The Art of Befriending a Tree



The origin of this project was my own personal relation to specific trees.  How I approach them, engage in physical contact with and talk to them.  How I befriend them. (Picture 1: my friend Karl XII’s oak in Karlbergsparken, Stockholm/Solna)  Over the years I have realized that many people have this kind of personal relationships to specific trees and in this project my aim was to explore the art of befriending a tree as choreography.  The exploration has so far been made as part of my education at Stockholm University of the Arts.


Master Programme Exploration

This project was originally developed as a laboratory exploration within the framework of the master programme ”Svarta speglar - konstnärlig självreflektion” (Black Mirrors - Artistic Self Reflection) at Stockholm College of Dramatic Arts/Stockholm University of the Arts.  In this context I tried the work in two directions: as a personal exploration score for anyone anywhere and as a choreographed dance solo for myself to explore on stage.

As a basis for the laboratory, I wrote this experience score (in Swedish with English translation)


Gå fram till ett träd                   Walk up to a tree

Trädet är din vän                      The tree is your friend


Andas saven upp i kronan       Breath the sap up into the crown

Andas saven ner igen             Breath the sap down again

I roten                                     Into the roots


I invited my classmates to try the score in a promenade path lined with large trees in Valhallavägen outside our school with no other instructions than the score on a small piece of paper and three repetitions with a change. (pictures 2-4) I found these encounters very beautiful and touching to watch and so did many passers by, who stopped just to behold.

The next step in the laboratory, was to ask my classmates to physically try to remember their individual tree encounters and draw or write a description of it.  That is, to create a movement score. (pictures 5-7: participant scores). Then I asked them to teach me the movements of their scores and to film me performing them, simultaneously giving me verbal instruction.

Using the scores my class mates had taught me, I composed a slow choreography for the half time performance examination at Strindbergs Intima Teater in Stockholm.  I also edited one of the instruction videos quite heavily to use as a moving stage projection and soundscape.  In the performance, the video version of me performing a how to befriend a tree score was thus projected over my live body performing the same and other scores. (picture 8, photo: Jonas Jörnemark)


Further Development

Proposal to Wanås Sculpture Park

As part of the freestanding course ”Placing and Spacing” at Stockholm School of Dance and Circus, I developed the project in the form of a proposal to Wanås Sculpture Park.  In this context, the visitors to the park would receive the exploration score as an invitation when buying their tickets.  The invitation would be open, would not need to be answered and there would be no specification as to where and when to be performed.  But in Wanås Sculpture Park there are a lot of wonderful trees…

Visitors who decided to perform the score in the park would be invited to mark where their tree was situated on a map of the park.  They would also be invited to describe their physical encounters with a tree using crayons on a piece of paper. That is - to create a movement score.

This invitation would also be open, would not need to be answered and there would be no specification as to where and when the score would be created.  Visitors who decided to create a movement score would be invited to leave the score at Wanås Sculpture Park for other visitors to try.  A collection of scores could gradually accumulate.  They would also be invited to let me use their scores as part of a choreography for me to perform in the park.  This proposal would be for one summer and a limited number of performances.



Some time after the laboratory in the master programme context, I learnt that two of my classmate participants hade incorporated the score into their everyday lives.  One had glued the text on the backside of the mobile phone as some kind of statement and reminder and one had found a single tree to perform the score with on a regular basis.  This was far beyond my expectations but yet exactly what I hoped would happen in some cases.

To enter into my classmates’ encounters physically and combine them into a choreographical composition, gave me the feeling of moving through a forest.  From the reflections I got from members of the audience at the stage performance who didn’t have any preset knowledge, I learnt that it was a meditation like experience.

In the visual arts context of the proposal to Wanås Sculpture Park, I found that the score on a physical small piece of paper as an open invitation, was enough.


Future Development?

If I would continue this work, I would first of of like to try the score with more people and find different ways to share experiences of the relationship between humans and trees.  In this way I would like to try to find some answers to why the befriending of trees seem to be important to (at least some of) us humans.  What is the core of it?


Thanks to

Participants Aleksandra, Alex, Helena, Jonas, Ulrica

Photographer Jonas Jörnemark

Master programme Svarta speglar / Black Mirrors at Stockholm College of Dramatic Arts/Stockholm University of the Arts

Free standing course ”Placing and Spacing” at Stockholm School of Dance and Circus/Stockholm University of the Arts & Wanås Konst