Deep time - background note:
This started out as a visual project where I wanted to capture the essence of ancient trees around the world. I felt a need for a positive backdrop against which to discuss themes that had to do with climate change and environmental issues.
A few months into my project (looking for funding, making plans etc) , American artist Rachel Sussman released a book called The Oldest Living things in the world, where Old Tjikko, the 10000 year old spruce in Sweden which I had intended to be my startring point was on the cover. Sussman´s book captured much of what I wanted to show and went beyond that in a series of exquisite photos of ancient living things around the globe.
I needed to change my approach to the subject and what unfolded over the next years ended up being a series of written accounts of my visits to some of these trees, accompanied by photos, installations, performance and video. A number of the texts have been published by the fine folks at the Dark Mouintain project, where an immeasurable thanks is owed to Charlotte du Cann, Nick Hunt and Philip Webb Gregg for their patient editing efforts and general support.
Other texts have so far remained unpublished but they can be accessed here as PDF´s.
essays on ancient trees
Deep Time: Finding old Tjikko
lost in the snowstorm, March 2014
Ars brevis vida longa
Field trip to Old Tjikko with documentary film crew, March 2015
Visit to 5000-year old chestnut in Sicily 2015
from a visit to the Queen's Giant 2014-15
I visited the world´s oldest individual clonal tree for the first time in March 2014. My motivation was a desire to find out what it would be like to be in the presence of a living thing that first set root after the last ice age. The tree is called ”Old Tjikko” and stands a fair bit above the tree level on Fulufjället mountain in northwestern Sweden. The tree itself is a modest spruce, where the trunk only dates back to the mid 1700´s. Old Tjikko is of a variety of spruce called ”krumholz” and basically acts as an indicator of climate change and
global warming: when the tree senses a slight warming over several decades, it decides to venture into growing a trunk up and above the low bushy growth closer to the ground.
The visit to Old Tjikko became the starting point for an investigative art project with the working title ”Deep Time”. The title refers to how time is measured in geological terms. Old Tjikko stands at the threshold between the geological epochs of the Holocene and the Anthropocene, which makes it a powerful symbol in a present riddled with questions. Te trees in the project can provide a perspective on time, climate and resilience that goes beyond the token limits of discussions on climate and environment (this year, the next 10 years, our grandchildren) and expand the horizon with a physical, living heritage as a reference point. The concept of deep time works both ways- the extent to which we can fathom the past will be a gauge of our capacity for imagining a future. A tree seems like a reasonably manageable starting point for this venture.
I work in a broad variety of media. For Deep Time I have come to rely on on-site photo and video documentation, along with a series of performances staged in the vicinity of the trees. Once gathered the material- whether actual seeds, samples of dirt or digital /analogue photos- is processed in the studio and turned into installations, drawings and paintings. A significant part of my project deals with a narrative rendering of each tree, which ultimately will be presented in book form along with a selection of images.