Provocation 6: 

Annette Arlander

︎ Visit Annette’s website 

Provocation 6: Ask a tree

1. Go to a tree that is important to you – if you do not have such a tree
   nearby, go to the nearest park and approach a tree that is inviting you.

2. Bring a pen and paper with you.

3. Greet the tree and ask the tree for advice concerning a problem you are
   struggling with or conduct an interview with the tree about your main
   research concerns.

4. Write down by hand, while spending time with the tree, the questions and the
   possible answers that come to your mind.

5. If you wish, you can prepare by watching a video, where I try to interview
   an old pine tree (here is the link to the video).

Annette Arlander, DA, is an artist, researcher and a pedagogue, one of the pioneers of Finnish performance art and a trailblazer of artistic research. In 2018-2019 she was professor in performance, art and theory at Stockholm University of the Arts with the artistic research project Performing with Plants. She was also the principal investigator of the Academy of Finland funded research project How to Do Things with Performance (2016-2020). At present she is visiting researcher at Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki with the project Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees. Her research interests include artistic research, performance-as-research and the environment. Her artwork moves between the traditions of performance art, video art and environmental art.


Nikki Fairchild

Conversations with a Kowhai

K: Of course you know I am an illegal immigrant…

N: Hmm…remind me again of your journey.

K: Originally I sprouted in Waikato, New Zealand, you remember your neighbour Jean…?

N: Yes, she died…oh…6 years ago…

K: Oh really, that is sad…anyway she smuggled me back to the UK in her suitcase,

I was growing in her cousin’s garden. So now I am here with you.

N: I remember she gave you to us when we returned from living in Nelson (New Zealand), that must be more than 11 years ago now. She wanted us to feel part of the community and thought this would remind us of our time there…

K: That was very nice of her!

N: Yes I thought so too.

K: Well do I remind you?

N: Yes you do, things were different then…our son was much younger…we wanted a new life…better jobs…better outdoor lifestyle…it didn’t work out like that…we came home as it was getting near to when he (son) would have had to go to school and we didn’t want to disrupt that.

K: And now you are talking to me!

N: Yes! Do you miss New Zealand? I often wonder if you are still connected as you seem to lose your leaves and flowers at different times to most UK native plants.

K: Yes I miss the warmth and the flowers of the Pohutukawa tree…but I am lucky…I have connections in your garden, there is enough food and water and I am safe…what more could you ask for…

As I write this I think of all the people who are not safe, who migrate and who are displaced, who ask for asylum, who are desperate. In the UK, the post Brexit climate is very challenging. Some would suggest that the Conservative Government has moved to the right of politics. One of the manifesto promises was a crack down on immigration and asylum seekers. This policy is being ruthlessly enacted at the moment, not only are asylum seekers and ‘illegal’ immigrants being targeted but there are reports this is happening to European job seekers. All Europeans living in the UK had to register for settled status – some are worried this could be revoked. Migrants come to a nation and join a community, they contribute via taxation and also by the relationships they build. A diverse community can enrich our lives. Recently in Scotland the Home Office and Border Force came to arrest what the press reported as ‘two immigrants’. The local community surrounded the vans and peacefully protested. These men were their neighbours and members of their community. They were released but I suspect this will happen again. The Windrush saga also continues to raise its ugly head. Migrants invited from the Caribbean to post War Britain…families who have worked and served their local communities unable to get residence documents…family members being deported for minor crimes even when they have never lived in the Caribbean.
Conversations with my Kowhai tree bring these issues into sharp focus. Perhaps the incident in Scotland is the start of a turning tide away from nationalism…I hope so.

Mahek M.

Tessa V.B.

Shayna P.

Good evening Mr. Pine Tree! Would you mind if I asked you a variety of questions tonight?

As long as you don’t carve into me like the little kids in this neighborhood do, I’m happy to do anything.

I promise, no carving.

Ask away.

I am really concerned about my future- I feel fairly lost and confused. Do you have any ideas on how I could ease these concerns?

Ground yourself. You can’t make wise decisions when you are floating around in space. Take some deep breath, figure out what matters to you, and go from there.

I don’t really see how the future will get any better unless our government drastically changes. Is there any way you could see this happening?

I think that the answer lies less in the government and more so in your community. You most lilely can’t control how the government is run without either becoming a politician or committing a horrible crime, but you can work to band together with the people aroind you to increase the power of the people.

How would you recommend someone deal with a lack of motivation when working in a situation that is much more difficult without immense motivation and passion?

Parse down the situation to its base goal and the simplest form of what you must produce. After that, figure out how to reach this goal and produce what you must
*without* your perfectionism. What specifically will you not do that your perfectionism drives you towards?

How can I better connect with the people around me?

Do you really need to connect with the people around you better, or do you need to work on connecting with yourself? you cannot have genuine interactions with the people around you until you improve your relationship with yourself.
You cannot connect with others when you are emulating a fake version of yourself.

Won’t I just come off conceited if all I focus on is myself?

There’s a difference between spending time connecting with yourself and focusing on yourself. You can focus on yourselfby doing many things like getting a manicure or doing face masks or working out - all of those are fine activities but they don’t mean you are actually connecting with yourself. Connecting with yourself can require constant dialogue such as journal writing or being mindful through meditation.

Chloe R.

Khalena C.

Katie H.

David R.

Prisha Mhatre

P: Hi tree! I see that you are as peaceful as always. Did you enjoy the rain yesterday?

T: Yes, it is always nice to cool off with some summer showers. The wind felt nice through my leaves.

