Singing with trees

How can we sharpen our sensitivities to other creatures on this planet? I believe this can be done through the arts and through committed dialogues and encounters with these other-than-human beings.

After hundreds of years of an anthropocentric delirium of culture, it is essential that we as humans, start re-performing our inhabitation of this planet. And this is not only done by tweaking and nudging our ways of consuming. On a deeper level, the human gaze needs to rest differently in the world. The human being needs to decentralize. To shift our senses. But this is a slow a process. Yet such a paradigm shift can also sometimes hit you over-night. In one moment your perception can change dramatically. The experience of an art piece can potentially facilitate this shift, but also the process in creating the piece itself, will shift you. As it is shifting me.

At the moment I am presenting this artistic work with a large-scale video installation of and with trees. A piece which is titled ‘Stay a while’. I have been invited to present my sketches and markings of this work. An exploration of the textural sounds and the messages from trees, presented through sound, video and space, as a part of the international conference ‘Art in the Anthropocene‘ at Trinity College in collaboration with Dublin School of Creative Arts. The three day conference has a very ambitious program and is spread over multiple venues.

Frame from one of the films in the video-installation ‘Stay a while’

The title comes from a message which Norwegian scientist Per Espen Stoknes received from a tree once, when he was resting his head on its trunk. Through dialogues with him and others who sense messages from trees, my manuscript for the video installation, is being developed.

Through the past year, I have filmed trees all over Ireland and their sounds in collaboration with French sound artist Léon Septavaux. I have been forced into meditation by the tree and the camera, and by my acceptance of the invitation to ‘stay a while’. By setting up my camera and pointing the lens towards the tree, framing it there, I have sensed how the tree ‘holds place’. A message received from the tree, that they hold place. And I have witnessed how humans merely pass by. As I myself have done many times.

Slowly this journey is manifesting into a rich archive of material, which I am now working on, shaping into a large-scale installation. It seems like I’m singing with trees.

As Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy writes: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” The world is singing, we just stopped listening. Let’s start listening again. The document below should be experienced with earphones on.

This is a short image and sound recording of one the trees participating in the video-installation. This document should be experienced with earphones on.

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