At the end of my first week in Hailuoto, in a residency called daycare center, the sun finally decided to shine as beautifully as on the day when I arrived here last week. Most of the time there has been snowfall or rain, with more and more snow preventing the old snow from melting and the winter lingering on. Now the brilliant sunshine sparkled in the frost on the puddles on the muddy roads, at least hinting at a promise of spring. And today I finally visited my first Tarri pine, a special type of local pine with a thick trunk and a spread out crown. One of the most famous ones, the Askelin pine, probably named after the farm it is growing on, is known for enduring several wars, and they say it was damaged during the war 1742-43 and has also been hit by artillery. It is actually protected now, with reference to the nature protection law (luonnonsuojelulain nojalla), a sign next to it declares:
‘Rauhoitettu’ is a funny word, it means protected in this case, but it could also mean pacified, so both “made peaceful” or “to be left in peace”. My landlady explained how to find it, and when I walked on the road I saw several pines wondering whether they might be the right one. When I reached the old pine with the sign next to it, it was obvious that the other candidates where nothing near as big and old.
As part of my project Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees, (see separate blog here) I am of course interested in encountering local celebrities. This time, however, it would be hypocrisy to speak of an encounter – I behaved like a really impolite tourist, tramping around the tree without even greeting it first, taking my pictures and then leaving without the slightest thank you. I thought I would have learned to behave myself with trees by now, but obviously not. No wonder if they think they are strange people, these humans…
The two first months of the year I have spent a moment daily with the pines on Skifferholmen or Liuskasaari, an island connected to Uunisaari with a jetty or breakwater, and thus accessible during the winter months. When I began I did not imagine there would be ice so I could actually have walked to Harakka Island. Well, today I would not like to walk across on the ice any longer, because there is so much water on the ice, but some people still do. Today is the last day of February, so I will finish this practice. And I have not visited the pines daily, strictly speaking, because I have spent one week in Örö in the beginning of January and another week now at the end of February. (See the blog posts “Pines on Örö Again” and “New Pines on Örö”) There I have another pine tree, the pine next door, which I visit and hold on to for a moment every day, while there. The first tree on Skifferholmen I was holding on to as well, as described in “The Pine on Skifferholmen” See the first image from January above, and the last image of January, below.
I soon discovered, however, that I missed the ‘becoming tree’ balancing exercise and switched to that with the second pine, in February. See the blog post “Another Pine on Skifferholmen” The image with the second pine from the 1 February below shows me posing next to the pine in a familiar manner,
And also in the last image of February, where the sun creates a fantastic colour display:
These visits are all part of my ongoing project Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees, which has a project blog of its own, and an archive on the Research Catalogue, called “Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees” as well. The visits to the pines on Skifferholmen are all documented with still-images on one page in that archive, called, unsurprisingly “The Pines on Skifferholmen” You are very welcome to follow or look at any or all of them…
Spending a week on Örö to begin my 65th year has been a pleasure, and to see the woods and the shores covered in snow. Like most of us I have great expectations for the new year and hope it would bring some exciting changes and developments. The idea that the new year is like an empty sheet is of course an illusion, most of what will happen is already planned, and the future is often a continuation of the past. It is not unwritten at all, but rather tightly scripted. Still, I always hope for some miraculous strokes of luck or the like…
