you are variations

you are variations

, Christina Della Giustina

How can we meet a tree?
Is it possible to get to know trees?
To hear them and become familiar with them?
How intensely, under what conditions, and through what forms of knowledge do we experience and engage with “creation”, including ourselves?
How is it we ethically relate to the environment?

scoring scientific methods, sounding water’s cycles, becoming intimate with trees

… this is not a straight line        this is the beginning of a circle           the beginning of embracing

How can we meet a tree?

Is it possible to get to know trees?
To hear them and become familiar with them?

How intensely, under what conditions, and through what forms of knowledge
do we experience and engage with “creation”, including ourselves?

How is it we ethically relate to the environment?

‘you are variations’ turns scientific long-term data of tree activities into sound- and light events. It is a practice of interpreting by proposing translations, resulting in an intersection of the scientific and the aesthetic; that is not just to question different knowledge regimes, but to explore the power that their mutual exchange and dialogue has in creating interfaces for intense encounters unfolding into vital relationships with the environment; that is creating (the condition for) an attitude of perceiving oneself together (with …) .

Entangled with these epistemological probing - what forms of intimacies with the organic do
our known approaches distinguish, prevent, suggest, envision, and enable? - are further questions that speak to a common querying across disciplines concerning our ways of being with ourselves and the world. ‘you are variation’ examines the environmental sensitivity of this ‘being’.

In probing the interface, the meeting points, and the fault-lines of a series of different knowledge forms, oscillating between the scientific and the aesthetic, what is set in motion are relationships between these modes of exploration and understanding, and in doing so the possibilities for something hybrid, something else, something maybe new.

How to assemble and draw together the aesthetic and the scientific, how to interweave the two and let them resonate to explore their epistemological borderlands?

Can the scientific and the aesthetic assist each other in our understanding of such complex phenomena as the nature of trees?

The method so far is composing and performative, testing - in the process - forms of meeting
and relating to trees; We created molecular polyphonies, electro-acoustic polyrhythms, and oral as well as written poetry. The results of these different experimental processes of engaging is a collage of sorts, a kind of material intimacies, in which the formal interweaving of diverse types of material (digital, acoustic, poetic) performs a fertile heterogeneity, a conscious disorganization and re-organization, so far perhaps rather opening up itself to questions than answering them, maybe for the sake of preventing an (even unintended) closing down.

The working of these pieces though I think depends on their capacity to create contact zones,
and mediate between worlds; acting as ladders or bridges, similar to the water climbing trees.

‘you are variations’ takes place against the backdrop of concerns with the observable trends
in climatic change, and the related known and unknown modifications, both globally as well as in our own microclimates. It may not be an easily graspable subject: ‘you are variations’ draws attention to the complex water cycling and sophisticated energy balance of trees under different environmental conditions. Its queries are relevant for contemporary regimes of scientific knowledge, especially those concerned with climate futures; as well as for queries regarding art’s capacity to cultivate a set of environmental dispositions that cause pause for thought, and at the same time might move us, for the sake of all human and non-human others we would like to live together and become intimate with.


Other relevant websites:


1  extract from the authors diary, June 5 2011

2  The data sets of ‘you are variations, version 01 – 04’ are generated and selected on the basis of the long-term monitoring program LWF, and analyzed by experts from the Research Units ‘Forest Dynamics’ and ‘Forest Soils and Biogeochemistry’ of the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL. For further information, please see:

The direct and uninterrupted feed back and forth between the practical experiments and the theoretical research during my residency at the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL in 2011 was a fundamental force in the development of the work’s potential for insight and innovation so far. It allowed me to closely explore the relationship between my and others making and thinking.
How this is transferred into knowing is the next step, I think: the potential and challenge of this research.

How to treat the scientific data artistically to generate worthily pertinent, intense, and effective experiences, that connect us to the tree?

In version 04/02, the version I am working on right now, I additionally work closely together with the performing musicians and their instruments:
how to interpret the notation of the scientific data musically for to generate an intensive, sonic experience worthy of a tree?

We have been given the great opportunity to focus on this study with the instrumentalists as artists-in-residence at the Dr. Robert and Lina Thyll-Dur Foundation ‘La Casa Zia Lina’ on Elba, Italy, from March 12 – 19 2014.

‘you are variations’, version 04/02, will be performed on October 18 2014 in the Vondelkerk in Amsterdam.
The follow-up ‘version 02/02’, will be developed and performed together with 27 children from Leuk and its surroundings, in the natural reserve
Pfyn-Finges in the Vallais, CH, in May 2015.

3  In this research on how to reach trees the issue acknowledges the signal legacy of Felix Guattari’s political ecology, as developed in his texts ‘The Three Ecologies’ and ‘Chaosmosis’, together with further central touchstones for the issue’s consideration of political ecology in recent theoretical developments, such as ‘Steps to an Ecology of Mind’, a collection of writings by cyberneticist Gregory Bateson; 

Bruno Latour’s ‘Politics of Nature’ and ‘Composition of Political Ecology’, Gilles Deleuze’s ‘The Fold’, Philippe Descola’s ‘Beyond Nature & Culture’, Tim Ingold’s ‘Perception of the Environment’, together with Donna Haraway and Isabelle Stengers in the fame

of ‘The Whitehead Research Project’, referring to Whitehead’s philosophy of organism and process studies, and Spinoza’s ethics.

4  for a video compilation of the project so far, please see:

Each (con-)versions 01/.. – 04/.. is accompanied by a series of books and web-pages, providing background information on the project and documenting its methods and working process.
The performances, installations, and books realized so far are affected and inspired by trees, building a cluster of experiments that test the possibility, the quality and the degree of intensity in experiencing trees.

Maybe the connection between trees (the research’s topic), and my work (the research activity and method) lays in a shared generative impulse. In any case, its resonations can be seen as attempts to convert distance into intensity, focusing on a qualitative transformation of distance into immediacy of relation to tree and self. Insofar, ‘you are variations’ is a generative research project - the instantiation and actualization of trees as engagement with overlapping ecosystems, processes, and potentials – , consisting in a series of translation experiments for to render our attention receptive, to the tree, and – inevitably and simultaneously - to ourselves.

‘version 04/01’ for example experimented with the interpretation and transposition of meteorological and physiological long-term monitoring data into a live performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2013.
Scientific environmental data sets describing soil moisture, sapflow, leaf gas exchange and meteorological conditions from the LWF monitoring sites Lausanne, CH - a measuring plot close to Montreux, CH - were transposed into a composition rendering the plant response of beech trees growing at the region sonically perceivable and tangible to the listener’s imagination.

Listening you are attuned to the progression of processes within trees, and in listening to them you are made attentive to change. Importantly, the sounds we hear are not an amplification or sonification of actual environmental recordings – no recordings such as rendering audible of sounds normally below the capacity of a human ear unaided by technology, for example, nor any technological
programming of filtering, enhancement, or modulation of environmental sounding is at stake - but rather they are soundings of science,
that is the interpretation and translation of data into sound as environmental disposition and composition;
please see:


Primary supervisor: Jayne Parker
Secondary supervisors: Jon Thomson