After the very big and quite successful World Congress of the IFTR (International Federation for Theatre Research) in Belgrade, Serbia, (the program is available here and the book of abstracts here) and the executive committee meeting after it, I had an afternoon to spend on my own. With my camera and tripod and the same yellow outfit I wore in Daegu, I headed directly to the park next to the Museum of Contemporary Art where we had a big party on Thursday night. I remembered seeing a small tree suitable to sit in at the border of the large lawn outside the museum on the other side of river Sava, and there it was, right next to the parking lot. The tree was one of many of its kind, a species quite unknown to me. The taller trees on the shore were some sort of poplars, but these small trees covered with puffy pepper-looking fruits I had never seen before. There were quite a few of them; all the smaller, yellowish trees in these images are of the same kind, although only one of them had a trunk with a place to sit in.
After my session, on returning from the park I asked the reception sit in the hotel, googled trees in Belgrade and so on, to no avail. Finally I found an image of something similar, albeit reddish, by looking for dried flowers in Finnish and that way I came to a whole group of plants and trees called lantern trees. There are several types, The Chilean Lantern tree, the Chinese Lantern tree, a creeper of the family Solanaceae related to the tomato and the potato and so on. Most lantern trees have colorful fruits, and these were yellowish-green, but perhaps they will turn read later in the summer. And although I did not think of it at first, these trees probably had flowers earlier this summer. To put it simply: plants change their appearance over the year! And that should not come as a surprise to me, living in the north. Nevertheless I was not sure exactly what this specific tree is called, so I decided to call it a lantern tree.
The video will be uploaded on the RC here The video still is from the beginning of the 15 minute session, when the sun was burning bright, but very soon there were some clouds covering it providing a relaxing shade. Since I was not there, behind the camera to adjust the light, most of the video is rather dull and dark. Despite the image of the tree being framed as rather wide to include more of the tree, its foliage is nevertheless not included. Some snapshots of the tree and its fruits taken after the session will give a better idea of what kind of tree it is:
After attending the PSi #24 conference in Daegu, Korea, I had one day, or morning, to spend in Daegu before heading back to Seoul and Helsinki. Pilvi Porkola from the project How to do things with performance, with whom we made a presentation, returned home with her son a day earlier. My plan was to take a walk to Dalseong Park to see if I could find a suitable tree to sit in for a while, and I asked a colleague from the conference who stayed in the guesthouse, Megan Evans, if she would be interested in visiting the park and looking after the camera behind my back while I was sitting in the tree. And she agreed, so in relatively fresh and sunny weather we walked there and followed path around the park up on the ancient fortifications. It was actually Megan who noticed a possible tree, which I had not noticed and I immediately agreed, because most of the trees were either to old and tall or too young. At first I thought this tree might be too young as well, that is, too weak to carry my weight, but on closer examination it proved quite strong. I had my pale pink woollen scarf with me, but for some reason the yellow clothing I happened to wear seemed more appropriate for the circumstances. Megan would sit on the nearby bench, keep an eye on the camera and perhaps restart it, if for some reason it would stop unexpectedly, as it sometimes does. But this time all went well, and I sat approximately eleven minutes, listening to the birds, the traffic and the amused passersby. At the guesthouse I downloaded the images from the camera and on the train to Seoul I edited the material into a one-image video ”In Dalseong Park” (11 min), which is available on the RC: ”In Dalseong Park”. I named the video thus because I did not recognize the tree. It had some small berries, like miniature cherries, but looked otherwise unfamiliar. It would be very difficult to get its species verified, so I decided to accept that it was a stranger, albeit a rather friendly one. Here below are some stills from the beginning and end of the naterial, where I try to get up in the tree and then to get down again. The larger image in the middle is what the actual video looks like – a bit too dark, really. The park was nice in any case.
This image, taken by Megan Evans as a still with her phone, is actually quite nicely framed:
A small conference on Cultural Mobility of Performance and Performativity Studies organised in the beautiful old building of the Jagellonian University brought me to Krakow together with the HTDTWP group, that is, the How to do things with performance research project. I did carry my camera, tripod, pink scarf and black trousers with me, with the plan to spend the last day finding a suitable tree. After the conference I felt exhausted and joined Pilvi Porkola and Hanna Järvinen on a walk to the Kantor Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, both located other side of the river. And I decided I would NOT carry my equipment with me, ”just in case”. When we were returning to the hotel through the park and passed an elder tree with a low bending trunk that we had passed the day before, I asked Pilvi to take a snapshot of me sitting in the tree. What was meant as a simple souvenir to begin with, nevertheless turned into a small performance recorded on video, with my phone. The transformation from snapshot to ”serious” image making can be seen in the sequence of images, below. What was remarkable, from my perspective, was not so much to have other people with me, nor missing my costume, perhaps not even the use of a simple phone camera, but the idea that somebody else was holding the camera and framing the image. Suddenly I became a performer, a model or an actress for somebody else, even though I suggested that Pilvi might take an ”arlander-style” image from the back side. Later I edited a short video by reversing the order of the three video clips, With and Elder in Krakow (2 min. 6 sec), and uploaded it on the Research Catalogue, here.