The year 2020 has been a crazy year for many of us, for me as well, and has involved all kinds of transformations and restrictions. The picture above is a prohibition sign painted on a tree trunk, marking the border of a nature reserve. It reminds me of not being able to visit my apartment in Stockholm since January, and of not being accepted to any of the two professorships that I applied for, but at the same time also of being able to spend time not only on Harakka Island but in three great residencies, in Johannesburg in South Africa, in Mustarinda in Hyrynsalmi and on Örö in Kimito archipelago. And most importantly, I have begun a new project, Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees. At the end of the year I usually summarise what I have done, and therefore I add here a list of almost everything I have accomplished this year, both small and bigger things:
Residency in Örö in November, Öres
Mustarinda residency during September see here
ARA (Arts Research Africa) residency in Johannesburg 10.2.- 23.3.(orig. 10.4.) 2020
Performing with Plants – Att uppträda/samarbeta med växter. More here and the living archive here
“Remembering the Year of the Tiger – Image, Memory, Site”, in Marja Silde, Outi Lahtinen & Tua Helve (eds.), Näyttämö & Tutkimus 8: Muisti, Arkisto ja Esitys [Stage & Research 8: Memory, Archive and Performance] 2020, 292-318. See here
“Miten tehdä asioita tutkimuspäivillä – Katsaus ‘Miten tehdä asioita esityksellä?’ -tutkimushankkeeseen” [How to Do Things with Research Days – Review of the research project How to do things with performance] by Annette Arlander, Hanna Järvinen, Tero Nauha, Pilvi Porkola, in Marja Silde, Outi Lahtinen & Tua Helve (eds.), Näyttämö & Tutkimus 8: Muisti, Arkisto ja Esitys [Stage & Research 8: Memory, Archive and Performance] 2020, 428-432. See here
“Dearest Pine”, in Jack Faber and Anna Shraer (eds.) Eco Noir: A Companion for Precarious Times. Academy of Fine Arts, Uniarts Helsinki Publishing 2020, 105-112. See here
“The Shadow of a Pine Tree. Authorship, Agency and Performing Beyond the Human”, in Ewa Bal & Mateusz Chaberski (eds.) Situated Knowing. Epistemic Perspectives on Performance London & New York: Routledge 2020, 157-170. See here
“HTDTWP presents: The Transformative Potential of Performance” by Annette Arlander, Hanna Järvinen, Tero Nauha and Pilvi Porkola, in Leena Rouhiainen (ed.) Proceedings of CARPA 6 Artistic Research Performs and Transforms: Bridging Practices, Contexts, Traditions & Futures Nivel 13 (2019) here
“Revisiting the Rock – Self-diffraction as a Strategy”, Global Performance Studies 3.2. (2020) here.
“Performing with Plants in the Ob-scene Anthropocene” in Nordic Theatre Studies< vol 32 2020, 121-142 https://tidsskrift.dk/nts/issue/view/8763
“Behind the Back of Linnaeus – Bakom ryggen på Linné.” Ruukku – Studies in Artistic Research, Issue #14 Ecologies of practice. Here.
ARA-Podcast – Performance as research: a discussion with Annette Arlander https://www.iono.fm/e/822054
“Revisiting the Rusty Ring – Ecofeminism Today?” PARtake Journal here
“The City Skyline Revisited – From networks to trans-corporeality”, Research in Art Education 1/2020, pp 37-55 here
Viisi vuodenaikaa – Harakan taiteilijayhteisön 30-vuotisjuhlajulkaisu (Harakka artist community 30 year celebration publication) small pdf:19 Harakan_julkaisupienversio
Performanssifilosofiaa – esitysten, esiintymisten ja performanssien filosofiasta performanssiajatteluun (eds.) Tero Nauha, Annette Arlander, Hanna Järvinen and Pilvi Porkola. Nivel 12. Teatterikorkeakoulu 2019.
online version https://nivel.teak.fi/performanssifilosofiaa/
downloadable pdf version https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/311478
Exhibitions, events and performances
Dear Firethorn Rhus (with text) shown at Muu Gaala in Helsinki 19-22.11.2020.
“With a Pine” as part of Be-coming Tree, a collective online performance 31 October 2020, see here
”With a Rowan”, as part of ABLE happening by Island Rehearsals on Harakka Island 20.8.2020 from 6 pm see here
Prforming with a pine in a collective performance Be-coming Tree via zoom on 1 August 11 am to 12 pm (UK time), see here
Mantereelta – Från Fastlandet – From the Mainland. Exhibition with video works in the Telegraph on Harakka Island 14-26 July 2020
Performance with an apple tree as part of SUSUKÄKE (Sumatrantien Suomalaisugrilainen käsitekesä) Fri 17. July 7 pm. See documentation here
Performing with my Juniper friend on Harakka Island as part of ISLAND REHEARSALS on Friday 5 June at 4 pm.
Visiting Nirox Arts 16-20 March https://www.niroxarts.com/
Day with a Juniper as part of the Video Weeks in gallery Sinne 21-26.2020. See here
Papers and presentations
Conversation about peer review in artistic research with Mika Elo, Maarit Mäkelä, Otso Huopaniemi and others at Kuva Research Days 9 December 2020.
