A City, Its Trees, and Me  2010

Proposal for site-specific performative project based on the motif of the tree, exploring humour, behaviour, sense, place, and history.

The starting point is to map out a route around a chosen city that takes in some of its trees. This route, to be walked every day, would become the basis for a daily performative project. The interest is in utilising subjective and objective responses to the city: the trees acting as convenient fixed points for a discursive and critical investigation into specific urban space.

The proposal is to photograph, video, write about, and interact with the trees – using this activity as a platform for an indirect meditation on the changing urban fabric of the city. Trees are to be used as points of “stability” around which the chaotic and ever-changing nature of lived urban space can be thrown into focus.

A further theme is the in-built senselessness of expecting trees to provide answers to a set of serious socially-, culturally-, and historically-loaded questions. Playing with the border between rationality and irrationality, the proposed project aims sometimes to be humorous and non-sensical, and at other times to deal seriously and critically with relevant social issues of the city.

The project was initially conceived for the city of Halle in the former East Germany. It aimed to deal with the city’s changing nature, including such issues as its declining population, its industrial history and post-industrial present, its reputation as a “problematic” city within the reunified Germany, and the renewal and removal of its architecture. The focus on trees was an attempt to stage a temporal contrast between what is natural (and relatively permanent) and what is man-made (and relatively impermanent).

The project is, however, adaptable to other urban contexts: its general conceptual premise is flexible and can respond to specific qualities in other sites.