Talking with the Reclining Pine (in Kaivopuisto Park)

Dear pine tree, hello. We have not met before, although I've been passing by many many times over the years and recently even looked at you because your trunk is such an inviting bench, almost, to sit on. I hope I'm not too heavy for you when I'm sitting here, but I guess not, because I can't feel you reacting to my weight in any way and now the frozen ground provides support of course. I thought I would be coming to visit you a few times because I live nearby and try to instigate some sort of conversations with you. I've tried that before with a pine on Örö Island on the shore there, and I thought it would be interesting to meet somebody who is a neighbor, because we are neighbors really. You're growing or living here in a small group of pines below the main hill in the park, so somewhat protected from the winds from the north and especially northwest. And you have a great view of the sea if you wish, I don't know if it has any meaning for you. Right now I'm sitting with the sea to my back or to my right shoulder and facing northeast actually, looking at a group of people trying to have a party outdoors. There's a lot of kids around using the icy slopes for sliding down. It's Saturday today and sunny and rather chilly so, so it's not, the snow is not wet, so it's a perfect weather for outdoor games. I'm not so fond off slippery slopes, on the contrary, I find icy paths really heavy to navigate. So I'm very happy to sit here with you, because you're so stable and well, comforting. I can't say you're warm right now, you're you're actually rather cold, too, but somehow reassuring. I wonder what made you bend so low, if there was some accident or if something was preventing you from growing straight up, like your family around. But of course this bent form where you follow the ground and then slowly rise towards the sky in a soft curve makes you easier to approach for a human being. You might wonder why I'm speaking English to you when we're here in Helsinki, or Helsingfors in Swedish, and the natural languages would be Finnish or Swedish. But I guess it doesn't matter for you what language I speak, because either you react to the sound of my voice -trees and many plants can hear quite a lot I hear - or, then you might be able to read my thoughts. That sounds a little bit weird to suggest but, but how can I know? So I like to think that although this might feel or look or sound like a somewhat one-sided conversation or even a monologue, I hope that I will become sensitive and sort of increase my capacity to understand what you're thinking or saying or expressing or wishing. But that might be for the next time. This was just my first attempt at adressing you and I'll be back again. Thank you for this moment together. Take care.

Hello pineit is cold, windy. A few days ago, the sun was shining and the ice was melting. But yesterday all this snow came down. And now it's really cold. They've been cutting down the branches of your neighbor'ssome sort of park maintenance work, I suppose. And some of your branches too, I hope it didn't hurt. But let's hope they know what they're doing, maybe you grow better then, or perhaps is just to avoid thickets or something like that. It's almost a month since I visited you last time. Although I've been visiting the pine on the other side of the hill, almost daily now. When I thought that I should come and talk with you, I didn't really know what towhat to tell you. Because I have only sad news, there is war in Europe. The second week of Russian invasion in Ukraine. There has been a lot of talk of what to do about it. Even discussions about if Finland and Sweden should become part of NATO, because Russia is so unpredictable, and so on. But that's something which hardly interests you, I guess. Another thing I thought about was I am following some astrological pages. And I like to read the forecasts , or not really forecasts but the ideas of, of life cycles of time. And normally, the influences are rather brief, a few days or maybe a few months. But now I had an announcement that, a further cycle by Pluto, planet Plutois going to come into opposition, which means that I would be starting a development that would last about 250 years. So something that would continue long after I'm gone. Some sort of work related thing, which has to do with the society at large. That sounded rather scary, because I'm not involved in political work or social work or community work even. And then I started to think, could it somehow relate to something that I should write? Or is it something I should do together with you or your relatives? What could it be? Or is it rather something that I don't know that I'm a part of, but will be part of without being aware of it? And as a contrast I thought about my late mother saying that when you’re really stressed and everything goes wrong you should think, what does this mean after 100 years. But she thought that in terms of putting things into perspective, that things don't maybe feel so important then. But now, on the one hand with the war, but especially with the climate crisis and the extinction of species, what something means after 100 years is really important. And everything or anything we do, can have far reaching consequences. Well, I don't know what else to tell you. I'm too cold to sit here any longer, but I'm really happy to see you. And to see that you're doing fine. That's one good thing with the planetary cycles. Spring is coming. It will come. So let's hope for that. See you soon again. And take care. 

