Trees in Nirox 

This video, Day with the Firethorn Rhus (24 min 10 sec) was performed with a Firethorn Rhus (Searsia pyroides) in Nirox Sculpture Park every hour between 7 AM and 6 PM on 17 March 2020

This video,  With the Weeping Willow (4 min 20 sec) was performed with a Weeping willow (Salix babylonica) in Nirox Sculpture Park on 18 March 2020

This video, The Dutch Oak in Nirox (4 min 31 sec) was made circling the Dutch Oak in Nirox Residency on 18 March 2020. 

This video, Dear Firethorn Rhus II (20 min 15 sec) was performed with a Firethorn Rhus (Searsia pyroides) in Nirox Nature Reserve on 19 March 2020

This two-channel video, With the Hackberry Trees (3 min 7 sec) was performed with Hackberry trees (Celtis occidentalis) in Nirox Sculpture Park on 18 March 2020

This video, Dear Firethorn Rhus (20 min 15 sec) was performed with a Firethorn Rhus (Searsia pyroides) in Nirox Sculpture Park on 18 March 2020

17.3. 2020 7 AM

Dear Little Tree, or trees, hello! It was nice standing next to you for a moment, and I hope you don’t mind that I am going to visit you today several times, actually once every hour, if all goes well. I noticed you, the two of you, last night when walking around in the park marvelling at the sculptures and beautiful willows and all kinds of trees and water features. You seemed so unassuming and somehow modest, although formed in such an interesting way. And the sun was setting somewhere behind you in a pleasant way. So, this morning when I woke, I had the thought to come and visit you, as soon as possible, to commence my day with you. In these days when all the world is in shock and awe because of the corona virus pandemic, it feels so comforting to spend time with you in this peaceful sanctuary. Thank you for letting me do that!

 

17.3.2020 8 AM

Dear little trees, after my second visit to you I feel more confident in spending the day together, although it seems to be a rather chilly day. Right now, it is only 12 degrees, which is quite a drop from 25 yesterday. There is no sun and the wind feels cold. When I stand next to you, I listen to the running water, and look at the birds among the reeds on the opposite side. Far away across the field a man walks to work, I guess. I do not know your name or species, which irritates me a little. You look rather familiar, resembling some type of trees at home, but then not really. Your leaves seem to be a little furry, or at least soft, but many of them are clearly plagued by some insects or a disease. I hope you don’t suffer too much! Although one of your trunks is covered with lichen and a large branch has been cut off, your crown is quite wide and green. And the place you grow in has both spaces to spread and neighbours to support you. I wonder if you really are twins, two separate trees, or only two trunks from the same root? Perhaps it does not make such a big difference in the end.

 

17.3.2020 9 AM

With the sun almost showing up it is a little warmer, or then I simply imagine. The difference in light is minimal, though, because of the cloud cover. You are probably much more sensitive to light than I am, because light is your main energy source, your food in some sense, what makes you thrive. Of course, you need water and minerals like all or most other forms of life as we know it, but light is the energy source for your photosynthesis, your speciality. It is indeed something to envy, a capacity to generate not only your own food, but food for everybody else. They say that one can remove 70% of your leaves, or the leaves of any plant, and you could simply grow them back, or grow new ones. It is a miracle in some sense, a very beautiful strategy of generosity. To give away not only half of what you make but 70 % of it to others, wow! It exceeds all Christian ideas of giving your other shirt to the one who needs it. - But, regardless of your generosity, the generosity of all plant life, it seems to me that you are not really well, your leaves show signs of withering and malformation. I guess there are simply too many insects feeding on you right now. Or, perhaps I am mistaken, perhaps you don’t mind if your leaves look grungy, as long as the photosynthesis -machine is running. And it is only my misguided aesthetic sensibilities that imagine you would feel bothered. But, on the other hand, it would be strange if you would not sense them somehow. And isn’t that what science has discovered, that you or your kin can actually emit chemicals that send out signals to other insects or birds to come to the rescue and eat some of insects that bother you. Life is complicated, for sure!

 

17.3.2020 10 AM

The sound of a lawnmower adds to the sound of running water, and then disappears again. It is moving in the anther end of this large park, an extra-ordinary sculpture park with water in ponds or small brooks providing the perfect setting for a multitude of artworks, large sculptures as well as smaller ones that you discover only when coming close. Probably this abundance of sculptures made me look at you, too, in terms of sculptural form. I am eager to know more about you and will try to ask people here if they might know. But strictly speaking, the names of trees are only important for humans, a human invention to control and organise and try to master their surroundings. For you it probably does not matter what I call you. With that I do not mean that you would not recognize your kin, your family or relatives, or that it would not matter to you. I only propose that the name and species identification in terms of taxonomy, is irrelevant for you. It is in a strange way important to me, however, because it serves as the entrance to more knowledge about you, your history and preferences, for instance. But, seen in another way, that need to know, that strange curiosity of mine, is simply a human habit, that should not disturb our relationship...

