Dear pine tree, hello. I wonder how I should approach you and I realise it's strange to speak English with you here in Stockholm where the natural language would be Swedish I suppose. Or then some kind of pine language that I don't master. You're growing on a hill in the Norra Djurgården Park or what is sometimes called Lill-Jansskogen, Little Jan's Wood and right now there is some airplane slowly passing away in the distance. It's Saturday so there are lots of people and dogs in the park, but not right here. I came to you once before or came to this wood and noticed you. But that was a few days ago and there was plenty of snow. A lot of that is gone now. I was looking for a pine tree to befriend, a pine tree to visit repeatedly. And ideally a pine tree I could sit in or on. Obviously, you're not that kind of fine, you're tall, and big and beautiful. And that's why I somehow I noticed you and was almost mesmerised by you. Also, some of your branches are really hanging low, I could almost touch some of your needles in front of me. Well, it's not the same as having physical contact by leaning on you or sitting on you or climbing up on your branches. But maybe this is better for you actually, that I keep some distance. These are strange days. It's the end of February, but it feels like March. But especially strange days because there is a war in Europe. Russia has invaded Ukraine or tried to invade Ukraine. And that is somehow shocking news to everybody. I remember a brilliant woman, a scholar and an artist Daria who wrote a text for an online journal we edited about working with the vegetal, and she was describing among other things, the attachment that people could feel to their gardens and how they suffered when they had to leave them. And that's of course something that is different for you and for us humans. Because you cannot leave yourself. Your offspring can leave and move. But you have to stay here and you have stayed here for a long time. You're quite tall and and your trunk is thick. But I don't have an idea of whether you're even maybe 100 years old. You could be, that's about the average age for a pine tree, in these areas, they say, provided they can live in peace. Because of course, most pine trees are growing in plantations nowadays, and cut down much earlier. Because you live here in this nature park or well, some sort of royal hunting ground originally, I suppose, nowadays an area for recreation, you're quite safe, I guess. But of course, you will also suffer from the climate change. Because warmer weather brings more insects to bother you. And the droughts might be dangerous for you, although you're quite hardy when it comes to dry periods. And then the storms. The soil here on the hill cannot be that strong or thick. But you look very, very strong and balanced, where you grow. I'm looking forward to coming back to you for advice and support. Now, I don't have any specific question to you. Except maybe exactly this one, if you are willing to engage in a conversation with me, albeit somewhat one sided of course. But I like to think that by staying with you, and next to you, I could somehow absorb some of your thinking or wisdom. Or that even, that you could even share some of your ideas and your wisdom with me somehow deliberately. I don't necessarily mean that in the sense of some fairies or little people living in your crown or some spirit figures, but more like the trans-corporeal exchanges that take place. Because if we can exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide and radioactive waves or some type of other chemical, and well, many kinds of exchanges, which are somehow on the border of material and immaterial, then why not thoughts as well. Anyway, it doesn't bother me that I don't understand how that could take place. But I somehow wish that I could learn to be more sensitive. And to train myself to be receptive to the thinking that you emanate in your way. Thank you anyway, for letting me address you like this. I wish you all the best for the spring, for the coming spring. And I hope to come back to you by the end of March. So, take care.
Hello Pine. This is the talking human again. You probably can't remember, but I was here almost one month ago. The world looked different then, at least this world with some snow still. You're looking fine, I hope you'll feel fine too. I promised that I would return to you and try to have a conversation with you as part of my project pondering with pines. Pondering, I don't really know what ponder means. Something like contemplating or meditating or analysing or scrutinizing or thinking. And I would like to try to think with you. Yes, I would like to learn to listen to you and with you. But, also to think; or how to think differently than the way that we humans are taught to think. I love the idea of thinking as something that’s happening, like philosopher Michel Marder has suggested that it thinks. There is an impersonal it thinks. Or maybe you could say like, it is thinking, like it is raining. And it doesn't then mean only the vegetal individual like you the pine tree, but somehow the impersonal connected thinking that takes place between things. In specific places, and at specific times may be, in specific circumstances, but not within individuals, but between them or as some sort of shared basis maybe. I don't know philosophically, really deeply what that would mean, but emotionally and intuitively I think the idea that it thinks is great. Now, the wind wants to think, too. Well, saying that the wind wants to think is playing with personification in a way. Of course, you could accuse me if you would like to, for somehow anthropomorphizing you by speaking to you like this. So, trying to be addressing you like another Anthropos, another human being. But no, I want to try to address you as a pine, although I cannot speak your pine language. Also, despite all the criticism against personification or calling it even animistic, there are many thinkers and poets who really suggest that we should endorse this idea of subjectifying other beings besides the humans. And that doesn't automatically mean that we make them human-like, but if you don't grant any subjectivity to other beings, then it's much harder to respect them or understand them as being alive. This being alive is of course, a difficult question nowadays with artificial intelligence and all kinds of intermediate forms between life and non-life like viruses. But I've learned from other plants, not from you, to know that you are very much alive, although you look immobile. There is a scholar called Matthew Hall, who wrote and here comes the wind again. So, Matthew Hall he wrote about… he wrote about plants as persons, and how important it would be that we would consider plants as persons. But Michael Marder, who I mentioned to you in the beginning, is sceptical about that, and things on the contrary, that human beings should think of themselves less as persons and more as vegetal in their own manner, too. So, rather than approaching you, as a pine tree person, I should recognize that there is vegetal basis in my existence as well. And sure, there is. But, of course, personhood can be understood in a less concrete manner. And for me, it of course is linked to individualism, which is a problematic idea, sure. But if we think of being an individual, not in the literal sense of not being divisible, because unlike a human being, you sure you are divisible. I could take a branch of yours and it might grow into a new pine tree. I don't know if it works with pine so well, because your trunk is so wooden, or with trees anyway. But, like grafting and, and many types of ‘sticklings’ [cuttings] are taken, if that's what they're called. Plants surely are divisible. Some plants can be eaten up to 70% and still grow happily. A human being cannot grow a new arm if it's cut off, although we are not indivisible in a psychological sense. But the individuality or personhood might more relate to actually the place and time that we started with, the idea that you have grown into this specific being by living right here, in these years before now. And I keep talking and talking, I'm the talking human being. I'm not listening to you at all. Forgive me for being so brutally self-obsessed. I have come to you exactly to try to think with you. But when I try to listen to you, I hear only screaming children somewhere in the woods and the distant traffic. And I see the sun shining behind your trunk beautifully. I guess it makes you as happy as it makes me happy now after the winter. So, let's speak more about that another time. Thank you for listening to me today. And hope to see you soon again. Take care.