Afterwards I thought about it, and realized, this could be one way to develop my practice of sitting in, on or with trees to be something more sociable: to invite people to use the camera, rather than to pose for it, as I have previously tried to do in the swinging together images. Hm. I have to think about that…
As part of re-examining the series of video works or performances for camera made on Harakka Island called Animal Years, I have revisited the same sites and recorded some sort of action reminiscent of the actions I repeated weekly during one year in that place. I have actually made a compilation of Animal Years I (2003-2009) and Animal Years II (2010-2014) including one video for each year. After visiting the shore of Year of the Goat, the ledge of Year of the Monkey, the shore with birches of Year of the Rooster as well as the pine tree of Year of the Dog, it was time to revisit the city skyline on the northwestern cliffs for Year of the Pig. My plan was to do it before the geese had occupied the area with their nests, but arriving to the island with the ferry-boat for the first time in quite a while on Friday afternoon, I quickly realized my mistake. The geese were everywhere, not all of them but most of them with nests. Some of the guys are extremely aggressive nowadays, because their territories are shrinking and they are combating fiercely with each other. Some of them tolerate humans reasonably well, if one does not go too close, but others are really mean, and run towards you from afar with their tongues out. One of these angry ones was blocking the path with such ardour, that I had to walk around the house and choose another path to the cliff, disturbing three or four other geese couples, which luckily took my passing by relatively easy. Fortunately there was no nest close to the spot where I would place my camera, nor on the cliff where I would enter the image. Further up on the slope one proud wanna-be head of family kept a strict eye on me and my camera, but relaxed after a while when he noticed I would not come closer.
Negotiating with the geese and the wind on the sunny island, looking at the city across the small strait was quite a contrast to the experience of participating in the Finnish Urban Studies conference and presenting my work from last year, the Tree Calendar, there. ALthough a lot of urban studies seems to be centred on city planning issues, there were some nice discussions, and interdisciplinary contexts are always good for you, despite being frustrating and exhausting. Letting the wind empty my brain to end the day was not such a bad idea after all.
This exercise in clumsy swirling against the city skyline took place in order to create a contemporary context and background for the old videos created ten years ago. But at that time I was using a large grey scarf, which caught the wind, while performing as a weird weather vane, as you can see on a still from Year of the Pig (2008),23 min., performed approximately once a week between 6 January 2007 and 3 January 2008:
Another video I will try to insert into the image I recorded is Day and Night of the Pig (2008) 8 min 20 sec., performed during the autumnal equinox between 22 September 4 pm and 23 September 2 pm with two-hour intervals:
A compilation of these videos, augmented by some academic reflection, will be presented at
PSi #24 in Daegu, South Korea this summer. What to do with the other works made in the year of the pig 2008, like Year of the Pig – Sitting on a Cliff 1&2 and Under the Spruce 1-3, which would be nice to compile into one Frame, too, I have time to think about later in the summer, when the geese have moved on…
Sunnuntaina aamupäivällä, huhtikuun kirkkaassa valossa, tapasimme Kirsi Heimosen kanssa pöheikössä Linnunlaulun kallioilla keskellä Helsinkiä tarkoituksenamme tehdä tuttavuutta heräävän pusikkokasvillisuuden kanssa ja liikkua hiukan, pitkästä aikaa. Olin palannut edellisenä iltana kiinnostavasta taiteellisen tutkimuksen konferenssista Plymouthissa, Englannissa, ja tuonut mukanani alkavan flunssan, joten päätin ottaa rauhallisesti ja vain venytellä hiukan. Rajasin kuvan niin, ettei naapuritalo näkyisi siinä (kuten kuvassa yllä) ja astuin ryteikköön. Oikeastaan kyse oli pensaikon ympäröimästä tasanteesta, mutta nyt ennen lehtiä kaikki oli suhteellisen avointa, ja vieressä mäessä kulkevat ihmiset katselivat – osa hämmentyneinä tai huvittuneina, osa ehkä ärtyneinäkin – meidän, aikuisten ihmisten, leikkitouhuja. Ohiajavien junien jyske rytmitti liikkeitämme, ja välillä kuului kauempaa kumeita räjäytyksiä, emme todellakaan olleet syrjäseudulla. Elämä eri muodoissaan kohisi ja kihisi kaikkialla ympärillä…
Kontatessani maassa silmiini osui pieniä ituja, niin pieniä kerällä olevia silmuja, ettei niistä mitenkään voinut nähdä mitä oli tulossa, alkavaa elämää hauraimmillaan. Tai miksei vahvimmillaan? Vaikka pieni lehtikiehkura näyttää avuttomalta, sillä on valtavat voimat puskea vanhojen kuivien lehtien lomasta, jopa niiden lävitse valoon. Ja sitten, aivan vieressä, tyhjä ruisku, uh! Muutkin olivat löytäneet tämän keskeisellä paikalla sijaitsevan ryteikön. Onneksi olin pukeutunut “kurahaalareihin” ja tottunut kaikenlaisiin jätteisiin erilaissa pöheiköissä vieraillessamme. Vasta kun olimme aikamme liikkuneet ja leikkineet ja jo lähdössä pois Kirsi huomasi toisen, korkealle nuoren koivun runkoon isketyn ruiskun. Se oli jotenkin karmea, raivon ele. Onneksi näimme sen vasta lähtiessä, muuten tuskin olisimme viihtyneet tuossa paikassa tai valinneet sitä leikkipaikaksemme.