 

17.3.2020 11 AM

So, now I know your name, your human name, which according my host is Rhus Pyroides, or today Searsia Pyroides, or ”Common currant-rhus”. I looked you up on the internet and it seems that you are a native of South- Africa and that you can vary a lot in size and shape, so you can be bushy or thorny, depending on your growing environment. You can be found in the bushveld or savannah, in dry thornveld and on rocky hillsides. And also, in luscious gardens, like here. You are supposed to be very hardy, tough and drought resistant, too. There are male and female individuals and the females bear small fruits. I have not found any fruits on you, so you might be a male. Or then the few dry things next to your leaves might be former fruits, devastated by insects. In that case you are a female. Or what if one of you is male and the other female? The branches hang low only on one side. Perhaps that would be too romantic, or anthropomorphic to imagine that. I prefer to think of you as twins, or as an individual with a dual ’personality’, at least until further notice...

 

17.3.2020 noon

My intuition seems to be correct, there were small crumbled berries or rather dried flowers on the branches of both entwined trunks, so it might be you are really two males or then just one dual male. You are a host to the moth Xylopteryx arcuata (what a name!) and it might be that those moths have burdened you in excess. On the other hand, it is the end of season, end of summer, so no wonder you look a little tired. I suppose there would be berries or fruit if you were a female, though. - There will obviously not be much sun today, which is fine with me; only the shifts in light make the images more interesting. There might even be rain later today, even a thunderstorm. I suppose you would find it refreshing, and it might look spectacular, but the camera would probably not like it very much. I have to find some plastic protection for it, if need be...

 

17.3.2020 1 PM

During this corona virus pandemic-panic it is an utter luxury to spend time wi5 you here, in peace and harmony, surrounded by beauty and calm. It is not possible however, to forget the chaos and anxiety of the surrounding world, closing off slowly or quickly, and the accompanying difficulties. Should I stay in this country as planned or should I try to leave as soon as possible. And if so, when would that be? Right now, I am here with you, waiting for news from my helpful project manager. The person who would be able to change the flight is ill, however, and it seems like nobody knows really what to do. That gives me a little bit of extra time, despite the fact that Finnish citizens are supposed to return home as soon as possible. Right now, there is nothing I can do except wait. And spend time with you. Thank you for you comforting company!

 

17.3.2020 2 PM

After a delicious lunch life feels so much easier, funny enough. But that is now rather obvious, is the lack of sun, which means that all the images where we perform or appear together look probably rather similar. Before the next session I have to change the battery in the camera, and I hope I can recreate the same framing or something sufficiently similar. The framing does not affect your performance, of course, but it does have an impact on the viewer of the video that I will edit of our meeting. If there is a sudden change or ’jump’ between the images the feeling of a smooth succession is destroyed, and focus is diverted from the minuscule shift in light and shadow. Now that I think of it, it might be even more interesting to have such uniform light. There will be shifts and changes inevitably, but probably hardly noticeable. And that is even more exciting, in some sense. Exciting for the viewer, that is, who is attuned to visual nuances, not necessarily for us, performing together in the grey semi-shadow. But such soft grey light is soothing, too.

 

17.3.2020 3 PM

For a brief moment it seemed like the sun would come out from the clouds, or rather through the clouds, but it soon disappeared again. At least the battery change went relatively smoothly. I came to think of you as ’the dancing Rhus trees’, and perhaps that could be a good name for the video - except that it limits and specifies the associations too much. But you do look like two dancing figures, feet together, stretching their arms out in an oval form. Well, talk about anthropomorphic imagination! The more I visit you, the more I come to like you, but there is always the danger that I only like my own projections or fantasies. If I would really be able to sense your feelings or reactions, I might be very surprised. Perhaps you really detest my coming so close to you, or prepare for combat in fear of being hurt, or most likely, hardly notice me at all. When I began visiting trees, I thought you were slower than humans, so I imagined staying with you for a few minutes, sitting or leaning on you, would resemble a handshake or a quick embrace. But scientists say you are not slow at all, because you can react very quickly by emitting chemicals when under threat. I do hope you can sense that I come with friendly thoughts and am not posing any kind of threat, at least not any that I know of....