Presentation of the outcomes of the project Performing with Plants at the autumn day of Society for Theatre Research 4.12.2020
Conversation with Antti Salminen to celebrate the publishing of the Finnish translation of Emanuele Coccia’s The Life of Plants by Tutkijaliitto, 29 October 2020 at 6 pm at Kääntöpöytä, see here
“Precarious Playground”, introductory walk and screening of “Returning to the Stairs” at NSU (Nordic Summer University) meeting 26-27.7.2020 see program
“Meetings with trees and the metaphysics of mixture”, at the event organised by Performance-as-Research Working Group / International Federation for Theatre Research CONTINUITIES in PRACTICE – a virtual exchange in order to continue the conversation Tuesday 14th July, 4pm-6pm (BST).
“Chronicles of Confinement: Europa”, conversation with performance artists 10 July 1 PM New York time, 8 pm Eastern European time, organised by Canongeproductions. See https://www.facebook.com/events/947715079006591/
“Principles of Artistic Research in Performance Doctorates”, in Visioning the Future: Artistic Doctorates in Ireland. Online Seminar Series 2020, 9 July 11 am to 12 pm. http://artisticdoctorateireland.com/events/. See details here
“Writing to Trees with Trees as Performance for Camera”, presentation at the PSI Artistic Research Working Group’s virtual summer meeting 7 July 2 pm UCT/GMT.
“Exposition and/ as Method”, lecture via zoom at SKH 22 June 2020 at 2 pm Stockholm time. https://www.uniarts.se/english/news/events/open-lectures
Presentation with HTDTWP at Tutke Spring Days 28-29 April, see here
Workshop with HTDTWP for doctoral candidates at University of the Arts Helsinki (online) 14-15 April 2020
ARA-seminar (online) 9 April 4-6 pm
ARA (Arts Research Africa) seminar 12 March 2020 1 pm to 4 pm Wits Theatre, Johannesburg.
Presentation via Skype at “Asking for Advice: Artistic Research in YouTube, Home videos and Conversation” 27.2. at Centre for Artistic Research, University of the Arts Helsinki, see here.
Seminar with artistic doctoral candidates organised by DIKU in Oslo 5-7.2.2020.
”Year of the Pig with a Tatarian Maple” presentation at the Research Week of Stockholm University of the Arts 24.1.2020. See programme here
The adventure begins with a bus from Helsinki to Salo and then Dalsbruk or Taalintehdas. I am going to spend the month of November in residency on Örö, or Öres. The day is grey, dark and gloomy as befits the first day of November. There will be heavy wind tonight; I hope we will get to Örö, the Ear Island, before nightfall. It is windy already, but at night it is even more scary. Luckily I don’t think there is big open water to cross before Örö, but I do not know for sure, I have never been anywhere near. My neighbor for the coming month is a Spanish guy who is on the same bus. It is good to know that I am not completely alone in the house or on the island. There are various caretakers and entrepeneurs living there, and the whole island is only approximately 2 km. I already see myself walking back snd forth on the paths several times a day.
The change of bus in Salo was easy, and in Dalsbruk we easily found the square and the shop where the taxi was to pick us up. He drove us to Kasnäs, down to the harbour, and reassured us that so far not a single case of covid has been discovered in the whole of Kimito. The boat ride was not as bumpy as I expected, the taxi boat was quite big and sturdy, and we arrived on Örö well before nightfall.
By the time we had walked with our carriages across the island and past the residency house to begin with, it was already dark. On the way I saw several interesting looking trees and there are some handsom pine trees right next to the house – something to look at tomorrow…
During my residency in Mustarinda, in September 2020, I have met many trees and performed with some of them in various ways. Only at the end of my stay did I try to write a letter to a spruce, a practice I have experimented with elsewhere. I wrote a small letter to a spruce, in Finnish, and made a video with the text as a voice-over – both the longer version without text Dear Spruce (20 min 15 sec) and the brief version with the spoken text added, Rakas Kuusi (5 min 47 sec) are available on the Research Catalogue, here. (And the text, in Finnish, I added to a blog post, here.) Inspired by this experience I decided, on the last day of my stay in Mustarinda, to go and visit a dead spruce lying on the ground next to the path that I remembered seeing several times while walking there, and decided to try to address the spruce cadaver in English. The full-length video Dear Deceased (20 min 15 sec) and a shorter version with the text added as a spoken voice-over Dear Deceased (with text) (6 min 26 sec) are both available on the Research Catalogue, here. And the text itself, uncensored, can be read here below.
