part of the exercises or collaborations during the online meeting Perform-Respond-Extend organised by the Artistic Research Working Group of PSi (Performance Studies International) in the Constellate program in July 2021. It was made as an “extension” of Göze Saner’s response to Caitlin Main’s presentation and is also available on the working group blog, here, together with quite a few of the other responses and extensions. The text on the video is written and spoken in Swedish, with subtitles in English added. Some of my translations seem weird, though, like speaking of mail bridge when I mean the post quay. The main points are hopefully understandable in any case.
The Double of an Ash Tree (11 min) was performed on 19 July 2021 with the same ash tree as the previous video (the one below) during a residency in Eckerö Post and Customs House in Åland Islands. This was one of my many attempts at trying out old techniques and strategies. Lying on the ground with my feet up I had tried previously with a Juniper on Utö, for a two-channel video installation, which is actually now available through the Distribution Centre for Finnish Media Art, here. Unlike the Day with a Juniper 1& 2 (21 min 56 sec), which is a time-lapse video recorded during one day day, 3rd of august 2019 between 7 am and 9 pm, this moment with the ash tree is a real-time session performed in the evening with the sun rather low. The two trunks of the ash tree are paralleled by my two legs when I am lying on my back on the rock, which is still warmed by the sun. There is no text, only the sound of the waves.
The twelfth video of the week this year, In the Ash Tree (7 min 50 sec) 2021, is one of several experiments made together with a small ash tree growing near the famous Post Quay in Eckerö during my residency in Eckerö Post and Customs House on Åland Islands in July 2021. This is one of the simpler experiments, consisting only of my attempt at climbing into the rather small tree. Trying to use a variety of approaches to the same tree was a way of trying on the one hand to really focus on that one tree and look at it from various perspectives and on the other hand to get an overview of the various techniques or methods I had previously used in my performances with trees and to adapt them to these specific circumstances. The whole selection of approaches performed with this one tree is available on one page on the RC, here.
The eleventh video of the week this year, With the Maple Tree (15 min 10 sec) is a companion piece to the previous one, With the Apple Tree. Not in the sense that they are meant to be shown together, but they were both recorded daily during my residency in Eckerö Post and Customs House in July 2021. The apple tree grows in front of the house, while the maple tree is standing in the yard. The bench next to the maple was moved by somebody early on and it was sometimes frequented by people as well. The practice of “becoming tree”, the two-legged tree pose as the yoga asana is called, is the same in both of them, although the impression here is rather different, with only part of the maple tree visible and the bench, the fence and the human figure being foregrounded compared to the tree.
The tenth video of the week this year, With the Apple Tree (15 min 10 sec) was created in July 2021 during a residency in Eckerö Post and Customs House, the main building of which you can see behind the apple tree, on Åland Islands. I performed with this small tree almost daily, after posing next to a maple tree in the court yard. This is a rather special video among my many performances with trees due to the building in the background, which somehow separates the tree from the environment, literally foregrounds it. I like this video very much because my head disappears among the foliage and I really look like becoming a tree.
The ninth video of the week, With the Bog Birch (15 min.) is one of those videos made during Mustarinda residency in September 2020 that did not make it into the exhibition Meetings with Spruces and Birches at gallery Forum Box, which is ending this Sunday, 6. March. There are two performances with the same birch, Day with a Bog Birch (20 min) and Standing with a Bog Birch (20 min), the first one recorded during one day on the 23 September 2020 every hour from 7 am to 7 pm and the second one a real-time session on the 25 September 2020. This video is similar, although shorter, and has the dog Hermes running in and out of the picture every now and then. There is a version of this work called With the Bog Birch – mix (15 min), where I slowly disappear from the image with the help of a slow crossfade. I chose this simple and straightforward version, rather than the mix, because here the birch, the dog and human participate as they are, and the shifting sunlight plays the major role.