 

17.3.2020. 4 PM

When I look at the weather forecast it is supposed to be raining here, but when I look at the sky, I see clouds, yes, but no rain yet. The wind has calmed down, and the birds are silent, everybody is waiting for the rain to start. You don’t seem to mind, though. And why would you? Rain is probably a pleasure for you, sweeping away some of the moths and the dust, a refreshing shower. The camera would not like the rain, so I brought a plastic bag to cover it while it stays out with you, waiting for the next session. There are not that many of them left. The sun will set at 20 minutes past six, so the last session, planned to be at 7 PM (since I began 7 AM) might be in complete darkness. Before that, two more ’normal’ sessions. They feel like being all the same - except for the wind, but the camera will probably notice differences that I do not. And you have surely adjusted your leaves according the shifting light - although I cannot see it. Strangely enough, although I feel more relaxed with you and enjoy our moments of performance together, I have not come any closer to you, I think. You remain mysterious and self-enclosed, and that is fine, I respect your wish to be who you are.

 

17.3.2020 5 PM

Still no rain, which is fine! There is a feeling of end-of-day in the air, even though it is not time for dusk yet. Where did this day go? How did we spend it, our only day together? Or how did I make use of or engage with or enjoy my enormous privilege of being able to spend this day here with you? Like always, I have spent most of the time worrying about the future, planning and imagining, sometimes recollecting, but less so than usual, perhaps because I am so aware of the limited time I am here in this magic garden, and in this country altogether. You, on the other hand, will most likely spent the rest of your days here in this place and they will be many, hopefully. I do not know how old you are, and I cannot find your average life span noted anywhere. I do note that you are liked by many birds because of your berries (which I have not seen, though) and that different parts of you have been used for various medicinal purposes. Since they say you are drought- resistant and call you hardy and tough, they probably mean that you are long-lived, too. I also learned that you are sometimes called Firethorn but have not seen any thorns on you. The more I read about you, the more I begin to doubt if you really are this Searsia pyroides, or Rhus pyroides. Since one of the first descriptions I encountered began by saying that you are ’very variable in all respects’ I trust that you simply are a very special individual. So, pleased to meet you, dear Firethorn.

 

17.3.2020 6 PM

And now the rain came, right when I stood next to you thinking that it was already dark despite the 20 minutes left to sunset. The first drops fell on my skin through your leaves, and the first lightning with some thunder in the distance began at the end of our performance. When I walked back to the house, with the camera, the drops began to fall heavier, and a harsh lightning illuminated the path so suddenly that I thought it had struck nearby. Now, when I am sitting indoors writing this, the rainfall is like a shower. All day this storm was in coming, and it had a perfect timing in terms of our collaboration. The wind had changed its direction, I could sense it while standing with you, and the gusts became stronger, but I was not worried and did not hurry. Now, when I see the force of the rain, I hope you do not suffer but rather enjoy it. And probably you are accustomed to these storms. They are quite spectacular, I must say. Out day together was calm and peaceful. Thank you for the experience, and all the best for the future!

Dear Searsia,

or Rhus, or Firethorn Rhus or Common Wild Currant, or however you prefer to be called. I am pleased to meet you here in Nirox Sculpture Park, and sincerely hope that you don’t mind my sitting on you, here by the brook. You look fresh and strong after the storm last night and your trunk or branch is wet and heavy with water. I guess you have always plenty of water, living next to the brook, but nothing beats a good shower! Now the sun is hiding between the clouds again, and there are sudden gusts of wind, which feel almost like there could be another rain (shower) coming. - I feel funny beginning with the weather, as if you were a British shrub. But, how else could I approach you now, when I already have entered your int8mate sphere, like a brutal intruder. I do hope you are accustomed to humans who feel invited by your low-bending trunk to take a rest here. After all, you are growing right on the path to the small bridge across the real river. But, the tiny waterfall next to you is decorative, isn’t it? Probably you like the sound as well. Scientists have discovered that some plants can direct their roots to grow towards water based on the sound only, even when no humidity is present as an indicator of water. Here, in your home there sure is water everywhere - in these brooks with their murmuring sound, and in the vast ponds that function as mirrors for the trees and the artworks and the sky. How does it feel to live in such luxurious circumstances? To be sat on and passed by hundreds of visitors, mainly on weekends when the park is open for the public, is not a hard price to pay for this abundance, I suppose. But, if indeed you are a Firethorn Rhus you are either male or female, male, I suppose, because I cannot see any berries, so, it must be a little lonely here on the lawn. Or, then I am being a stupid human again; you communicate via the bees, of course. Right now it is the end of season, end of summer, so I can see no flowers, no bees and no frantic activity around you - merely some moths that make some of your leaves look rather sick (hopefully they were reduced by the rain last night). This time of year, I would expect some berries, however, but if you are a male, then that is not your problem. - Sitting here, trying to write, I become aware of the dampness of your bark; the water slowly seeps into clothes. Luckily it is rather warm, still. - I wonder what I should tell you, what would be interesting from your perspective, besides the weather? The current pandemic-panic that spreads around the globe doesn’t concern you. And here the polyphagous spot hole borers (or whatever they are called) that plague the old trees on the streets in Johannesburg and are spreading a fungus that kills the old and beautiful plane trees has probably not reached here yet. And perhaps it would not concern you, anyway. We all have our own diseases, parasites and pests, I suppose. But something is bothering you, that is clear, because most of your leaves have dark brown spots and some leaves look clearly ’eaten’, with only the ’veins’ or the net of fibrous structure remaining, and all the chlorophyll-rich material eaten away. They say that most plants can survive to be eaten up to 70% and can happily grow new leaves instead of the ones consumed by animals, but that will be next year, I guess. I suppose you let your leaves fall and grow new ones in the spring, but I do not know for sure. Most evergreens have either needles or then glossy, hard leaves. Well no, I am forgetting the tropics. The various plant species and their mode of living are so numerous or innumerable, that it is simply hilarious to even imagine understanding anything about all their diverse strategies. Thank you for your patience with me, and many thanks for letting me sit here. All the best for the future, too. I hope you will get well soon!