Hello pine, here is the talking human again. It's been quite a while since I was here. But you look fine, almost the same or the same to my eyes. There is quite a lot of wind. Let's hope it doesn't destroy this recording completely. I have no good news to you. The war is still going on in Ukraine. And now the main topic of discussion in Finland and in Sweden is how to proceed, whether to become a member of NATO or not, or not even whether or not but when, and how, at least when it comes to Finland. I'm of course of the generation who is not too happy with these alliances supporting nuclear weapons, but these days, it seems there is no other alternative. At least when it comes to Finland, we cannot stay alone with the neighbour going more and more lunatic day by day. Or let's put it not lunatic but just impossible to negotiate with because not following any of the rules decided upon together and so on. But no, I didn't come to you to talk about politics, sorry for that. Maybe I should tell you about the text I'm writing at the moment or rewriting, it's an old text, about becoming a tree with a tree. It's not about talking to trees or writing to trees, but practicing the two-legged tree pose, a yoga asana next to trees that I have been doing since the beginning of the pandemic actually. And I've tried to write about that, the different trees I've met and different variations of the practice that I've explored. But especially the tension between an inward awareness and an outward awareness, which becomes very tangible when you're doing a balancing exercise. Now, when I'm talking to you, there is no doubt that I'm focusing on you, my attention is on you, even though I'm talking. But if I would practice the two-legged tree pose next to you, which I could because there is space next to your trunk where I could easily try to balance, then a lot of my attention would go to the muscles of my own body and trying to maintain equilibrium. And I would also have to focus my eyes on a point rather than experiencing the environment more broadly. So there is tension between these two kinds of awareness. Well, so that's what I've been trying to rewrite and make more understandable. It's difficult because I'm not familiar with the discussions in somatic practices in general, so I don't have so much context to relate it to. Because my own context is that of performance art and video art and critical plants studies maybe. The other thing that might interest you is a performance or an evening of performances and videos, or a performance with videos, which I call Practicing with Pines that will take place at the end of April in Myymälä 2 Gallery in Helsinki. It's a small space with two rooms and I'm trying to show a few videos where I practice with pines, and then practice next to the videos. Of course, practicing with the image of a pine tree is very, very different than practicing with a real pine tree outdoors. But that is about what I can do in those circumstances. What else could I tell you? Well, it's Good Friday today, Easter Friday, traditionally the day when everybody is sitting at home and commemorating the suffering of Christ and so on, or depending on your culture, maybe taking part in parades or whatever. But in our Nordic Lutheran tradition, it's a day of stillness. And so in some sense, it's very appropriate to spend at least a part of the day here with you. The only problem is that it's really chilly. The wind is cold. The sun makes it look like it's spring. And there are small green leaves coming up on the ground everywhere. Everything is waking up. But it's still cold. So I think I will leave you, now. And thank you for being there. And thank you for allowing me to talk with you or to you, next to you and hope to see you again soon. So take care.
Hello, pine, here's the talking human again. About one month has passed, so maybe you don't remember me? Or why would you remember me, but nice to see you anyway. Now everything around you is so green and lush, that you look a little bit gray, almost, or tired a little bit. But when I look at your branches, I can see there are new needles coming up, new sprouts. I thought about it when I showed a video clip to some people, where I tried to address a pine tree, another pine tree, and ask for advice. And then one of the participants commented and brought in the idea of Umwelt or the idea presented by Jakob von Uexkull already in the 30s, 1930s or something like that, that all creatures have their own environments, so to speak, because they have their life worlds depending on their way of living and their sensorium, what is important for them, what they can sense, how they live. And I remember the much quoted example, I think, which is famous via Agamben, or somebody, about the tick that waits, which is a blind tick, that waits for all its life to experience the warmth of a mammal coming by and then throws itself into the air to land on that mammal and suck blood and then reproduce or however it is, but like there is a very specific way of experiencing and living our life for all creatures. And that we therefore never can understand the life worlds of other creatures. And that has, of course, also been criticised. Sometimes it feels even among humans that it's very difficult to understand how somebody else experiences things, or to explain to somebody else how oneself experiences even though we have approximately the same sensorium or approximately same life world and digestive processes and somewhat similar upbringing and depending on of course, circumstances. But like describing this specific kind of pain, how can you do that? There are no exact words for it. Or other experiences. So if it's difficult among humans, how much more difficult would it then be with other types of animals or, like vegetal creatures like trees, like you? But, nevertheless, I still, even though it feels almost impossible, I nevertheless somehow try to trust, that there are similarities, because we have a common ancestor in the first cellular creatures that started to combine carbon molecules in a way that and to utilise oxygen. I'm not good at chemistry or biochemistry, but still there is a common ancestry and still a lot of commonalities like breathing, like breathing. But breathing is actually one of the key examples of Emanuele Coccia, whose critique of Uexkull's Umwelt theories, I think, is quite convincing. Because he insists that although we might have separate life worlds, we are influencing each other's life worlds all the time, we are feeding of each other's exhalations or even excrements, if you wish. And we are constantly immersed in each other. And for him, all life is a mixture. So all the life worlds are not separate bubbles that wouldn't somehow mix. On the contrary, they're all the time entwined and mixed and influencing each other. And of course, that makes sense on on a very basic level, if we think of breathing because as they say, I breathe out some carbon dioxide that you can then inhale. And then you exhale oxygen, and I can inhale that and so on. Well, it's not that simple. But, all the chemicals, all the poisons, all the pollution, but also all the nutrients that float around both of us here now, and everybody else around. We are exchanging them all the time. And they're penetrating us and we are penetrating them. If you want to use the word penetrate, but I think the idea that we are immersed in each other is quite obvious if we think of breathing. And now when everything is wet, and I can see the small raindrops on your needles and feel the humidity on the rock that I'm sitting on, seeping in through my cloths to my bottom it's somehow so very clear that there are no watertight bubbles in this world but we are all interlinked. That doesn't help in terms of exchanging ideas necessarily, or communicating feelings or making each other understandable for each other to explain what is important for each of us so. Because I don't know really what is important for you, I cannot do anything to please you at the moment. As a biologist, I might know a little bit more but as biologists or even medical doctors don't necessarily know what I would like or not like, probably biologists wouldn't know exactly what you want and not want either. The season of the mosquitoes is soon with us. Amazing to think that summer is here, although it's chilly. Now when I look at you, it really feels like you're a winter creature. Not that you are not beautiful in summer, too, but in the summer so many others are competing for attention. I hope you enjoy the summer and have the possibility to grow and, well, gather a lot of energy for the coming winter although you can keep on producing nourishment all through the winter but I guess it's nicer for you too, when it's a little bit warmer. So nice to see you again and I hope I will be back in one month at the latest. So take care. And thank you.