The eight video of the week, this year, With the Spruce in Paljakka -3 (4 min 13 sec) is one of the various attempts at performing with the tallest spruce in the area while spending September 2020 in Mustarinda residency. I walked to the spruce on several days and tried to figure out how to perform together with it. In this version I am simply sitting on the roots and leaning against the trunk of the tree. Other experiments with the same spruce can be found on the RC, here This is one of the various experiments made during that month which did not really become works, or perhaps these small clips are something in between. At least I did not choose them to be part of the exhibition Meetings with Spruces and Birches which is on display in Gallery Forum Box one more week, until 6.3. For more information, see here (later on the page will show the lates show). With this tall spruce I tried various techniques that I had used with other trees, but also simply spent time together with the tree. Looking at the Spruce 1-2 (19 min 12 sec), the seventh video of the week last year (you find it if you scroll down the page) was made with the same spruce, and is actually part of the exhibition.
The seventh video of the week, this year, Rakas Kuusi – Dear Spruce (with subtitles) 5 min 47 sec, was made on 25 September 2020 in the old-growth forest near Mustarinda house in northeastern Finland. The letter written to the spruce in Finnish is read as a voice-over and translated into English subtitles, too. This work is actually part of the exhibition Meetings with Spruces and Birches (11.2.-6.3.2022) in gallery Forum Box right now. I add it here so that people who find it cumbersome to listen with headphones or don’t like to stand in from of a small flat-screen for more than a few minutes could watch it at their leisure. The great thing with video works is that you can share them in several ways. Perhaps I should not share them like this, if I would like somebody to buy them, though. And I do actually hope to sell some of the works, to cover the exhibition costs. But I am a bit old-school, because I really want people to see the works and hopefully perhaps start thinking with trees, too. Well, more information about the exhibition now here and later probably in the archive, here.
The sixth video of the week this year, Day with Old Tjikko 2 (19 min 35 sec) is from 2019, before the project Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees had even started, and is in some sense one of the crucial impulses to the whole project. We visited this old spruce, one of the oldest trees in the world, parts of it carbon dated to be 9950(!) years old, with Camilla Bäckstrand Johansson on 14 May 2019 recording a moment with the tree every hour between 10.30 and 19.30. The material is edited into several videos besides this one, including Day with Old Tjikko 1 (17 min. 45 sec.), where I stand next to the tree, which is shown right now in the exhibition Meetings with Spruces and Birches (11.2.-6.3.2022) in gallery Forum Box, see more information about the exhibition now here and later probably in the archive, here.
The fifth video of the week this year, Rowan on Crutches – mix (17 min 40 sec) is also from that productive month of September 2020 in Mustarinda, like the previous video. I bring this video up here now, because it did not fit within the selection of works made in Mustarinda that will be shown in an exhibition in gallery Forum Box next week. Or, to put it in another way, this tree is one of those trees that I encountered and performed with there not included in the show. For more information about the exhibition, where my part is called “Meetings with Spruces and Birches”, see here. This simple pose or still-act with a small, slightly deformed rowan at the edge of an open area in the forest (whether a former clear-cut or not, I do not know) includes some action, after all, created by editing. A very slow crossfade makes the human figure gradually turn into a vague apparition and then disappear altogether. More than the rowan, or the disappearance of the human figure, the slow fading of the evening light probably draws the attention of the viewer.
The fourth video of the week this year, With a Goat Willow 1&2 ( 3 min 53 sec) was performed and created in Mustarinda residency in September 2020. I chose it here partly, because it is a rare example of those videos where I use a handheld camera to focus on the tree rather than placing the camera on tripod in order to be able to perform in the same image with the tree. Here both strategies are combined into a split-screen version. Another reason for choosing this work right now, is because it is one of the works from Mustarinda that did not fit into the selection of works to be shown in gallery Forum Box, beginning on 11 February, with some kind of opening on the 10th, if covid restrictions allow. For more information about the exhibition, see here.
The third video of the week this year is also from my Ars Bioarctica residency in Kilpisjärvi last June, Dear Mountain Birch (with text) 7 min. The letter was written on 10 June 2021 to a mountain birch growing on the tree line by a spring brook on the slope of Saana fell, while sitting on that same birch. The original video and the writing is about 20 minutes, but this version, where the text is read as a voice-over narration and added to the video is much shorter, because writing by hand takes more time than reading a text.The text is also available as a transcript on the RC, here. I wrote another letter the following day to and with a mountain birch by the shore of Lake Kilpis, which is also available on the RC, here. I chose this letter, because it presents another aspect of the lanscape and has a lively background sound by the grace of the brook.