Dear Firethorn Rhus (II),

I have been spending time with two of your kin in the Nirox Sculpture Park, and only today did I realize that you are actually growing all over the place in the surrounding bushveld, which is part of the Nature Reserve, I think. Many of you are much bigger than you, my dear friend, if I dare say so after such a brief acquaintance. And I just took and broke one of your dry branches, not a very nice gesture to start a conversation with! I hesitated, but then I realized it was perhaps misguided modesty to not remove that dead part of you that was in the way of my writing. Typical human hubris, one might say, as is the fact that I sit here and write without a hat, without sunscreen on a high plateau with burning sun - simple stupidity again! But, when I came here this morning it was a lot cooler, and I was so excited to get my camera, so I forgot all precautions. I did bring a bottle of water, though. - Now I understand why they say you are drought-resistant and tough, because growing here among the rocks, high up in the grassland, you obviously have to be. I wonder if the storm two days ago did fall down with rain here as well. Yes, probably, so you must be refreshed now. Although small, more like a shrub than a tree, at least compared to your relatives by the road, you look healthy and flourishing; not so many moths here, then. At least no brown spots on your leaves, although some of them are clearly eaten by some insects. But, no fungal disease or virus, as far as I can see. The word virus is ominous these days, at least in the human world, which is panicking about the pandemic, closing borders, forbidding meeting of more than ten people, cancelling meetings, events and performances. Luckily 5ere is nobody to cancel our meeting here, nor our performance for the camera. Or our joint appearance here in the bushveld and in the image space. And I do not feel irresponsible towards you, because even though I would be a latent carrier of the virus, I could not transmit it to you... That said, what about the virus of the other Firethorn Rhus in the Sculpture Park? Am I now carrying that virus from them to you, inadvertently? If it is a virus, that is. On the one hand I have not really touched you, I sit on a rock next to you. And on the other hand, I have showered and washed myself and even changed clothes after my last meeting with one of your relatives yesterday. - There is something strange about contagion and contamination, which is absolutely necessary as well as feared. If we don’t keep contact with all kinds of life-forms, viruses, bacteria, insects, plants, our immune system goes crazy and starts to attack everybody around. The same is probably true for you as well. - A cloud, now, but a small one! The very brief moment of shade felt like such a luxury. Life is so sensitive, we all are, regardless of our life-form; we want a specific temperature, and specific humidity and what not. I wish I could be as tough and hardy as you, without losing my sensitivity, though. Is that an impossible paradox? You really are serene, when I look at you, and not any youngster, that is sure. The bark of your trunk is rather thick, but I understand that it does not make sense to grow much higher if there is no competition for light. And the animals that eat you seem to be insects, which could follow you easily much higher, too. Some of your relatives are small rounded trees; perhaps I chose you exactly because you look so special, exactly like the two other Firethorn Rhus I’ve met, each in their own way. Probably you are the last in your family that I will spend time with, at least for a while, because soon it is time for me to leave and return to the panicking humanity. Thank you for letting me intrude into your space and hopefully to learn from your serenity, too. All the best for the future!

AA