Hello pine, it's the talking human again. Long time no see, well, three weeks or something like that, maybe a month. Now it's summer and I can see it in the vicinity. On the ground, next to me there is an empty box of "snus" the tobacco that people in Sweden keep in their mouth, I forgot what it is in English, and an empty beer can and some toilet paper. There is some kind of can next to your roots as well, or I mean, next your trunk. I didn't plan to speak about rubbish. Rather, I wanted to speak about the limits of growth, which is a classic environmentalist book which I'm reading or I started reading yesterday in English. Limits of Growth 30 years later, an update on the original version. And I thought that you would be the perfect expert to discuss this with. On the one hand, because that is something that we share. For instance, Michael Marder has suggested that we are all growing beings and that is something that we could recognise in ourselves as humans that we have this vegetal growth in us as well. And another reason is of course, that the question of growth is relevant in terms of the limits of growth, because living beings are capable of exponential growth, as is capital. But according to the authors, all the other types of exponential growth that we witness are results of either population growth or capital growth, sort of, because the coal is not growing exponentially in the ground, nor the oil and especially not the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and so on. Or, the production of soybeans is not growing exponentially without humans taking care of growing in a way or gardening or plantation maintaining. But I'm thinking of this exponential growth also when I look at your pine cones and your, what they call 'candles', I read recently. And actually here when I look at you, I don't see any fresh pine cones, but I do see small 'candles'. And in the text I managed to look up they explained that pine trees are our gymnosperms, that is, you use a form of reproduction that is not dependent on insects and therefore you don't have flowers but you have male and female cones on the same tree. And what we normally think of as pine cones are the female ones, which then bear the seeds. And the, what I would like to call flowers, which I don't see on you now, but which I've seen on so many other pine trees, are actually the male cones that dry and wither, as soon as the pollen has been spread by the wind. But the candles are like new shoots. And depending on the size, and the vigour of the candles, one can know about your health, but also of the fertility of the soil, and the climate, and so on. So, now when I see that your candles are much smaller than the candles of some other pine trees I've seen, then I would have to worry: Is this something that is a result of your venerable age? Or - which I don't think because I remember seeing quite large candles on very old trees. Or is it the result of the air being polluted here, or? which I don't think that much because there is enough forest around you to protect you from the worst traffic pollution, I think. Or is it because there has not been enough rain or the soil is bad? It could be. Or is it some sort of internal mechanism that you use to restrict growth? And that's the interesting part. Of course, part of the reason why your candles look like smaller is because they've already started to spread out. So they're not like tight shoots but they have become more and more like ordinary needles, but nevertheless. And this idea of some sort of internal mechanisms that function to limit exponential growth, that's of course important, because we know that like there is a limit of resources, if there is not enough food then the growth cannot go on. Or if there is like pests, we know there are insects that attack pine trees, especially. But, if we as humans should learn from you about this, the limits to growth, then it would be interesting to know how you know, how you know how to grow. And because you can basically grow in all directions and obviously, you're not centrally led in the same way as animals with their central nervous system and their brain. But your parts are more independent. Maybe? I'm not sure. So in some sense, so you could, like individual branches could decide that, yes, they want to grow this year more and more. And is that somehow counterbalanced, because the taller you get the harder it will be to maintain balance in heavy wind, for instance. And in some sense, you would imagine that if some branches on one side grow, then the other branches on the other side should grow too. And how do you decide which year to produce a lot of cones and when to rest? Because if I look at you now, this year, you haven't produced any cones or not many at least. Strange. I hope you're not feeling bad. I mean, I hope you're feeling well. But it might be that you have your new cones sort of higher up. Yeah, this is, for humans this idea of limits to growth is now, it's now a really important question. I'm thinking of the Swedish word 'livsavgörande', it's important, it's a life changing issue. And the funny thing is, of course, that growth, we tend to think that growth is very good. I mean, not cancerous growth and maybe not your, the growth of, of your tummy or your waistline. But even that growth is somehow a result of our devotion to growth in all its forms. And how that growth could take place within sort of reasonable sustainable limits? I don't know, of course, traditionally, growth, like population growth or any type of growth is balanced by decay, or by death. And that is, of course, one way, but it's a little bit tragic and absurd. I read this morning in the Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, about extraordinary increase in young people's deaths in Sweden. So as opposed to all other European countries, the death of young people is increasing in this country. And they had found out that it's especially, not only but especially suicide rates that are increasing, and especially among young people, who have not managed to get an education, beyond the primary education, and have not had help in managing their school and so on. So that's a horrible way of sort of limits to growth. That people decide, young, sensitive people decide that they're not wanted, because nobody helps them, and they're not needed. So they 'd better take their lives. That's not the way I would wish the limits to growth to take place. Of course, a lot of that is criminality, and shootings, but even more drug deaths. So not necessarily deliberate suicides, but also suicides. Okay, so that is something that I have in my mind now, because I read it this morning. I understand, it's a very strange idea for you, for a pine tree, because I don't think pine trees would commit suicide. But, you might stop growing, when you find it reasonable not to grow, or when circumstances are not good for growth. There is something we have forgotten about that. And as an example of the weird concoctions that we carry in our brains, an other thing that I read this morning, or encountered on social media somewhere, was the notion that the herb Rosemary will help you in memorising things. So it was known already in antiquity, and I think Ofelia in Shakespeare's play speaks of rosemary as fortifying your memory. But they've made some experiments, so eating rosemary or even smelling the aromatic oil from rosemary, the herb, will increase your memory. So how does this relate to anything? Well, maybe to the idea that we should try to remember how our forefathers or the previous generations of human beings managed to somehow limit the growth of their societies to fit into the resources that were available. Because in the same text - I've read only the two first chapters of limits of growth, limits to growth - they mentioned that although the food production has increased enormously, the food per person has not increased, because there has been a huge population growth. And although the rate has slowly gone down the population is still growing. And that is related to poverty, because immediately when the worst poverty disappears, then also population growth diminishes. And of course, especially if women can decide. Well I don't know, sorry for being so talkative today. I came to Stockholm this morning and I'm very happy to be here but I'm, I'm heading south to Bodafors already this afternoon, to a wood art residency. It's very funny because the previous artists who have got that prize, which I'm very proud of, have all been working with wood as material. And I sort of asked them that are they aware that I tend to work with living trees, and they said yes, sure. So I'm looking forward to meeting some pine trees down there as well. But it's good to see you, and have a nice summer. I hope to come back to you if not before then after midsummer. Take care. And thank you for listening to me again. Thank you.