The second video of the week this year, Listening with Mountain Birches (38 min.) was created during the same Ars Bioarctica residency in Kilpisjärvi biological station in June 2021 as the previous video of the week. This one was made as a compilation of various experiments made in connection to the daily practice of sitting on a birch that resulted in the time-lapse video Listening with the Mountain Birches (24 min.10 sec), see a version on the RC here. I chose to include this “extra” version exactly because it utilises a strategy less familiar to me, combining various images at will – although I did stick to some kind of chronology while editing. During the two first weeks of June the ice almost melted from the lake and the mountain birches developed their leaves. The birches near the lake turned green much later than the ones higher up on the slope, because the lake functioned as a cooler, but they, too, finally had their leaves, as can be seen at the end.
The first video of the week in year 2022, Day and Night with a Mountain Birch (brief) 13 min 15 sec., is from the beginning of June 2021 in Kilpisjärvi, high up in the north in Sapme land in the thumb of Finland. I was there for a two-week Ars Bioarctica residency to work with the small mountain birches that make up the tree line there. I wrote a post for the Ars Biarctica blog, here. This video was performed and recorded at the shore of Lake Kilpis in Kilpisjärvi biological station every two hours between 6 June 3.45 pm and 7 June 3.45 pm. This video is a remake or actually new version of Day and Night With Malla (30 min 20 sec), a variation including the birch of a video recording a day and night that I made there in June 2014. The original work is actually published in Screenworks, here. It is also available on the RC with other material from my visit in 2014, here, while this work made during my recent visit in June 2021 is documented as still images here. The view is almost the same, but the whole point with the work changes with the framing, by including the birch.
This twenty-third video of the week and the last on in the year 2021, The Tarri Pine (2 min 46 sec) was recorded during my residency in Hailuoto island in the north of Finland in April 2021. It was recorded with my phone and made as a portrait of the pine tree to complement the video Esteemed Tarri Pine (8 min 10 sec), where I write a letter to a pine tree as an invited provocation to the project Designing the Pluriversity. In Hailuoto old and thick or broad pine trees are called Tarri pines. Usually my videos are static, because the camera is on a tripod while I am performing with the trees. In order to explore the movement of moving images I sometimes use my phone. The technique of combining several vertical images into one “ordinary” 16:9 format I have tried on several occasions, and wanted to try again here. The video is brief, and compared with my other videos, quite a lot is happening, which is perhaps a suitable ending for the year.
Due to Christmas holidays the twenty-second video of the week, Practicing with a Pine in Hailuoto – brief (25 min 10 sec), is published earlier than usual. Performed in April 2021 it does not have a seasonal theme, really, although in the north the winter was still lingering. It is a similar type of daily practice, performing the ‘becoming tree’ yoga asana with a tree for a camera, that I have engaged with both before and after this exercise with this big tarri-pine, as the broad pines are called in Hailuoto Island. The practice, including the site, was documented as still-images on the RC, here. This was the first time I placed myself in front of the tree, not next to it, and rather close to the trunk, focusing on the bark in front of my eyes. That position gives another type of atmosphere to the images, I think, almost like being placed against a wall with arms raised to be examined, or something else equally ominous. For some reason I also associate it with a gesture of solidarity with the pine tree, although this particular pine was not in danger as far as I know. It grows in the middle of the village, although I framed the image to include only trees in the background. Villages in Finland can be like that, some houses and roads and street lights placed in the midst of the woods.
The twenty-first video of the week, Dearest Pine Tree (with text) (15 min 45 sec), was performed sitting on a small pine on Örö on 21 February 2021 on a day when the island was silent and covered in a soft mist. I chose it as an example of a slightly different way of using text. Rather than reading and recording the letter written during the performance and adding it as a voice-over to the video, I have here use the text as a scroll on top of the image, to accentuate the silence. Another reason for this choice is the soft humour in the image, which is needed this time of year, before the winter solstice brings some more light.
