Before Zen, trees are trees and mountains are mountains,
During Zen, trees are pillars of wisdom and mountains are thrones of spirits,
After Zen, trees are trees and mountains are mountains.
During the ice storm of 1998, I became very concerned about the plight of the trees, especially those caught in the triangle of darkness. There was a huge amount of damage done and the area looked like a war zone. I wondered why some trees broke and splintered, why some bowed down, and some were just fine. The other thing that fascinated me was the sound of that time, the incessant sound of the freezing rain on our tin roof, its monotonous regularity, and I wanted to convey that sense. While I was working on “Elegy” I realized that I wanted to freeze the movement of certain images across the screen and so began to work on still images from the video, which became a series of small format prints.
So then I became intrigued with the metaphor of the tree and the idea of the tree of life. There is a tale that the tree holds up the canopy of heaven, so what happens if that tree, the tree of heaven, falls? In the aftermath of the ice storm, in the forest where the canopy was lost, biologists have found new species emerging. The seeds were there but needed more light and different conditions to grow. And so the falling of the trees made way for new life to emerge, another transformation.
When I discovered Margaret Atwood’s poem Resurrection, another piece fell into pIace. In this poem she writes about the great circle of life and how in the end we will all become trees. She gave me permission to use the poem as the soundtrack for the video, also titled Resurrection.
This led to the Tree House, a structure built from rough lumber, just the bones or skeleton of the house, in which I installed a VCR and monitor to show the videos. I loved the idea of watching videos in a tree house- it seemed such a dichotomy. At the same time, thinking of the Zen Koan (words above) I had a friend build “Once we were Trees” where each of the 4 pillars are made from the trunk of a tree.
I also used large scale photocopies of parts of trees as part of the installation Tendancies as well as actual body parts of branches, roots and trunks
© liz davidson 2006-11 all rights reserved