Hello, Pine. Or should I say dear Pine. Nice to see you again. I was here a few days ago, and I didn't realize it was very windy then; it was cold, but it was very windy. So a lot of what I tried to speak to you was not audible. Right now there is some sort of helicopter or other flying thing above us making a lot of noise, too. But I hope this is audible. And perhaps you can somehow read my thoughts if you can't hear my voice. Although I know they say that plants actually can hear. It might be strange to call a big pine tree like you for a plant. But of course you are a plant as well. The sound of the motors in the air reminds of the current situation. Although I'm not afraid of those helicopters, I think they're not doing anything related to war. But there is a war going on in Europe right now. And a horse sledge is riding around, because It's Saturday today. You can hear the bell, jingle bells. They ride here for tourists or visitors who want to have the experience. I wonder what the helicopter is looking for, really. There is a war in Europe going on, as I told you, not here, but not that far away, in Ukraine. It's the same longitude actually the same time, as we have here, but further south. And they too, are bordering on Russia. So Russia has invaded them and tries to incorporate them back into Russia, I suppose. It's horrible, because EU and the Western countries try to support Ukraine, but they want to avoid a World War. And from the Russian perspective, they somehow claim that they're going to liberate the poor Russians that are suffering in Ukraine. Which is like, very weird retorics. So with the same idea, they could very well come and liberate the Russians that live in Finland, too. But the sad thing is that they're bombing civilian targets and causing a lot of suffering. But of course, in the long run, the economic sanctions against Russia will cause a lot of suffering to the Russian people as well. So the Russian leaders really should think twice. Everybody speaks of Putin only, but I don't think it's only one person who is responsible. Anyway, I understand you're not so interested in questions of war. And you're probably not old enough to have experienced the bombing of Helsinki during the Second World War. Or maybe you were a youngster. I have never experienced a war nearby in my lifetime. But of course, my parents did, and my grandparents experienced two world wars. So I really, really, really hope that the war would end soon. And that it would not spread towards the north. It's strange, how quickly things can change. Sometimes they change so very, very, very slowly. There is something in the Imperial ideology that still remains from the 19th century. But otherwise, the whole situation in Europe changed in one week. Well, I'm not an expert on international politics, and I shouldn't bother you with that. But they relate to time. And time is something that I think we could talk about, because you have a sense of time, don't you? I'm sometimes fascinated by astrology, although it's a pseudo-science in a way, but the mathematics are exact, it's only the interpretations that vary hugely. But in in one such prediction, I read that I have Pluto on my MC right now, or for a few months. And one interpretation was hilarious, or terrifying, because it said that I would be part of a process that would come into fruition within 250 years or more. And that's way beyond my way of even imagining what life would be like, not to speak of that I would be anywhere around. So in some sense, that's a huge challenge. What could I contribute to that would be important in 250 years? I remember my late mother used to say that when things are really chaotic, and everything goes wrong, and everything is a mess, then it's good to think, what will this mean in 100 years time. And she meant that as a sort of perspective, because many of the things that we think are important, wouldn't be that important, if we look at them from 100 years from now. But today, because of the climate crisis, the climate change, the global warming, and the extinction of species and all the environmental degradation, which threatens to make life somehow unlivable, for humans at least, on the planet, suddenly thinking in terms of 100 years from now, becomes very important. So it really does matter what we do now, even the trivial details sometimes.Well, I don't know if I sort of … sitting here with you, what does it contribute to anything actually, I wonder. Or am I sitting here simply to to somehow try to establish a contact, aware that I somehow depend on you and your kin for life support. But maybe also to find some sort of peace of mind for a moment. It sounds strange and egotistical or somehow curious in this situation, but being worried without doing anything doesn't help anybody, I guess. The good thing with planetary cycles is of course that although everything changes, some things come again like the spring. And today you can really feel that because the sun is almost warm. Here we're sitting in the shade; I'm actually not only in your shade but in the shade of your neighbors. But in the sun, you can feel the warmth increasing and the snow is really melting nowslowly. I guess you, too, enjoy the increase in light because it gives you energy; it helps your digestion or well it's not called like that, it is photosynthesis of course. So, your food production becomes easier or stronger. There the horse sledge comes back again; romantic anachronism in a way but somehow, it's also nice to see a horse, suddenly, here, and to think that 100 years ago there were plenty of horses, probablyWell, what else can I say? I hope that in 100 years, there will be plenty of pine trees and also in 250 years. So, goodbye for now and see you soon and take care. 