Hello pine, great to see you. Long time no see, as they say. I've been away and you've had plenty of visitors around you. I see several remains of fireplaces on the hills. That might have been quite dangerous when it was warm and hot. Now it's nice and cool. There was a huge rainfall this morning, really yeah really a lot of water. One can see it on the paths because the water has been running down and creating patterns in the soil. I took a plastic, a piece of plastic to sit on because the ground is wet and there is still a small drizzle, or i t might be actually from your branches. But you really look refreshed and now all the dirt and dust and small critters have been washed away from your needles. So it might be easier for you to breathe. I've been away first in the south of Sweden or in the middle of the south of Sweden in Bodafors but now recently in Basel in Switzerland for a performance weekend. And there I was performing with a yew tree, an old yew tree, because there were no pines near the museum where the events took place. They took place in the park outside the museum but there were yew trees so I performed with one of them; not talking to them nor writing but performing the "becoming tree" exercise, the two-legged tree pose, yoga pose. And I invited the audience to document my small action from various perspectives in order to create a collage online, but then ... and that I've done once before, but then I had a second part where I invited people to try to do the same action together with the yew. And many people accepted the challenge and did the exercise. One woman actually for a very very long time and she explained later that she's a butoh dancer. Because I didn't really... before I started the action I suggested that we would consider the possibility to include trees also in the social, because the theme of the event was "social elegance" so I didn't want to comment on the topic of elegance but on the topic of social. And when we did this second part together I only said that no no this is not a ritual, we are only trying to connect heaven and earth. And of course that sounds pretentious, but I should have of course said, perhaps it would've been more important to say that we are trying to become a tree with a tree, or participate in their action via our temporary action. Anyway it was a good experience of course, but... and it was also nice to realise that - because it was really hot in Basel, more than 30° all the time, even even late in the evening - and it was nice to notice how the air under the yew trees were so much fresher, cooler, easier to breathe. So it made me appreciate all the work you do all the time in creating beautiful air for us. But while I was there and especially on the way home I read a novel by Octavia Butler for a reading group I am participating in, called The Parable of the Sower. And it's a horrible dystopia actually, written in the 90s and projected onto the 2020s, which is now, and scary enough many aspects of that dystopia are actually happening already. It's a very American novel. It discusses the reinvention of slavery in its many forms but also reinvention of the settler spirit in creating a new community on new land. And there's many other things, also the religious aspects of society and the fight of everybody against everybody, or like the hordes of migrating people trying to move north and scavenging and fighting and the importance of guns scared me. And also the fires, on the one hand people setting fires and then scavenging the remains but also fires just going, getting loose in the dry landscape devastated by the heat during climate change. And it was somehow scary to read this in the context of really hot when there was no relief or coolness, barely in the winter, in the winter, in the night I mean. Later at night there was often a cooler breeze. Yeah, this dystopia, well I'm reading so little novels or literature these days that I realise I'm very strongly influenced by everything I read. It becomes sort of part of my imaginary, part of my subconscious, part of my dream world. I noticed I couldn't read it in evening, otherwise I would have all these nightmares. But of course a lot of what the dystopia describes is actually already happening in parts of the world. Well, now after the heavy rainfall and the refreshing shower we should perhaps realise that we are very privileged at the moment here in the north. But these privileges are not something that we can rely on. There were, I can't tell you the whole story, but an important part of the story and the main character who was a young girl was her poems about a new kind of religion she was trying to invent. And one of the core beliefs was this idea that God is change. Yeah change is, whether change is God or God is change, change is evitable, it is inevitable and omnipresent, that's clear. What else should I tell you? Well, maybe some nice memories from Basel, because the river Rhine flows through there and of course I expect Rhine to be a huge river completely polluted by industry but up in Switzerland it's not that polluted, it's actually quite clean. And also it' flow, there is a quite a strong current. So there were a lot of people swimming in the Rhine, and not only swimming but sort of floating downwards, so somebody told me that it's a way of people going home if they live downstream. They have these big plastic bags but not plastic bags but bags made of plastic called fish bags, and then they would put their clothes in those bags and seal them and they would be like air cushions that they could either have floating next to them or then they could sort of have under themselves too and then just let the river take them downwards. And at some points in the afternoon and during the weekend there was so many people it look like a shoal of fish. And I thought about the human animal, yeah, it was beautiful. I never tried that but I got myself a fish bag, so maybe I will try that at home in Helsinki. Well, anyway I hope I will be coming to visit you at the end of August again, but for now I wish you a nice refreshing day today and many nice refreshing days to come, because there is plenty of summer left. So thank you for listening to me today and take care.