After reading a nice little book by Jeffrey T. Nealon, Plant Theory – Biopower and Vegetable Life (2016), which consists of a preface, four chapters (on Foucault, Aristotle & Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze & Guattari and their ideas on vegetation), and a coda What difference does it make? I decided it was time to get out for a change. On the last day of March I followed a walking path on the slopes of the hills east of Puerto Rico on Gran Canaria in order to find some shrubs to sit with. And there were indeed plenty of them. At the bottom of the small valley, where the path crossed something that at some point might have been the bed of a brook I could get off the path, both above and beneath it, and made some attempts at performing for camera. The first image, above the path, is nice as a view, but there I placed myself much too close to the camera and become the main focus of attention:
The second attempt, below the path, is more interesting, because the shrubs are bigger and the branches produce interesting shadows. They are actually two different shrubs, a Tabaiba on the left and a Balo further down on the right, as I later learned:
The third image is perhaps the most fascinating, partly because the Euphorbia or Cardón as they are called here are so peculiar, partly because I managed to place myself more subtly with the plants:
These three images were my first attempts this Easter, oddly yellow in tone. I hope there will be more.
And there was to be more, for sure. On Sunday 1 April I made a new trip to the valley. First I sat with some flowering Tabaibas:
And on the way back I saw a Balo next to a rock providing some inviting shade, in a romantic image I had seen in so many fairy tale illustrations that I simply had to enter it. But too tired I miscalculated the distance, placing the camera much too close:
On Monday 2 April I made a third trip, with the aim of finding some Cardóns, which I remember grew higher up in the valley. And there were plenty of them. But first I sat with a Balo:
The Cardóns are quite amazing when watched closely, parts of them really old and withered, and then some parts growing new shoots directly from their fleshy but spiky trunks. They are not really inviting, but more evoking respect, I would say, hard to make acquaintance with but with a strong character:
Walking down the riverbed I decided I might make one more trip tomorrow to sit with some of the Balos I passed on the way. And in the park on the way back I posed on a bench under a Mimosa tree in order to remind myself to enjoy the places purposely made for humans, too, instead of always insisting on making everything so tiresome and exhausting and unnecessarily complicated:
Efter ett inspirerande försök i höst, har ja nu återbesökt platserna där jag uppförde Animal Years under åren 2002-2014 på Stora Räntan. Jag har besökt en plats åt gången och spelat in en session samt gott om extra bild av landskapet, för att använda som ett bakgrundsmaterial av nutida kvalitet och sätta in de gamla videorna som ett slags miniatyr installationer in i den bilden. Det första året, Hästens år, hoppade jag över, för där gjorde jag ett helt år på samma ställe, som en avslutning på serien, Year of the Horse – Calendar 2015. Det var alltså Getens år 2003-2004 jag började med, och visade mitt collage på seminariet i Åbo 7.10.2017; ett preliminärt resultat finns här. Det följande försöket var Apans år från 2004-2005, som blev till The Cliff Revisited och visades på vår forskningsdag How are things done, produced or effected with performance? den 8.11.2017. Det tredje försöket, med Tuppens år 2005-2006, och med det komiska inslaget av Viktor Rydbergs Tomten, kallade jag lite klumpigt The Shore with Birches Revisited och visade på vår andra forskningsdag Materiality of and in Performance den 2.3.2018. Och nu har jag alltså gjort en ny version av Hundens år 2006-2007 sittande i samma tall på Stora Räntan den 28.2. Det var förvånansvärt besvärligt, för trädet hade ju vuxit, och en liten sidogren hade vuxit sig så stor att det var svårt att rymmas att sitta. Men på något sätt lyckades jag hålla mig kvar i trädet nästan 20 min åter för att ha en ordentlig “inramning” för både året, Year of the Dog – Sitting in a Tree, och dygnet, Day and Night of the Dog från 2006-2007.