dear deceased or departed, or whatever is the proper term for a respected and beloved dead being – because there is no doubt that you are dead, dead as a spruce, that is. Your body, broken and now separated from the roots, lies on the ground dry and dead like a skeleton, except that you are steaming with life of all forms – insects, fungi, larvae, lichen, microbes, and all the things that I cannot see. And who knows what mice or other furry creatures have nests further up in your former crown? You are clearly serving your community also while dead. I am not sure how you decide whether a tree is dead or not, because some trees are able to grow new roots from their trunk, or at least new branches to form new trunks growing from a trunk fallen on the ground. Perhaps that is not possible for spruces, though. I have never seen one on any of the spruce cadavers, and there are plenty of them in this forest. On the other hand, your roots seem intact, everything below ground, although invisible to me, could be alive, and simply waiting for the right moment to throw some green needles up in the air. Well, deciduous trees are doing that, creating a whole selection of new stems and young trees from the cropped stump, but again probably not the spruces, I’m afraid. And it looks like your wood has been quite thoroughly eaten by insects, perhaps before you even fell to the ground – that could have been one of the reasons that you fell in the first place. Usually the spruces around here seem to fall with their roots open, like losing their grip of the ground in a storm. But you are really broken midway, at the waist, well, at knee height, or wrists would probably be closer, if we use human measurements. – I was attracted to you at first by the huge mushrooms that grow like small parasols from your stump, and then by the intricate forms of your almost bare branches that spread out from the trunk on the ground. Sitting on a corpse, on a cadaver, is morbid of course; and thinking of you as a rotting heap of life, all kinds of creatures busily trying to decompose you to minerals and nutrients, like a giant compost, does not make sitting here more pleasant. In actual fact your trunk seems rather steady and comfortable to sit on, not that different from a wooden bench, despite your rounded form and the slightly irregular, itchy bark. There is a small ant nest (small compared to the giant ones all around here) right at my feet – hopefully they are not disturbed by me, planning a defence attack. The sun is still warm, and it is very quiet, no wind. I wonder how man winters you have already been lying here, not that many, I suppose, but that is hard to know. There is no moss growing on top of you, but that might be simply because your branches keep you raised from the ground. And how many years will it take for you to decompose completely and turn into soil? In some places here you can still see the contours of a tree trunk in the moss, although most of the wood is gone and the moss cover is continuous. You are fertilizing the soil, I guess, whereas a human body decomposing on the ground would excrete poisonous substances, at least that is what I have heard. There is something fascinating in wood being such a living material, although it is clearly part of a dead tree, or a formerly living tree. I imagined I would sit here and think about death and dying, and the value of being able to witness the processes of decay instead of being protected from all such “unpleasant details” by an overly hygienic and artificially maintained almost sterile environment. But instead I am thinking of wood and what a marvellous material it is. – I apologize for disturbing your well-earned rest here in the forest with such human-centred and utilitarian thoughts. And, on the other hand I have to thank you for your generosity, because I like to think that you gave me those thoughts here, in some manner. Thus, many thanks for this moment on your beautiful trunk, and all the best for the coming winter!