Hello Pine, nice to see you again. It's been almost a month since I was here last time. The snow has melted a little bit, but there is still a lot left of it or actually not snow, but ice. And it feels like March, although it's the eighth of April. So this is what we call in Finnish Takatalvi, 'back winter'. When I thought about coming to you, today, I thought about this idea of speaking to you instead of writing to you. And whether it would somehow increase the feeling of liveness or at least real-time, which is important for traditional performance art. We had a discussion with some colleagues, an online discussion, related to digital performances last week. It was a continuation of a discussion we had two years ago when the pandemic had forced us all on Zoom and Teams and whatever. And it was funny that not that much had changed in these two years, although we have become more comfortable, and used to Zoom conversations and online events, and so on. But that discussion reminded me of a text from 2008 by Philip Auslander, which is about liveness. I mean, he has written about liveness before in dialogue or in, or arguing against actually the classic idea by Peggy Phelan, and many performance artists that performance art is ephemeral, that it becomes itself through disappearance. And, like trying to document or mediate performance art, turns it into something else. And that's true in some sense, of course. But that was not what interested us at that point, but more about how performance takes place in digital environments, and the changing idea of liveness. And that's something that was, that came up already in the text in 2008. Or actually Auslander references, Nick Couldry, who wrote in 2003, about online liveness and group liveness. And those are of course, quite strong now. His main text is about the collaboration of a musician who is playing together with a robot. But what interested me was this change of the idea of liveness from being in the same place at the same time to being in contact at the same time, like via streaming or telephone or internet and so on. But why that interests me is actually related to, also to the idea of liveness as interaction. Because it changes our relationship, your mine, my relationship to trees or plants in general, if I would somehow need to imagine or need to experience that you respond to me immediately in order for me to feel that you are alive. So if a robot responds to me, a machine responds to me, and that makes me feel that the machine is alive. Do you then feel dead simply because you don't react in the same manner. I'm sure you react, and we exchange chemicals, and all kinds of material and semi-material stuff, but you're not responding to me in a way a robot might, or an animal, or another human, at least not so that I can experience it. And that's somehow horrifying to me. I'm not worried about digital performances taking over, or we spending too much time on zoom. On the contrary, if we learn to use technologies, so that we can be outdoors and share... I could share this moment with other people online, and with you, although this is now a recording, but it could be a live streaming. And that's a richness. But what is really not a richness, which is really a catastrophe is if we lose our understanding of other beings as alive. So, if I wouldn't be able to sense that you are a living being simply because you don't behave like the robots I'm used to work with, that would be horrible. Of course, if I'm really honest, how do I know that you are alive? I know it via my experiences of other plants. Or if I really try to sense it, can I can I feel that you're alive? I'm not sure. I mean, you seem very much alive, because it's good to breathe with you. And of course, now the wind moves your needles and so on. But strictly speaking, you're not responding to my talking to you directly. But anyway, even though it might be partly based on previous knowledge, I really appreciate the fact that I can feel that you are alive. And regardless of your behaviour towards me. Well, why do I speak about this to you? Because, well, it came to my mind. And because this idea of speaking to you, rather than writing to you, hopefully increases the sense of liveness for you, but especially then for the listener or viewer of the recording. Because unlike when I wrote letters to some trees, and I then later read them and recorded them, although the text was exactly the same that I wrote there and then, of course, the recording took place later, and it could be edited and so on. But this is rough. So if the wind destroys the sound every now and then that's what happens right now. It's quite cold and it's quite wet, so I think I'll leave you again for a moment, or not for a moment. I leave you for several weeks, maybe almost a month again. But I want to thank you for letting me sit here and talk with you. And I really appreciate your being there and being present with me, even though you don't respond to me directly. So thank you for being there. Bye.