P: You always provide a cool shade for me when I sit outside and your branches are home to many birds. I appreciate that.

T: Well I am glad to help, and I love the little songs the birds sing. They’re all so beautiful and unique!

P: I love to listen to them too! You seem to know many great things, and you’ve been observing and protecting me since I moved here with my family when I was just 3 years old! May I ask you a few questions?

T: Definitely. Ask away!

P: I’ve been trying to relax more lately, but sometimes it’s hard to not be stressed with all my responsibilities. How can I stop worrying so much? How are you able to remain calm even during frightful storms?

T: It’s quite more simple than you think. Even during a storm, when my branches seem to sway furiously, I still feel safe and secure. Actually, I feel so free! I think during stressful times, it can be hard to see everything that is still going right for you. It is easy to get caught up in the storm and miss all the things that you still have and can be grateful for.

P: Hmm, I see. I guess I do focus too much on uncertainty. How do you nourish and take care of yourself even when you’re feeling down?

T: I take my time, and take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. I imagine all those icky feelings flowing out as I do. And importantly, I let myself feel.

P: Okay, thank you. And how can I stop worrying about the result and focus more on enjoying the process of what I do? The future can be scary.

T: Well the future does hold so much uncertainty, but it also holds many possibilities too. Sometimes, we can expect too much out of ourselves and we want everything to go as planned. We want to be perfect. It will take time to realise that everything doesn’t have to be under your control. Someday you will appreciate all the possibilities in your life rather than fear them.

P: Well thank you so much for listening to my concerns! I really appreciate your guidance.

T: Yes, you are certainly welcome! I appreciate your company too. Don’t feel shy to come talk again.

Cedar F.

Did it hurt?
They took your height, your fruit, your dignity, and left you naked.
Did you feel it?
The roots that you bind yourself beneath the earth with are like my hands, holding on for something better, clenching my fists when I get angry, digging my nails into my palms, crumbling bedsheets when I cry. I know you use your hands to connect yourself to the others like you, who still stand tall. 
Do they know?
Do they reach back to you in comfort, or ignore your pain and feel the warmth of the sun on their long bodies as you sit, small and hunched, feeling eons away from the sky?
Do the plants around you extend their sympathies, cradling you in recognition, whispering “you are our size now and we love you still, we loved you when you were big and now that you are small like us we still love you”?
Or is there silence? Is there cold? Is there a heart that stubbornly beats next to the rings of your life, or is it barren, empty, stripped?
I think you are proud. I think you would never expose your wounds to me, especially not the ones that cut deeper than my human eyes can see.
I think you are trying. And I think that is enough.

Johnny V.

I chose to interview a tree that’s been in our yard for about 50 years. My grandfather planted an avocado tree on his property when he was in his early 20s.  It is now an enormous tree that provides plenty of avocados.  I currently have been at a crossroads in my life and I’m constantly second guessing my choices.  I keep asking what-if questions.  Asking these questions outloud has confirmed that I should do what makes me happy regardless of others’ opinions.

Me:  Hello tree! I ask for your advice and wisdom.

Tree:  Ask away…..

Me:  Is it normal to have so many crossroads in life?

Tree:  It is…..

Me:  Is it bad I left the military in the middle of a pandemic?

Tree:  No, it's ok to be selfish and prioritize your mental health.

Me:  Is it ok I don’t want to be a healthcare worker anymore?

Tree:  No, your passion will constantly change so you must change with it.

Me:  Thank you for calming my mind


Margaux M.

Hello tree,
I must admit, I feel quite odd doing this, but I welcome it with an open mind.  By “this” I mean talking to you, but this idea was brought to my attention with rather suitable timing. So, tree, I would like to ask you a few questions about decisions that have been troubling me. First, let me give you a name so that you are not just a noun.  I’ll call you Zion, if that’s alright with you?

Z: It is, tell me, what is pestering you?

M: I am nearing the end of my degree, and I should feel accomplished, yet I feel rather lost.  I don’t know where to go from here or how to go about finding that answer.  I am normally a rather decisive person, and believe that what’s meant to be, will happen.  This time though, I find myself anxious, anxious for the future.  Am I good enough?  Am I smart enough?  Will others see me as intelligent?  What should I do?  What do you think Zion?  How should I navigate the next steps of mine?

Z: What do you truly want, without the thoughts of others plaguing your mind?

M: I can’t tell.  It’s too hard to get those thoughts out.

Z: Try thinking about when you were younger.  What you wanted when you used to play on trees such as I, with ropes on them for fun.  What did you dream of then?

M:  I dreamed of a job.  A somewhat particular job.  One that is still my dream, but I don’t know if I am worthy of it.  I don’t know if I can do it.

Z: What is holding you back? 

M:  I was sick, I’m not now, but that sickness took so much of my confidence.  I felt weak and incapable of everything.  I don’t know how to get that confidence back.  I’m trying, but it’s hard.  I think it is simply my own mind holding me back.  The thoughts that I read from others hold me back too.

Z: Those other thoughts you mentioned that you feel from others, what do they want you to do?

M: They want me to prove my intelligence. They want me to pursue more schooling to set me apart from the rest.  At that point, and only that point, is when they will view me as worthy again.  When they will view me as smart again.  When they will view me as capable again.

Z:  I think you’ve found your answer.  It may be hard, but we must not listen to what the wind blows to your ears.  You must go after your own path.  Grown tall and strong, but in your own way.  Think on this.  Take a chance and trust yourself to succeed.  You never know until you try.

Silvia Pillow Neretti ︎ Visual Communication & Web work + Cargo ︎