Going out to find a tree to befriend was the first thing to do yesterday, when waking up in the Mustarinda House in Hyrynsalmi, where I will spend all of September. The house is a former school situated up on the Paljakka Hill right next to the protected old-growth forest in the Paljakka Strict Nature Reserve. The forest is mostly tall spruce trees with occasional birches and aspen. The trees around the house are interesting-looking old birches, and I chose one of them, behind the house, towards the forest (see image above, yesterday, and below, today). The small spruces growing next to the birch caught my eye, and I thought I could join them in reaching up towards the crown of the birch. The dry tree trunks in the meadow to the left in the image are an insect hotel, an artwork of by Markku Hernetkoski. So, my plan is to continue my practice of “becoming a tree” together with the birch while I am here – for the whole month, actually. (You can follow my diary on the RC, here.) I hope to find some other trees to work with as well, but this birch will be my trusted diary companion come rain or shine. I am happy to be in this exceptional place – see Mustarinda website – and hope that my time here will be productive. My plans include writing the first version of the text to a small book called Performing and Thinking with Plants. Anyway, I am enjoying the luxury of being so near to what we would call “korpi” in Finnish, which would probably translate as “wilderness”, but is not really the same. According to the Wiktionary it is either “a boreal forest type appearing on moist moraine soils, characterized by dense growth of spruce as the dominating tree species and deep layer of moss as undergrowth”, or simply a deep forest, an area remote from dense population; backwoods, backwater, the sticks or even a type of desert. Well, there is dense growth of spruce and plenty of moss. And the area is not too densely populated, the nearest village is 23 km from here. Ideal for focusing on trees, one would imagine…
Video works in The Telegraph on Harakka Island 15–26 July 2020, noon to 5 pm.
Welcome to the opening on Monday 14 July at 4-6 pm.
The following works are included in the exhibition:
With Elms in Kaivopuisto 1 & 2 (2018)
In 2017, between 10.1. and 17.12., I visited a group of elms in Kaivopuisto Park in Helsinki altogether 101 times. I video recorded and edited these visits into a two-channel installation (1h 41 min 10 sec.), with one-minute images of each visit, here combined as a split-screen version.
With an Alder in Kaivopuisto (2018)
In 2017, between 12.1. and 17.12., I sat on an alder stub in Kaivopuisto park in Helsinki altogether 100 times. I video recorded and edited these sessions into a video (1h 40 min 10 sec) with one-minute images of each session.
With the Maple Tree (Corona Diary) (2020)
During the spring 2020, between 29.3. and 31.5., I performed daily for a video camera with a maple tree in the yard of Tehtaankatu 18 in Helsinki, and edited the performances into a diary of sorts (62 min 22 sec).
The works are linked to the projects Performing with Plants and Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees
These links are related to the public zoom webinar lecture at SKH Stockholm University of the Arts on Monday 22 June a 2 pm
Structure of the talk:
What is an exposition?
Method, or way of doing things
two quotes – composition and concept
Two expositions of my current research project, in process
Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees (archive on the RC)
Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees (blog)
Two examples of recently published expositions related to previous research projects
Annette Arlander, ‘Behind the back of Linnaeus – Bakom ryggen på Linné‘, RUUKKU – Studies in Artistic Research, 14 (2020) https://doi.org/10.22501/ruu.470496 [accessed 19/06/2020], http://www.ruukku-journal.fi
(if interested, see also the archive/timeline of the whole project Performing with Plants:
“HTDTWP presents: The Transformative Potential of Performance” Annette Arlander, Hanna Järvinen, Tero Nauha and Pilvi Porkola in Leena Rouhiainen (ed.) Proceedings of CARPA 6 Artistic Research Performs and Transforms: Bridging Practices, Contexts, Traditions & Futures Nivel 13 (2019)
a script of our performance in four parts, including a link to a page on the RC with the video shown as a background to my part of the performance, “Revisiting the Juniper”
(if interested, see also the archive/timeline of the whole project How to do things with performance https://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/281037/281038/31/25
Examples of methods
The above expositions include examples of one of my main methods, performing for camera with trees in order to create rough time-lapse videos. The video Dear Firethorn Rhus II (with text) 6 min., here as a low-resolution file, is a recent example of trying out a new method, writing to trees next to them. https://www.researchcatalogue.net/profile/show-work?work=823675
Two quotes related to “Concept and Composition”
“Two dimensions are combined in a performance. A performance is both a work and an event, both composition and exchange. The dimension emphasized can vary. Therefore, it could me more meaningful to speak of a performance composition and a performance event rather than a performance plan and a performance.[or script and mise-en-scene] /–/ A performance composition is a compound of all the material that is meant to be seen, heard, experienced through touch or kinesthetic sense, rhythms or references to meaning, a kind of base for the performance. A performance composition is not only a mental object or structure, but consists of material, physical and living elements, a collaboratively constructed world or entity, whose core or “soul” can be called the performance world. In an ideal case the performance world is the part of the performance composition, which everybody strives to recreate and embody in each performance event.