Förutom den seansen, ville jag spela in en bild där jag kunde sätta in den fyr-kanaliga installationen Shadow of a Pine 1-4, som jag gjorde med en annan tall på stranden, och spelade in samma positioner (liggande som tallens skugga på klippan) från två olika håll, med havet eller staden som bakgrund. Min tanke var att göra en bild från isen, i rät vinkel till både dessa positioner, som jag sedan kunde placera de gamla videorna i. Men det var lättare sagt än gjort. Trots att jag hörde från folk som bor på ön att det nog fortfarande gick att ta sig över, såg isen så obehaglig ut vid stranden, med vatten kluckande upp från stora springor mellan isflaken, att jag inte hade någon lust att ta mig ut på isen. Det skulle inte bli ett besök hos den andra tallen, utan en bild på avstånd, helt enkelt. Jag gick över till skäret intill, där Helsingfors segelsällskap håller hus, för att få en så rät vinkel som möjligt. Men det var så långt borta att man inte längre kund urskilja tallen. Dessutom hamnade jag mitt i en snöyra. Jag gjorde trots allt två försök från två olika uddar på ön, men skillnaden var inte nämnvärd:
Till sist bestämde jag mig för att göra ännu ett försök från Ugnsholmen, för därifrån kunde man åtminstone se den lilla tallen, och dessutom hade vädret klarnat en aning. Ifall det skulle gälla fotografier skulle det inte vara någon konst att pröva på olika varianter, men det här gäller videosnuttar på 15-20 minuter. Hur som helst, jag förfrös inte tårna, och den sista versionen är nog den jag kan tänkas använda:
The wood behind DOCH (Dans och Cirkus högskolan, School of Dance and Circus), where I have my working place these days, is part of Norra Djurgården (The Northern Djurgården Park) but unofficially called Lill-Jansskogen.I have been walking around there, along the various paths, looking for a nice tree to sit in, preferably a pine, but have not had much success in finding a suitable one. The wood is fascinating because it is deliberately left rather feral with lots of dead trees, and the terrain is rather varied as well. After making some excursions in the area I finally decided, on the eve of the Chinese New Year, to just make up a round for myself as near as possible to my base, with some stops on the way, something easy to repeat, if not daily, at least weekly. I wanted to begin a series of images to be repeated during the year of the dog – partly because I had missed the chance to begin at the ordinary new year – and to revisit my actions during the year of the dog twelve years earlier. At that time I was sitting in a pine tree on Harakka Island, lying on the rocks as the shadow of a small pine at the shore and also visiting an old pine tree in Kalvola about 100 km north of Helsinki, hanging from its branch and leaning on its trunk, although only once a month. Some of these works are archived on the research catalogue: Year of the Dog – Sitting in a Tree, Day and Night of the Dog, while all of them are available on the pages of AV-arkki, the Distribution Centre for Finnish Media Art, like Year of the Dog – Sitting in a Tree, Day and Night of the Dog, Year of the Dog in Kalvola – Calendar or Year of the Dog in Kalvola – Calendar 1-2, Shadow of a Pine I-II and Shadow of a Pine I-IV.
Since sitting in a tree, or on a tree or with a tree is the main action I have been engaged with during the first year of my artistic research project Performing with plants, which I am now continuing with in Stockholm, that seemed like an easy choice to go on with. But of course you want to find the right partner if you are going to commit yourself to a collaboration for a whole year. And nothing seemed really inviting or seducing or inspiring in any way. To simply get started I decided to make a try-out, and to begin with the stub of a recently felled old spruce, which had caught my eye during my walks, to sit on the stub as my first stop, and to continue from there. Moreover, I thought I would perhaps make do with some of the small pines on the hill right next to the building, since they were growing conveniently right there. So, the day before new moon I took my camera and chose these four stops.