The twentieth video of the week Monument in March (brief) (31 min. 10 sec) was performed and recorded daily during the month of March in 2021, on the sea shore in Ursinin Kallio Park in southern Helsinki. The old tree-formed sea-buckthorn that I am posing with is called a natural monument according to a sign next to it, and is protected by a fence. I visited it every day for a month (1.-31.3.2021) in order to befriend an officially remarkable tree for a change, and also wrote some notes after each visit, which are recorded on the RC here. There is no special reason for choosing this video for this week, except that I have never shown this work anywhere, and it does not really fit in any of the series I have been working with. This is truly “slow video” I guess. The full version is more than two hours, this brief version is only half an hour.
The nineteenth video of the week, With the Master Pine 1-3 (3 min 2 sec) was performed and recorded on the north-eastern shore of Örö Island on 24th February 2021 and edited into a triptych. I remember well the strange silent foggy day, and also the strong presence of the old pine standing in the middle of the path. Usually I am more or less immobile in these videos, but this time I tried various actions, like sitting on the sweeping branch, hanging from a short branch next to the trunk and slowly circling around the trunk. Combining the actions to take place simultaneously creates a choreography of sorts. Örö was in my mind again because I finally edited the video The Pine Next Door, based on all my visits to another pine on the island during this year. The mini version online (here) is only ten minutes, while an installation version with one-minute clips is 54 min 14 sec and the full version, in two parts, is 104 min 46 sec and 97 min 17 sec. The time-lapse video of me standing next to the pine for a moment every day when I visited the island is a more “typical” work, compared to the experiment with combining actions in a triptych in the video with the master pine.
The eighteenth video of the week is from the beginning of this year, With a Pine on Skifferholmen (23 min 11 sec), performed daily in Helsinki during January 2021, although with a one-week break (between 7 and 14 January, when I visited Örö). The performances were documented as still-images on the RC here . Rather than practicing the two-legged tree pose, the balancing and stretching exercise I had repeated with several trees, including the pine on Örö in the previous video, I wanted to return to an earlier practice, holding hands with a tree. That I had loved doing with a juniper on Harakka Island in 2011, and even created an essay based on a revisit to the same shrub, Revisiting the Juniper, see here. Part of the pleasure of that practice was probably in standing with the juniper covered in a scarf, not only “holding hands” with the shrub, because the physical contact with the pine on Skifferholmen was not especially rewarding or interesting. After this experiment during January, I returned to the balancing exercise together with a neighbouring pine during February.
This seventeenth video of the week, The Pine’s Apprentice (brief) (13 min 50 sec) was recorded one year ago, in November 2020, daily, with a pine growing outside the residency house on Örö. The full version is 53 min. At the moment of writing this I am on Örö again, in the same house, for a brief visit, and the pine tree looks like before. Another tall pine growing next to it, however, lost a huge branch in a storm two nights ago. The daily practice recorded in the video, a balancing exercise that I call “becoming tree” after the title of an article, which presented the exercise (the two-legged tree pose) in a yoga magazine, I had by the time I came to Örö already practiced with several trees, like the oak on Galway Road (see the second video of the week) or a birch next to Mustarinda house. I was reading Gurdjeff’s book Meetings with Remarkable Men at the time, in order to know what my project title might allude to, and this pine seemed to me a real master teacher.
This sixteenth video of the week Pine by the Sea I-III (2 min) is a triptych made in November 2020, during my first visit to the island for a one-month Öres residency. Now, when I am here again in November, this time only for one week due to some lucky coincidences, it seems strange to think that this work was made in November, one of the darkest and dreariest months in this part of the world. The images look almost mediterranean and definitely more like summer. There was actually a moment of sun today as well, although the wind is cold. These images were created in one session, on 6th November, the three poses performed one after the other, with a small pine growing on the cliff on the northwestern shore. They were edited into three separate videos, which are here combined together. I chose this work in order to celebrate the anniversary of my first visit to Örö, and to provide some sort of encouragement to those who get depressed in the darkness. Like pines and other plants, we need all the light we can get right now…
The fifteenth video of the week, Sunday with a Pine – with text (8 min 12 sec) from 2017 continues the return to material created in Nida, simply because it is the other one of the two videos now available through the Distribution Centre for Finnish Media Art, see here. I was about to say that it is the first video where I use spoken text and my own voice as the soundtrack, but that is actually not true. I had experimented with that already in Sitting on a Rock (Rock with text) (2003) and later in Day and Night of the Dog (2007). This video of the week, recorded every second hour with a pine on the Parnidis dune in Nida on 24 September 2017 was nevertheless the beginning of a whole series of attempts at using spoken text as soundtrack, whether in the form of a journal, as here, or in letter form, as in later explorations. It is also an example of combining a conventional and romantic view of the landscape with a mundane and everyday account as a contrast.
This is the fourteenth video of the week, Walking in Nida (22 min 22 sec) made in September 2017 and added to vimeo in reduced file size, therefore the title – very small. I chose it because this video in original format is now available in AV-arkki, the Distribution Centre for Finnish Media Art, where you can see a brief trailer of it, here. Another video made in the same residency in Nida, on the Curonian Spit, Sunday with a Pine – with text (8 min. 12 sec) is now there as well, with a brief trailer, here. What makes Walking in Nida special is the use of movement and inserted images. I performed with many pine trees posing for a camera on tripod, and have described my attempts in an article “Resting with Pines in Nida” available online here. This walking video I have not discussed, so, briefly put, I wanted to try to capture the feeling of walking in the manmade forest on the dunes, and experimented with an action camera placed on my forehead while walking. And in order to get the feeling of “action”, and the strange landscape with its labyrinthine paths I inserted five walks as smaller frames into a sixth one. I have not succeeded in doing anything else worthwhile along these lines, so far. Perhaps I should try again, if in a suitable area…
The thirteenth video of the week, Kära Björk [Dear Birch] 5 min 50 sec, is a letter written to a birch tree growing next to the forest path near Mustarinda house on Paljakkavaara in Hyrynsalmi in Northeastern Finland. I spent September 2020 there in a residency, and have shared another video of the week, The Reclining Birch, from my time there as well. It is slightly funny to chose a birch again, because the old-growth forest in the area consists mainly of spruces. The reason for my choice is that of the three letters to trees that I wrote in Mustarinda, the two other ones (written to spruces in Finnish and in English) have been shown in various contexts and are also available as a video essay online, here (scroll down for “Dear Spruce – Dear Deceased”). The last letter, Dear Deceased, (actually the beginning and end of it) I showed as part of a brief talk, “In the Disappearing Forest” in a research day organised at the University of St. Etienne. A pdf of my powerpoint is available here. This small letter to a birch in Swedish, however, has not been shown anywhere, and is probably mainly interesting for those who know the language. I have not made an English translation to use as subtitles, because if I would, the translation would be available here. I have published the text in Swedish, though, in a blog post on my personal website, here. Probably the reason why I have not shown this letter or performance before is not so much the language, but the leisurely and almost trivial tone of the letter. If you work with semi-automatic writing and stick to the traces of the actual performance, the result is not always so exciting. I hope it is interesting in another manner…
The twelfth video of the week, Dear Olive Tree, is a fairly old video, the first one where I wrote a letter to a tree performing for camera sitting next to the tree. I came to think of it now, because a video essay based on that work was recently published in JER (Journal for Embodied Research), and is openly available online: “Dear Olive Tree.” Journal of Embodied Research, 4(2): 5 (19:40). DOI: https://doi.org/10.16995/jer.70
The video above is the same as in the essay, in its original form, without texts added on top. The experience of watching this “slow video” probably differs substantially from watching the video essay, which includes not only the letter I am writing as well as two other letters I wrote to the tree later, and some notes about the practice this moment with the olive tree later developed into. If you want you can watch both and compare…
The eleventh video of the week, Bending with the Pine I-II (2 min 28 sec) is another short clip made during the Öres residency in November 2020 on Örö. It was performed almost ex tempore with a pine growing next to the road, not far from the pine that I performed with for the video triptych On the Edge, the centre piece of which was shown online as part of the exhibition Öres 2021 this summer. These two small gestures or poses with this beautiful double pine are here combined into a split screen video. They are rather unusual compared to my ordinary way of working, which usually does not involve any “extraordinary” behaviour or other than everyday poses. This time I probably felt invited to play with the form of the trunks and wanted to try something new. Unfortunately these experiments did not lead to further extravaganzas…
The tenth video of the week, Day with a Pine (3 min 20 sec ) is a variation of the action of swinging in a pine, performed during an Öres residency on Örö Island on 13 November 2020 beginning at daybreak at 8 am and ending in almost complete darkness, after sunset at 5 pm. The days at that time are short and like this one often mostly grey. There are two other versions of the work, Day with a pine (long) (11 min 20 sec) with all the material and an even shorter one than the one displayed here, Day with a Pine (brief) (54 sec ). I wrote some notes after each session, in English, and they are available on the RC, here. Besides the difference between the two planetary cycles, a year in the previous video of the week and a day and night (or here only a day), this video can exemplify how the same action can be used in various ways. Here a stronger illusion of a durational endurance performance is created, because the changes between the images are small, mainly in the sky, and the movement is minimal.
This ninth video of the week, a video essay called Hanging in a pine tree or appearing with plants (19 min 31 sec), was made as part of my previous project, Performing with Plants, to be included in a lecture performance at the Performance philosophy conference “Between Institution and Intoxication: How does Performance Philosophy Intervene?” at University of Amsterdam 14-17.3.2019. The video essay is based on the same material as Hanging in a Pine (15 min 28 sec) the diptych Swinging-Hanging in a Pine and the triptych Hanging in a Pine Swinging, although slightly longer and with a voice-over text added to the video. I proposed it to be part of an article for an issue of the International Journal of Screendance, Expanded Screendance (vol. 11 2020), but never heard anything from them and forgot about it. Now when I accidentally noticed the issue had been published long ago, there is no reason not to share the video here. It can serve as an example of my experiments with the format of an academic (or semi-academic?) video essay, with the use of blog posts as field notes and also of my first attempts at addressing a tree, my co-performer, directly, at the end.
This eight video of the week was created during a Mustarinda residency in September 2020. The Reclining Birch -mix (16 min 41 sec) was performed by reclining on a birch on a forest path near Mustarinda house in Hyrynsalmi in Northeastern Finland on 8 September 2020 during a one-month residency there, by performing for a camera on tripod, recording the same image with and without the human figure and then mixing the two videos with very slow crossfades. Thus the human being slowly appears on the trunk and after a while slowly disappears again. This work exemplifies – besides the reclining position, which is exceptional among my poses with trees – the use of such slow crossfades to make the human figure appear from or disappear into the landscape, or here the tree trunk. I think I used the technique for the first time in one of the Wind Nest video works (2006-2008), juxtaposing a slow disappearance and a slow appearance of the human on a rock on two parallel monitors (variation 5), viewable online here. Performances with some other trees in the same old-growth forest near Mustarinda are listed here, including a performance with a rowan where the human figure disappears with the help of a slow cross-fade in a similar manner.
This seventh video of the week, Looking at the Spruce 1 & 2 (19 min 12 sec) was performed and recorded on 9 September 2020 with a spruce on Paljakkavaara mountain, during a one-month residency in Mustarinda house in Hyrynsalmi in Northeastern Finland. It is an example of several attempts at being, posing, performing with a tall spruce in the nearby forest, documented here. I tried various strategies that I had used before in other contexts. This version develops the idea of combining a close up of the bark of the tree with an image showing the tree together with a human next to it, which I used in Trees in Victoria (2016), see here and here. And it depicts looking by showing only the shoulder of the human, a strategy used before in Year of the Horse – Calendar (2015), see here, and in Looking at Malla (2014), see here. This video also serves to exemplify the use of split-screen videos to show two perspectives on the same tree, here a close-up of the bark and a human looking at the spruce. The two videos are recorded one after the other (rather than simultaneously with two cameras), and are thus not really synchronised, although perhaps creating that impression. Most importantly, the video stands as a representative of all the trees I encountered in the beautiful old-growth forest around Mustarinda on Paljakkavaara.
The sixth video of the week, July with a Pine (16 min) was performed daily in July 2020 with a small pine on the shore of Harakka Island. The exercise I am performing next to the pine is the same two-legged tree pose that I first tried out with the oak on Galway Road and have since then performed with several trees in various residencies, often daily for a month. The notes written after each session (in Finnish) are available on the RC, here . I chose this video now because it is currently shown in a screening compilation in the auditorium on Harakka Island as part of the exhibition The Artists’ Island curated by Veikko Halmetoja and is on display until 26 September. For information about the exhibition in English, see link to press release in English, here.