Hello Pine, it's the talking human again, one of the invasive mammals that run around here. I can see from your needles that it's been dry here, dry and hot. You're tall and thick and accustomed to surviving without rain for quite long periods, I suppose, but I can see that a lot of your needles are yellow so that's not so nice. The same, I visited a pine in Helsinki yesterday, a smaller pine, a reclining pine in Kaivopuisto park and it was really suffering from the drought. Well, I'm just on my way, passing to Bodafors again, one last time, and I thought I'd come and and spend some time with you now when I have the possibility. I spent two weeks in a group residency in Finland and that was quite exciting. And I worked with some pines there, too, but especially the discussions with the humans were illuminating because we all had some sort of interest in plants, either through some sort of historical events like the creation of botanical gardens as a colonial practise or the plantations of roses to be exported and what that has created for the humans or collaboration with ants and plants or vegetal feminism and so on. But of course I felt that I was about the only one who was somehow working with plants directly, although for some other people this idea of performing for camera together with trees is not so direct. And even not talking to trees, because it's like a human strategy. I discussed with one of the curators and it seemed like it was hard to understand in what sense, what my research was about or what was the political aspect of it or the critical aspect of it, the conceptual practice, or conceptual starting point. And I realised when I tried to explain that yes, my work is related to post-humanism more generally and especially to critical plant studies and that I spoke about the ideas of Val Plumwood, the late Australian ecofeminist who analysed our colonial relationship to nature and found many similarities. Because some of the techniques of colonial thinking include the idea of making a very strong differentiation between us and them with no border crossings possible, so the other is wholly other. And on the other and also the other is like stereotypical and just an anonymous mass of not individuals, but all representatives are alike. And of course a lot of this is true for our relationship to plants and trees and pine trees. Not everybody would even recognise pine trees from other fir trees like spruces and especially not consider pine individuals except in exceptional cases. I also tried to somehow explain that, referencing Lucy Lippard, how do you pronounce her name, the famous curator who who in her book The Lure of the Local spoke about or mentioned art as making special; the power of art is the power of making something special. So, I consider it a political act to make a pine tree special. But of course for somebody who cannot somehow see the political implications of that it seems utterly strange and political is reserved for human issues more directly related to nations and classes and wars and so on. But I even tried to explain that instead of sort of making a video work where I show the horrors of the clear cuts in Finnish forests and try to make a polemical video claiming that clear cuts are bad and that we should maintain the old forests as they are, especially the old-growth forests. Instead of doing that I'm addressing a pine tree as a fellow being and with respect, as I try to approach you now, and by doing that somehow implicitly suggest that we can't just cut you down as if you were lifeless resources. But of course it's not that clear, although I know some colleagues think writing letters to trees is overtly clear, but obviously not always. So I don't know how I could be more clear, but maybe it's not a question of clarity, it's somehow the whole idea that I don't start somehow with a conceptual problem more with a historical debate or I start with you, or with some of your colleagues. But he then asked how does it show in the work, how does this thinking show in the work. I couldn't somehow explain that because for me it's so very very obvious. But then the curator just replied by saying, well yes I understand, so you sort of engage with nature in a poetic manner. Sure, I do that too, but that's not how I would primarily think of what we're doing now in our conversation. Okay it is an euphemism to call this a conversation, this is a monologue, but without you this monologue wouldn't exist. So even though I'm doing the talking your listening is what makes this happen. sorry for complaining about the behaviour of other humans or my own incapability of articulating what I'm trying to do. But thank you for your patience and for being here waiting for me. I know you're not waiting for me but you're enduring me when I come to you and I trust and hope that you will be here in a few weeks time again. Thank you for being there and take care.
Hello pine, nice to see you again. I guess it was two or three weeks ago that I visited you or was it a month? Today there are lots of young people running around in the woods with papers in their hands, probably doing some sort of "orientering", that's what it's called in Swedish, finding your way and running through the woods from one marked spot to another. It's a special time now here in Stockholm because there has been elections and a long time of social democrat rule has now changed to a right-wing rule, mainly because of the massive growth of the right-wing populist party the Swedish Democrats with their roots in national socialist ideology even, although that's not what they're propagating today. But one of the main programmatic demands is to diminish immigration. And because a lot of people in Sweden today are born elsewhere or born to parents born elsewhere or second generation immigrants from all over the world, especially from the Balkan countries and Syria and Afghanistan and also Somalia and many African countries and areas with recent war but also famines and poverty, they are afraid now that the atmosphere of the discussion will change. That the sort of core values of Swedish law, of equality in front of the law and every man's right to be treated equally regardless of ethnic minority or religious minority or sexual minority or whatever. It's interesting to see what happens when this coincides with the increasing amount of violence in the country, especially among the criminal gangs or whatever they're called, but also the inflation and the high electricity prices to a large extent due to the war in Ukraine. So the discontent of people and difficulty in living their life has taken this expression to vote for a change in the government. And I read somewhere that it's very strange that the Swedish Democrats have increased or gained supporters from all the three major parties, the conservative party, from the centre party or the farmers party and also from the workers party. So obviously there is something very much wrong going on. But I have full understanding for the legitimacy of voting for change, but if that change means breaking the traditional laws makes a difference. And here are some of the young people doing their tasks of finding their way. I don't know what it is called in English but in Swedish it is called "orientering", and I guess it's part of the school or university program. Well, luckily they went their way. Back to politics. But I am really bad at politics, the only thing I'm sort of concerned about is this discrepancy with the official values and the stated values and then the actual values in society, which is quite obvious when we speak of the equal rights of every human or equal worth of every human being. And when you look around it's very clear that every human being doesn't have an equal value. Theoretically yes, but in practice no. But I know I shouldn't bother you with this because your way of solving the problems of equality here in the woods is different from the human ideas of legislation and so on. I'm not sure but I guess you're more sort of following the traditional societies' modes of families and clans and supporting your kin, which would now in contemporary democratic society be considered quite inappropriate, to give a job to your family member instead of having it openly sought for and the best man, sort of, or the best woman getting the job, so to speak, which would seem absurd from a traditional point of view. Of course you would give preference to your own family or to your own community and that's the whole idea of the community and so on. There's so many different problems related to the sort of universal values of equal human rights. And on the other hand that's the only thing we can somehow try to stick to, because if we give away that, then all the hell might break loose and we have just different groups fighting against each other and the stronger ones oppressing the weaker ones. Well, they're doing that already. But yeah, sorry once more. I know this is none of your business and you're probably very impatient with these human minor problems compared to the major problem of taking care of the biosphere and for some kind of liveable conditions for all of us. I'm reading a book in Finnish about, which is called something like Expeditions to Islands, but which is about biodiversity essentially, or at least the beginning. And there was, I read recently a chapter on how diversity, biodiversity increases the closer we get to the equator. So that tropical forests have an enormous amount of different species compared to the northern forests, which we are a part of here, with only a few species compared to the tropical multitude. But also the importance of large enough areas of habitats for the increasing in biodiversity. So, if there are only small areas of specific types of ecological environments the biodiversity necessary diminishes. And that is of course important to know when we think of what kind of areas should