Sitting with the tragic corpse of the spruce:
Resting in the corner of the fairy tale forest:
Swinging on the branch of an old pine on the hill:
And finally, sitting in, on, with or amongst a small pine by the path:
These four actions and four images, two with spruces and two with pines, are all very different in atmosphere, but I was rather happy with making these choices without further ado. This was a beginning, despite small technical problems, like the attachment part of my microphone being broken, or my memory card not finding the video files and so on. In the evening, in a professional photography shop, they managed to repair the microphone stand and to explain why my card reader did not find the files: I had accidentally recorded them in the wrong format. So, to celebrate the start of the Chinese new year, I decided to change the format I have been recording in to MP4, following the advice I received. This was after all only the first test.
The following sessions I will document on my Stockholm-blog, here. Still images and links will in any case be available on this page of the project site.
Pehmeä pikkupakkanen, lumen peittämä maa ja puolipilvinen sää tarjosivat erinomaiset olosuhteet ”pyöriskellä pöheikössä”. Sovimme tapaamisen Sibeliusmonumentin luona tarkoituksenamme lähteä sieltä rantaan päin etsimään sopivaa pusikkoa tai muuta joutomaata. Aivan monumentin vieressä oli kuitenkin houkuttelevan näköinen matalien käppyrämäntyjen muodostama ryteikkö. Ensin arvelimme sitä liian siistiksi ja esteettiseksi, kuin japanilaisittain sommitelluksi, mutta jo pikaisen tutustumisen jälkeen se osoittautui maagiseksi miniatyyrimaailmaksi. Mäntyjen rungot ja oksat taipuivat maata myöten muodostaen erinomaisia loikoilu- venyttely- ja kiipeilypaikkoja. Paksunpehmeä lumi peitti oksat ja neulastupsut ja luultavasti myös ryteikön suojiin jääneet roskat. Vain yksi muovipussi roikkui näkyvillä oksantyngässä ja sekin osin lumen peitossa. Minimännikön sisässä oli oma maailmansa, jossa tunsi olevansa omassa rauhassaan. Vain aukealla metsikön ulkopuolella törröttävä kamerajalusta ja kassit sen luona paljastivat, että tässä pensaikossa oli jotakin tekeillä. Tällä kertaa touhusimme kumpikin omiamme, Kirsi Heimonen ja minä, ehkä koska männynoksat toimivat eristyksenä joka suuntaan. Jälkeenpäin keskustelimme kokemuksesta hetken ja totesimme, että paikka poikkesi useimmista aiemmistä muun muassa yhtenäisyytensä vuoksi. Täällä oli pelkkiä mäntyjä, ja se teki tunnelmasta rauhallisen, koska mäntyihin yhdistyy myös kulttuurinen ajatus terveellisyydestä, selkeydestä ja puhtaudesta, jota lumi vielä vahvisti. Hetken männyn oksilla kömmiskeltyään ja saatuaan niiltä sopivasti lunta silmilleen, tunsi kokeneensa jonkinlaisen pikavirkistäytymisen. Outo paikka! Videolta napatuista stillkuvista näkee, että männikkö oli yllättävän tiivis:
Before starting something new it is a good idea to at least summarize the old thing. A strange little project, mainly published on instagram, has been going on since 2014, with a sliding beginning, but a very clear ending. See here. The first image was posted 22 July 2015 on Menorca (see the image above). It was the first image I ever posted on instagram, a picture of the stone against ultramarin blue paint on a wall on Menorca. The last image was taken on the beach in Jandia on Fuerteventura on the last day of the year 2017, deliberately as an ending of the project.
Actually the first time the small stone with the red arrow shows up on this blog or is mentioned anywhere, is in a post from Oulanka Nature Park on 14 September 2014. There I write about “some experiments with a small pebble I picked on Harakka Island earlier and painted a red arrow on, somewhat reminiscent of the double happiness sign I painted on a roof tile in Farrera in 1999, which resulted in the video work Double Happiness in Water (2001). This pebble with the arrow I placed in the corner of the image, pointing towards something worth focusing on.” (see the blog post here) And as it happens the arrow is pointing at water in that image.
The point of the project on instagram was to use the arrow to point at water in various forms, to highlight our dependence on water and the importance of water for life on the planet, as well as the various forms that water can take, its many transformations and uses. And to experiment with social media as a platform for a project, of course. Many of the images in the beginning contain drinking water, while most of the later images are beautiful landscapes with water in the background. My idea was to use instagram for a specific project, not for images in general, as most people do, but every now and then I added also images without the arrow. Before writing these notes I went through them and deleted all the others, to make the documentation ”clean”, thus the arrow images posted on instagram are now 210. What to do with the rest of the images – there are of course a lot more of them than the ones posted on instagram, and many variations of those ones, too – is another problem. The main reason for making these notes is to close the project in some manner, in order to begin a new one, which I describe briefly here.