Hello pine. It's a while since I've been here. Today, it's Sunday, it's Mother's Day. And the weather is changeable. A few minutes ago, there was some hail, but also sun. And the wind is unpredictable. I hope it will not destroy our conversation completely. Or my talking and your listening. Although I try to listen to you as well. Because it's Mother's Day, I thought I would talk to you about the book by Suzan Simard, Finding the Mother Tree. But then I happened to read a text called The Camera People, written by Eliot Weinberger, recommended to me by an anonymous peer reviewer, who commented a text that I had written. And I read it and and thought at first that well, why should I read this text about ethnographic filmmaking? A very funny essay criticising the idea, or ideas of ethnographic filmmakers earlier, it's published already in 1992, about the idea of objective filmmaking, and trying to capture reality. And it begins by describing this strange group of people who think they are invisible, coming to a village with huge machines and putting up their camp and imagining that they wouldn't be influencing the people they're visiting. So I wonder, should I think of you as a native here, that I'm somehow ethnographically trying to document? No, I never thought of that possibility, really. But of course, it could be that I could, I would try to document your life. But then sitting on your branch and talking to you wouldn't be the right way to do it, I guess. But then I read in the text ...there were many descriptions of strange films and so on, but but then there was a reference to the anthropologist Margaret Mead and her idea that you could put a camera in the corner somewhere and just put it on and leave it there recording and that it could capture reality or the real actions because people would forget about them, forget about the camera, that is. And in a strange manner, that is of course what I'm doing. There is a camera behind my back and it's recording part of you and, and me sitting here. But the idea is not that we forget about the camera. On the contrary, I'm doing this because of the camera and because of the iPhone that I'm having in my hands, and that records my speech to you. There was also in the same article, there was a funny list of 14 or 16 points, like demands or requirements created by somebody called Heider, what ethnographic film, what rules it should follow in order to be scientific. And these included many things like minimal, minimising inadvertent distortion, and of course minimising deliberate, intentional distortion of the activities. The idea of ethnographic presence - well, I'm present, sure, - but also the idea of recording whole people and whole actions using continuity of time, as long as possible, real time and synchronous sound, un-manipulated sound even and demystifying narration. I wonder if this narration is demystifying. And many other details that I funny enough could recognise as principles that I have been following, without realising, not for the same reasons though. For me the idea of real time, or un-manipulated image or un-manipulated sound is more a value of simplicity. It's not about reality, or documentation or truth, but aesthetic simplicity. So, paradoxically, the reason for me to follow those principles is the very opposite, that they were created for. Namely, they were created to avoid too much focus on aesthetic considerations. Well, this whole idea of sort of objectivity is problematic. And although I'm using these tools of simple, so called objective recording of events, I'm not claiming that this is in any way objective. On the contrary, I'm very subjective here and you're very subjective, in your way. And I'm really reminded of Usula Le Guin's phrase from a text, which I hope I can quote it approximately correctly, when she explained that she's trying to subjectify the universe, because look where objectifying it has gotten us. Yes, a lot of the problems we're facing come from our view of everything around us as objects or trying to take a so called objective view instead of respecting the different subjective perspectives of various creatures. And of course, there is this classic feminist tradition, pointed out by Donna Haraway in her Situated Knowledges already in the 80s that there is no other way to objectivity or intersubjectivity, let's put it, then combining partial perspectives. So instead of trying to have a God's eye view, an objective view, a non-personal view that would somehow be outside of everything, we have to accept that we are here in this mess, and have our own perspectives on things. And then by combining and comparing them, we might find some common ideas or some intersubjective things to agree upon. Well, we have a long way to go dear pine, to find a way of creating some intersubjective perspectives amongst us. But I thank you very much for for letting me sit here and agonise today in the cold wind. But the spring is coming and let's see what happens. I wish you all the best and thank you for today.