be protected in order to safeguard some sort of multiplicity of life. And then the third principle which I've already had forgotten, had something to do with diversity, too, and it was almost like a mathematical formula, but I can't remember it now. And of course that's also one argument, it sounds so stupid to say that you should not build a road somewhere because there is this certain type of beetle living there and that needs to be protected, so one understands that people who would like to ride their cars on that road think that's it stupid and it's just bullshit. But it's a little bit the same principle as with some sort of democracy, well it's not the same, but in a similar manner if you somehow make exceptions to the rule the rule somehow then soon breaks down. Well, the idea of not only diversity but the ongoing diversification of species is fascinating and I wonder how you think about that, dear pine. Because I've read that there are hundreds of different species of pines in the world, mainly in the northern hemisphere but all around, and still all the pines, or all the pines growing naturally or wildly here in the Nordic countries are one species. And it sometimes surprises me, because you can look so different and seem so different from each other, but you are the same species, only you are adapting to your specific circumstances. But at some point in the historical development or in evolution after thousands and thousands and thousands of years those adaptations might result in different species really. Anyway, I hope to be able to meet some other species of pine trees. I've already met the ones planted in Finland, Pinus sembra and Pinus peuce or 'peuce', the Macedonian pine, and Pinus mugo, the mountain pine, which they have a lot in the cities as shrubs. And then I've met Pinus contort in Reykjavík. But it would be interesting to meet for instance some of the white pines that Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about or the Ponderosa pines which might be great to ponder with, and so on. But that will be my future dreams. Right now I should express my gratitude to you, being able to sit here under your crown in the coming, sort of experiencing the coming autumn, because there is clearly autumn in the air. Let's hope the winter will not be too cold and too harsh for people who have to save their electricity. And let's hope that the coming, well if not revolutions then some sort of upheaval that might be to be expected in Russia soon, that's what people say, that it will go relatively smoothly. But, well, as an optimist I always wish for the best, but of course there can be horrible things happening so, as you very well know who have survived here for such a long time. So let's hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Thank you anyway and take care.
Hello Pine, dear Evergreen. I wish I were, I wish I was evergreen like you but we humans are not evergreen. Well not green at all by the way, not able to create their own food from sunlight and water and carbon dioxide and a bit of chemicals and water. Yes, it feels like it could begin to rain any minute. It's autumn, the wood is yellow. Right around you you have all your relatives or your offspring, other evergreen pine trees, one oak I can see from here, so it looks very green around you, but otherwise the forest or the wood is all yellow now with plenty of yellow leaves on the ground and on the trees and flying around because it's rather windy. At this very moment there is not the hard wind but the gusts could come any minute. So, it's the 7th of October, autumn days. I'm in Stockholm only for a short visit, actually mainly to visit you. And these are strange days; the war in Ukraine is still going on but now it seems almost like the Russians would be in retreat, partly, but maybe that's wishful thinking. Then there was an interesting sabotage or catastrophe in the Nord Stream cables, the big cables on the bottom of the sea in the Baltic Sea that carry the Russian gas to Germany. And in Swedish waters and in Danish waters there was some sort of explosion so there are holes in those pipelines and they're leaking methane, I don't know how you pronounce that in English but a greenhouse gas worse than carbon, in huge amounts up in the air. Luckily its not poisonous for humans or not bad in any other way except that it speeds up the greenhouse effect, which is not very good. I thought about it because I was reading a proposal for an article dealing with synthetic bodies, synthetic in the meaning of synthesise from various chemicals. So not synthetic in the meaning of purely artificial but synthetic in the Kantian sense of being combination. And quite a funny exposition overall, with all kind of practices of exploring how we are contaminated through water, through the air, through dust particles. And of course that made me think that that's one way we are so very much interconnected you and I. The air we breathe both of us, yes, and, especially the water. Because the air is very palpable, we're really sort of breathing both of us even though my exhale is something that you can inhale and so on. But the idea that the water on this planet is running through us all the time and everything that is soluble in the water from micro plastics to all kinds of chemicals. And of course Stacy Alaimo has pointed this out more than ten years ago with her concept trans-corporeality but, yeah, today it's somehow so very obvious. Except that it's exactly not obvious, because when I drink the water from the tap I don't think of it being impure in anyway and it feels quite pure, but of course it's not completely pure. And when you drink the water from the soil through your roots or if you take in something through your needles from the air, or I'm not actually sure if you can do that. Some house plants really like to drink from their leaves but I wonder if your needles are too sort of hard for that. But anyway, I would expect that when it rains and you're all soaked in droplets, then those would somehow come into your cells as well. Well, this was not what I thought that would be talking with you about, it just came to my mind because of the imminent rain. I was about to tell you that now is the time for the Nobel prizes and yesterday I read about Annie Ernaux, if I pronounce her name correctly, a French writer, a female writer for once, who got the Nobel prize. She's more than eighty, as they often are, and she's been writing - I have not read anything by her - she's been writing about the female experience and her and also her working-class background through her like novels or semi-novels about her mother and her father and so on. And it was inspiring to read this because we had discussed with Hanna and Pilvi a book we read together, Autotheory, and the different nuances between auto-ethnography and autotheory and autobiography and autobiographical performance and artistic research where you use your own life experience as material and so on. But yes, so that was like a continuation to our discussion. But this morning there was an announcement of the peace prize and that was divided for three organisations. Or one person whose name I can't pronounce but from Belorussia, a human rights activist who tries to combat Lukashenko there, and then Memorial from Russia, who is also, which is an organisation of human rights and then an organisation from Ukraine. So a very clear statement for endorsing or supporting the development for peace now in war-torn Europe, but also in the, what they sort of explained as their reasons, they emphasise the development of civil society and the importance of non-governmental organisations and and civil society in the sense of diversity and multiplicity of opinions and so on. Well, of course when I speak of civil society and all that it's all so very human centred, but. And I read actually another text which was more like a sketch for an exposition about an effort to find a non-Cartesian representationality, a methodology that would be not so anthropocentric, where it's always we humans that look at the others. And of course that's the same type of effort that I'm doing when I'm speaking to you, that I tried to address you instead of just look at you as an object, as another, but to at least on a symbolic level engage in a mutual and reciprocal activity. But, if, and now I'm thinking of this text, if we ask who benefits, it's me. So, it's very difficult for me to think of a reciprocity between us, that I could somehow give back to you something that would benefit you in some manner. Of course I can always explain to myself that by focusing on you and inviting other humans to regard you and your kin as intelligent beings worthy of respect that I would somehow benefit all of your kind. But it doesn't help you particularly there, in our conversations. So maybe I'm not hurting you and maybe I'm not utilising your or othering you even too much, but I'm still exploiting you in a soft manner by performing together with you and using that material for my own purposes. So that was the text that was challenging. There are so many interesting things to read. I wish I would be able to read more. And I wish I would be able to read your your embodied speech, if we can say like that. Because as Robin Wall Kimmerer and many others have pointed out, and Lucy Irigaray, too, you express your statements about the world and about this place and about life in your body. Well, of course I do that too, but I can't do that intentionally. Maybe partly, if I would take better care of myself I wouldn't hurt in my joints, and so on. Yes, I'm talking too much and listening too little. Thank you anyway for this moment to chat with you today. And all the best for the coming winter or coming autumn, because there will be heavy rains and more winds before we get calmer winter days. I hope to be back with you in November, though, so see you then. And take care. Thank you.
