Darwinism, survival of the fittest, nature as a competition. This view on nature has strongly influenced our thinking. Also our political thinking,especially Fascists liked to use the view of a ruthless nature as an argument for ruthless measurements.
Trees also take part in a competition, especially the struggle for light. Above the ground such is very obvious. What is interesting, there seems to be increasing evidence that under the ground things work entirely different. Trees help other trees, especially family, as we can view in the attached documentary.
A paradigm shift? Maybe. And if so, potentially one that might shift our ideas on how to organize society as well.
Another interesting aspect of this documentary is the relatively novel discovery on how trees and plants communicate. A forest in this way becomes more of a networked ecosystem that is in constant communication through chemical signals. Almost a super-organism with different trees and plants as it’s different organs.
Today Susan, Wessel and I (Daan) visited the University of Applied Sciences Van Hall Larenstein to talk and to see how things are advancing. And we were surprised by a number of hanging trees and ‘branches’ (I don’t know the exact word)! The trees were already hanging for a week and seem to be doing fine. The species is sycamore. A species often used in urban landscaping. Supposedly quite resilient too.
The water is being sprayed 24/7 by a pump that takes water out of the ground and that is where the water goes back almost right away. There is a possibilty to add nutrients to the water, but they were not really set for that yet.
It was great to meet so much enthousiasm from the people at Van Hall/ Larenstein! Also great to see things are actually moving now! Trees are actually hanging! A little sens of pride and accomplishment.
In februari I went to the East Malling Research Centre. I found out that the year before they celebrated their 100 years universary with the exposition of a hanging tree.
It’s roots are beatifully untouched and hung with wires. Very long and thin roots. Although they did not keep the tree alive it was still worth a visit. I learned they tried several excavation methods, including rinsing the earth of using water. Nothing really worked though, so they did it the ‘archeological’ way. They dus a circular trench aroung the tree and then moved inwards. Using brushes and precision tools it took them ten days with 12 people. With my current knowledge I assume there a quicker ways, but quite an impressive work I would say! The people at EMR (Ross Newham received me) were very helpful and hospitable and showed me around the complex. They explained that most apple trees in the world come from their complex. It was fascinating to hear how apple trees are ‘made’. So what they do, they ‘fuse’ two different trees, grafting it’s called. A piece of branch with a root. The root is from a fast growing tree, the branch from a certain kind of apple, like Jonagold. They combine the ‘best’ properties in this way. As a novice, I was completely surprised about the trees capacity to survive this and the compatibility with other species! The grafting also explains why all commercial apple trees have a giant scar at their base, it’s their from their childhood. Rather dramatically poetic, I hope the tree is ok about it.
How to start a first blog? Maybe by explaining how this artwork came to exist. It is of course never really possible to tell, but I can eloborate on some of the ingredients.
I tend to spent quite some time among trees, to start with. At some point I became increasingly interested in the concept of ‘rootedness’. In Dutch we use a word that has it’s root in the word ‘earth’, so something like ‘earthliness’ This word has become ever more common in daily speech. When you are rooted or ‘earthed'(dutch: geaard), you are in a state of calmness, stability, firmness. I personally experienced often to be in exactely the opposite state. And the rise of the word can probably be explained by the fact that many people do the same.
But ‘rootedness’ as a concept – as I found in many moments of contemplation and conversations – is much broader than only that of naming a personal’state of mind’. We, as human beings are rooted in so many ways: socially, in a network of friend and family. Our condition is largely dependant on the conectedness of our roots and the quality of the social soil or tissue it is rooted at.
Immigration can also be viewed upon from the idea of rootedness. A man, a woman, a family has been uprooted culturally from a land. The ability to grow new roots will be vital to their condition in the new land.
Even money – I was philosophying one day – as it was disconnected from gold stocks became uprooted, weightless. No weight to slow it down, no body to center it.
So, after coming up with this symbol that bears in it so many possible thoughts and conversation, I started to look back at history and how we got here. This is where the Eiffel Tower came in as a perfect symbol for the age of technology. There are more ‘buildings’ that make sense, but us for now keep focus.
Although the concept was developed a while ago, only last fall we really got a team together to get things going. Mildred, Wessel, Job and me headed for Paris to make ‘the movie’ and parallel the University Larenstein/ van Hall by name of Freek and Dorien started to help us with the research. We were connected to them by Jeroen from the Mothership Art Productions. Special thanks to everybody here mentioned. This will be an interesting journey…