These are amazing: each Joining a neighbor, as though speech Were a still performance. Arranging by chance
To meet as far this morning From the world as agreeing With it, you and I Are suddenly what the trees try
To tell us we are: That their merely being there Means something; that soon We may touch, love, explain.
And glad not to have invented Such comeliness, we are surrounded: A silence already filled with noises, A canvas on which emerges
A chorus of smiles, a winter morning. Placed in a puzzling light, and moving, Our days put on such reticence These accents seem their own defense.
John Ashbery Some Trees (1956)
In times in which a mere conversation about trees is almost a crime again, an actual exhibition about trees would be even more so.
Anyhow, there is something about them, which John Ashbery has described as their »still performance«. A peculiar performance that could in fact try to tell us, »you and I«, a thing or two.
Trees might be symbols of life, both birth and death, of knowledge, temptation or redemption; they might represent peace and sorrow or emblematically stand in for lives marked by fate and hardship. Piercing the horizon and connecting both heaven and earth, they might also mirror man’s upright stance. Groves as well as forest glades have always been regarded as places of divine presence.
However, that’s not what Ashbery is speaking about … No matter how »amazing« trees might be, what he is saying is far more down to earth: »being there«, or rather everyone’s being here, »means something«. Let reality be intransparent and unseizable as it may, it is for us to find out what to make of it.
When Ashbery’s days »put on reticence« out of shyness, our present is elusive, while intrusively attempting to govern every life, at the very same time. Being, on the contrary, is individual yet commonly shared, firmly rooted yet adaptable, willful yet caring. And always it is »as far from the world« as it is amidst it. Softly swaying away from it and then again leaning toward it, embracing all there is.
The photographs, paintings, works on paper, and sculptures in this lush summer exhibition carry the very same sentiment. They take a stance to transform everyday encounters, situations, experiences, thereby reinstating and liberating their disregarded possibilities. Until, all of a sudden, our world re- appears.
Yes, SOME TREES, too … after all, even the world’s highest tree, a 115.5 m sequoia called Hyperion, can be found nearby in Redwood National Park.