The performance event is the performance itself, what takes place in the performance space between performers and spectators. This event is influenced by many other things besides the performance composition. The amount of space in the performance composition left for improvisation or chance occurrences is variable. The performer can change or apply the performance composition according to circumstances and respond to the mood of the moment during the performance event or situation. Correspondingly, the spectator can choose another position or perspective in relationship to the performance, than the one proposed by the performance composition. Two performance events based on the same performance composition, can be very different, or very similar.”
Arlander, Annette “Esitys Tilana” [Performance as Space] Acta Scenica 2 Helsinki: Theatre Academy 1998, p 16. (translated by AA)
“According to Bohr, theoretical concepts (e.g., “position” and “momentum”) are not ideational in character but rather are specific physical arrangements. For example, the notion of “position” cannot be presumed to be a well-defined abstract concept, nor can it be presumed to be an inherent attribute of independently existing objects. Rather, “position” only has meaning when a rigid apparatus with fixed parts is used (e.g., a ruler is nailed to a fixed table in the laboratory, thereby establishing a fixed frame of reference for specifying “position”). /–/ Similarly, “momentum” is only meaningful as a material arrangement involving movable parts. Hence, the simultaneous indeterminacy of “position” and “momentum” (what is commonly referred to as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle [which is about indeterminacy rather than uncertainty] is a straightforward matter of the material exclusion of “position” and “momentum” arrangements (one requiring fixed parts and the complementary arrangement requiring movable parts).”
Karen Barad “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2003, vol. 28, no. 3, p 814.
Other sources mentioned
Arlander, Annette. Performing Landscape – Notes on Site-specific Work and Artistic Research. Texts 2001-2011. Acta Scenica 28. Theatre Academy Helsinki 2012.
“Om metoder i konstnärlig forskning / On methods of artistic research” in Torbjörn Lind (ed.) Metod – Process – Redovisning Konstnärlig Forksning Årsbok 2014 Vetenskapsrådet 2014, Method – Process – Reporting Artistic Research Yearbok 2014 Swedish Research Council 2014, 13-25 / 26-39. https://www.vr.se/english/analysis/reports/our-reports/2014-07-01-artistic-research-yearbook-2014.html
Today I started a new work, a performance with Itsenäisyyden kuusi, the Spruce of Independence, in Kaivopuisto Park. I notised it for the first time a few weeks ago, which in itself is absurd, because I have been walking around in the Park since the 1970’s, but never really payed attention to it, perhaps because it stands in a strange corner of the park, near the entrance to the restaurant. I no longer remember what made me look it up on the internet, but when I saw that it grows in my neighbourhood I decided I would do something with it, as part of the project Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable trees. This one surely is remarkable, planted of a seed put in the ground at the time of the declaration of Finnish independence in 1917 and planted on site in the 1930s.
Wikipedia describes the spruce like this (in Finnish).
It is a controversial tree, I suppose, with the strange monument next to it, but it was celebrated in 1967 when lots of small spruces grown from its seeds were distributed around the country, and again during the centennary in 2017.
My first idea was to sit and write letters to it somewhere nearby, as I have done with the spruce on Harakka Island, not so far from there. I knew I could not get the whole spruce in one image, so I considered the possibility of making two versions, one from afar, with the spruce visible between other trees, and another version with me and its lower branches, or something. Only when I finished my Corona Diary, my daily balancing act with the maple in the yard in the house where I live, on the last of May, did I realize what I would do. Rather than write to the Spruce of Independence or hold on to it or what not, I would sinply transpose my balancing act to take place next to the spruce, not necessarily every day, but regularly during the summer or June at least, now when I am in Helsinki anyway. And that is exactly what I did today. Choosing the position of the camera and the framing of the image was not so easy, and I am not very happy with my decision, but it seemed the best solution at least today. The image will look very different when the shadow of the tree falls differently, but that remains to be seen. I chose my position in the shadow based on the circumstances today. What happens next is something else.
Hare are some images from today:
And one from last week (or the week before) when I walked by with my phone: