Johannesburg is a city of trees, and the largest manmade forest in the world, they say. (Well, they should see the Finnish spruce-or pine-plantations.) Now, when one week has passed since I arrived here, it is appropriate to report what I have been doing, in terms of meeting trees. During my ARA (Arts Research Africa) residency between 10 February and 10 April I am supposed to work on my project Meetings with remarkable and unremarkable trees. I am spoiled for choice, that is clear; Galway Road in the suburb called Parkview where I am based is lined with the famous Jacaranda trees. I decided to “dig where I stand” (no, not literally) and begin with the nearest tree, the old oak growing in the yard of the bed and breakfast where I stay. It is fenced in here behind protective walls, but reaches out beyond them, and drops its acorns on the tin roof every now and then. The first night I thought somebody was throwing stones. My landlady told me that it is an Irish oak, in all likelihood. The whole area has streets with Irish names, because the man who started building there came from Ireland at the end of 19th century. He also planted Irish oaks on his estate, and this oak is supposed to be one of the “leftovers”, or then a descendant. From the balcony of the house it looks very inviting, and would probably be possible to sit in, at least in theory. But I chose not to try.
My way of performing with the oak is simple; I happened to see a small text in a yoga journal at home before leaving, titled “kuinka sinusta voi tulla puu” (How you can become a tree). It describes an exercise which I wanted to try here. And to do that regularly, ideally every day, it would be easiest to find a place nearby. The exercise is basic: stand with your feet hip-width apart, raise you heels, stretch your arms up, focus your eyes on one spot and stay there – that’s it. For the sake of editing I changed the order slightly: I go to stand next to the oak, stretch my arms up and then raise my heels, and leave my arms up even when I loose my balance and have to take a step forward. Hopefully the duration I am able to stand there will increase over the weeks.
What I did not realise was the fact that my stage is a parking lot; it is empty only during working days when the car that is normally parked there is away. Therefore, no images during the weekend.