This fifth video of the week, Dear Ficus Macrophylla (17 min), is both old and new. It was performed and video recorded on 25 December 2019 in Alicante, Spain. For the colloquium CARPA 7 Elastic Writing in Artistic Research I re-edited the video, by recording a voice-over text. The beginning of the text consists of the letter I am writing by the tree, read now, one and a half year later. The remaining text consists of reflections concerning writing letters to trees compiled for the presentation. I considered showing here the original work, without sound and slightly longer, and to only refer to this reflective version with text. But since this new version was already uploaded on vimeo, I chose to share this one. It is an example of a hybrid format, something which is part artwork part semi-academic essay and also of a situation specific work, made for a particular occasion, although it hopefully makes sense even beyond that. A bit more context, for those who prefer that, is available in a pdf of a powerpoint here and on the conference website, here.
This is the fourth video of the week, Dear Firethorn Rhus (with text), created in Nirox Sculpture Park in South-Africa, during a brief five-day visit there, in Krugersdorp, quite far from Johannesburg, but nevertheless in Gauteng, I wrote to and with small shrubs that belonged to the species Firethorn Rhus (Rhus pyroides). The choice of this shrub was due to the fact that I had performed with the same species in the park and was glad to recognize it, although I did not know it was an indigenous shrub at that moment. The text written as part of the performance for camera on 18 March 2020 was read, recorded and added to the video as voice-over that same night. This was my first experiment with recording the letter and adding it as a voice-over to the video of the writing. This letter was written while sitting on a shrub bending over a small brook, with my back to the camera, almost as a silhouette, and the sound of the tiny waterfall dominates the video. In the video the act of writing is barely visible. The letter was written as a kind of automatic writing, freely associating in the moment, without pausing to reflect what to write, or how to do it. The text is transcribed from the handwritten notes without editing or modifications, and thus it serves as a kind of trace or documentation of the performance. The text is published in Meetings with remarkable and Unremarkable Trees in Johannesburg with Environs (2020, p 94) downloadable here and readable here, and all the works created in Nirox are available here.
This third video of the week, In the Ombu Tree (with commentary), was made in Johannesburg, where sitting in trees was not as easy as in other city parks. Samuel Ancer, who was my assistant there, explains in the voice-over narration to this short clip why the session was so brief. The story and some further context to the video can be found in the publication Meetings with remarkable and Unremarkable Trees in Johannesburg with Environs (2020, p 58) downloadable here and readable here. There you can also find images of other trees I chose to sit in as well as trees presented to me by colleagues. The Ombú tree is not an indigenous tree in the area, but imported from South America. With its wide trunk it invited me to climb into the hollow among its branches. It is one of the few videos where my face is visible, and perhaps therefore chosen as the cover image of the publication documenting my work during the ARA (Arts Research Africa) residency at Wits University. It serves here as an example of the importance of understanding the context and of collaboration with other humans, too, which I am not engaging in such explicit manner that often.
This second video of the week, With the Oak on Galway Road (14 min 47 sec), was performed daily with an old oak tree at a Galway Road B&B between 13 February and 16 March 2020 during an ARA (Arts Research Africa) residency at Wits University in Johannesburg, South-Africa. It was my first attempt at practicing the two-legged tree pose next to a tree, following the instructions in a yoga magazine: “you, too, can become a tree”. The story of the tree told by the landlady can be found in the publication Meetings with remarkable and Unremarkable Trees in Johannesburg with Environs (2020, p 24) downloadable here and readable here.
This video, Tallen på Hundudden, the pine on Hundudden (18 min 15 sec), is from my first meeting with a small pine on Hundudden in Stockholm, 7 January 2020, before the pandemic changed my plans. In the beginning I sit with the pine, looking out to sea, probably because I planned to make a rough time-lapse video of weekly visits. At about 6 minutes I start writing to the pine, and the text in Swedish is added as a scroll on the image. The other two encounters as well as a last farewell meeting one and a half year later are available here. I chose to begin the selection of video with this one, because it is one kind of a beginning, albeit a somewhat “false” start…