Hello Pine, nice to see you again. It's been quite a while, more than a month; it's the 19th of November 2022 today, Saturday and snow. It's not the absolutely first snow because there was a little bit of snow two nights ago but it immediately melted away at least on the streets . But this seems like staying a little bit longer at least here in Little Jan's Wood. It's really cold; it always feels cold when the winter begins before you're accustomed to it and I'm wearing too little clothes as well. My toes are cold, my fingers are cold. I am amazed by your, well, at least apparent indifference to the cold, but of course this is nothing compared to what is to come. And snow is of course one form of water. I was listening to and well participating in a conversation online yesterday where one of the speakers spoke of the the amount of dead wood included in a living tree. So dead in the sense or in the same way as as we could say that our hair is dead or the end of our nails are dead, they're not, the cells are not alive and they don't feel anymore and so on. Well, I don't know if it can be compared but at least your bark, the outer part of your bark is dead in that sense. And then a huge, most of your trunk actually, because the living part is just a few layers under the bark. I forgot already what they're called but one layer which transports from the roots up to the crown and the other layer transporting nutrients from the crown to the roots and on so. Well, that was not what I planned to talk with you about but it doesn't matter. I actually thought I would speak about another talk I listened to yesterday, which was a proper lecture actually by Sandeep Bhagwati, if I pronounce the name correctly, musician and music theorist who spoke about the notion improvisation and comprovisation, because he was very critical of the notion of improvisation. And if I understood him correctly he claimed that it's a western construct, which is somehow the result from the fact that western classical music came to be notated and fixed in scores that were supposed to be reproduced by musicians. So then the so-called normal music, which is based on more or less conventional structures or accustomed ways of playing but which is happening in the moment started to be called improvisation, that is without provisions, without preparing, which is a little bit absurd of course. He preferred the term ex tempore, so taken out of time. I'm not sure about that, but the question is he asked where pertinent like: do football players improvise or do hunters improvise? And I could ask myself do I now improvise? And yes, to some extent, because I haven't written this talk to you, of course not, no conversation is prepared in that way, but I also have no definite plan of where this conversation will end, although I thought about some topics to discuss with you. And I was also reminded by the choreographer of the piece that I was performing with in Helsinki a few weeks ago, Epidermis by Sanna Kekäläinen, and she very much disliked the word improvisation, probably a bit on the same grounds as Sandeep. And because I was performing only in one short section I was watching the other parts and it was very clear that some parts were very very tightly structured and although they were slightly different each time you would not call them improvisation, whereas there was one section that I felt was, I would've called that improvisation. Because it was very different every time although the sort of starting point was the same and the beginning and the end point and the sort of development was the same. But how, it was a duet, and how they came from point A to point B was very different each time, although the feeling and the atmosphere was rather similar. So it's really, compared to that I'm improvising much more, because I don't have a fixed end point. Well, what I planned to talk with you about was the text or the book I'm proofreading at the moment and then there is a small exhibition that will open in two days actually here in Stockholm. And perhaps a few words about that exhibition first because it's going to be, it's called Furorna i Bodafors, the Pines in Bodafors, and it's showing some of the videos I created in Bodafors in the Wood Art Residency this summer. And it will be, it will take place in the gallery of the Malmsten school in Lidingö, which is related to the residency. And it will be very simple with some monitors and headphones on a long big table in the gallery space. And we made a test with the curator, head of school, there last week and we will build the space on Monday, actually, Monday afternoon. And then it will open on Tuesday and I will give a brief talk to the students presenting the works. So that I'm not so worried about that now, maybe I'm worried on Monday, let's see. But what I'm more worried about is the proofreading of the book Performing and Thinking with Trees and that might interest you, because although I'm not speaking of our conversations there but about older works I'm speaking of ways of encountering trees and different ways of performing for camera together with trees and also some philosophical ideas I've read about trees and so on. I should be very happy and proud proofreading the text now, but I keep finding small mistakes all the time and because it's the last proofreading I can't really make any big changes, so in some sense it's a frustrating exercise, because it's somehow talking about old things in ways that I would like to perhaps change a little bit, but I can't really change them. But it's also quite exhausting because I notice sort of a small, small details, which can be corrected now, but I have the feeling that I've done this proofreading many times and I wonder if there is sort of no end to how many small corrections you can make or how many mistakes you can find, so I cannot trust that I find them all now. But of course there is no way of doing anything that's perfect so I just have to accept that. And it's quite a hurry, actually, I'll try to to get that done this weekend because it will be published together with some other books at the Fine Arts Academy in Helsinki in the middle of December, so not so many weeks from now. Okay but that's my thoughts for today but what about you? Now I see that the ground is really getting white so the snow is not melting immediately and that's of course beautiful. And there's a little bit snow staying on your needles as well. I wonder if you have a way of reacting or, how should I say, if you open yourself to get the moist from the snow or on the contrary if you close your pores or whatever they're called, the small holes in the needles that you breathe through, in order to avoid the cold. I don't know. Yeah, maybe this is enough for today because I'm really getting cold and of course I could talk about the fact that the war is going on in Ukraine still, and in the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat they compare the situation to the Finnish Winter War, which is quite horrible because although Finns and other people like to think of that war as heroic combat against the overpowering Russian army, we actually lost a lot of area. So let's hope Ukrainians will not lose areas in the same manner. Well, maybe I will leave you here now and thank you for your patience, because I'm freezing cold and I hope you don't feel too cold, but I guess not. So, all the best to you and take care. Thank you.
Hello pine, here is the talking human again. It's Sunday, the 18th of December so close to winter solstice next week; if we would be living in Roman times we would be in the midst of the Saturnalia party but the Christian appropriation of the pagan Yule time is a little bit later, after the solstice. Well, but the preparations for the party seems like a carnival to some extent, luckily not here with you in the woods. Today it's around 0° degrees, maybe even on the plus side while yesterday and the day before it was really cold, so now the snow is melting everywhere but here it, there's still plenty of it. But the snow below you is filled with small holes meaning probably the drops of water falling from your branches when the snow melts there. That's actually one of the things I thought we could talk about in this our last conversation; yes, this is probably our last conversation. I've been visiting you approximately once a month for the whole year and this is the end of the year so, yeah. So, last conversation or not, these are all encounters, so maybe there will be more. But what I thought I could talk about was exactly the snow. I'm reading a book by a Norwegian journalist about the Cryosphere, the kingdom of frost. I haven't finished it yet but already it's been quite an eye-opener because he explains how snow and ice is important all over the planet. So it's not only the Arctic and Antarctic areas and their ice and snow cover that is important for the general climate of the planet, but snow and ice up in the mountains is very very important for the water supply for most of the rich planes like in California or the whole of the half North Indian and Pakistan area, everything below the Himalayas. And what he explained was that of course there are monsoon rains and storms happening but that means a lot of water coming down at once and then a lot of floods, often. But snow is a way, and ice, is a way of storing water, so it's a water storage. And when the snow and ice slowly melts during the dry season the rivers keep flowing with water and sustain life in areas where it would be a long time till the next rainfall. Well, I've never thought of snow as a storage facility because last week there was so much snow in Helsinki and also probably very much here in Stockholm so the effort is to keep the roads open and people struggle with their cars to find the car under the snow cover and so on. Well, I don't have those problems but of course deep snow is heavy to move around in and if you try to make pathways in the snow, the snow has to go somewhere, often in the pedestrian areas but anyway, compared to all that water coming down as water it's of course easier to handle snow in someway. I am of course, so, it's the paradox that when we speak of house plants and how to take care of them it's often crucial that the balance between light and watering is right; so if there is more light the plants need more water, if there is less light you shouldn't give them too much water. But of course for you dear pine it's really like the seasons are alternating, so now when there is a lot of water or snow but yes, water also, there is not that much light; the sun sets about half past two, that is, well, soon, very soon, so the days are very short. And in summer when the days are really long and there is often not that much water, but you've somehow managed to live with that. I'm not sure if the problem of water is part of the problem with the pine forests in Finland. I read in the newspaper today that there is a huge worry now and huge debates, because the forests in Finland are no longer acting as a carbon sink, but on the contrary they emit carbon or, and they cannot balance their emissions from farming and so on. And now they try to find out why that is, and one reason is of course the obvious that there is too much felling; so there has been extensive felling for economic reasons just to make cellulose and, I mean the forest plantations, that's our main industry in Finland in a way, sadly. But what I read now was, because they had made investigations that it's actually the pine trees that have stopped growing as fast as they used to. So it's not so much the spruces, which are grown in southern and central Finland, but it's the pine trees in the north that are no longer growing at a rate that they used to. And one speculation is that in the 50s there was a lot of clearcutting and also new planting and those pines have now been sort of, have reached, if they have not been felled already, they have reached an age where growth is much slowed down. So my age, around 60, then the pine trees are not growing very fast any longer but slowly, slowly. But then there is the most probable reason that there has been a change in the way of intermittent or intermediate felling or thinning, what they call it, when you cut down some of the trees to give more space for the ones that remain to grow. And if that is done too heavily and there is not enough trees to grow. But these are all speculations, so now they're trying to find that out. But I was curious about the fact that the pine trees are growing in the north; of course I knew it in some sense, because the tree line for, the northern border for pine trees is much higher up in the north than for spruces. But because I have encountered all my favourite pines in the archipelago, either here in Stockholm and the nearby islands and especially in Helsinki area of course and then on Örö Island and other islands so I didn't realise that it's actually in the north where the pines are the main tree species. And that makes sense of course, because you like light and you can take harsh circumstances; you don't need sort of a rich soil but you can thrive on mires or rocky areas and so on. Well, here of course there is rock but this is in the middle of the city and there are a lot of young pine trees growing around you. If this would be a forest plantation then somebody would say, well well they have to be thinned and so on, but fortunately this is not a forest plantation. There has been a lot of debate also concerning the EU demand of trying to protect, or if not protect but somehow maintain some sort of biodiversity in 30% of the forests, and the people who make their living on forests of course cry out that no no no, that is too much. Most Finns, actually, if we don't consider those few, even though many Finns own a little bit of forest in Finland due to heritage, they would like to see forests maintained in less industrial manner. It is the same as with, or not the same but a similar issue as with agriculture. So the huge agribusiness is destroying the environment and produces bad crops in the end, and needs a lot of fertilisers and needs a lot of poisons. And of course in some sense it's the similar case with the forest industry. Sorry for talking about these sad things with you instead of appreciating the fact that you are here as a free pine tree enjoying your life. I should focus on you instead of worrying about the horrors elsewhere. But of course you are probably also interested in the fate of your species as I am. Well, for a last conversation this was not so encouraging but I really want to thank you for these conversations over the year and also to wish you a happy Yule time and and a glorious spring when it finally arrives. So thank you, take care.