“Maple Tree Spiral:
the pedagogy of a tree in the city”
June 14–July 27, 2019
Reception Saturday July 6, 4pm
Laiwan will be in studio on Tuesdays and Saturdays, 2–4pm
With Egan Davis, Anne Riley, T’uy’t’tanat Ceass Wyss, Melissa West Morrison and Marika van Reeuwyk of the Environmental Youth Alliance, Sepideh Saii, Daniel Negatu, and brothers Frank and Dance Williams.
Situated a short distance from Artspeak at the corner junction of Carrall, Water, Alexander and Powell Streets was formerly the site of Maple Tree Square. Laiwan takes the historic site of the Square as a starting point for her research project Maple Tree Spiral: the pedagogy of a tree in the city. The original Maple Tree no longer stands, and instead a statue of ‘Gassy’ Jack Deighton. As a site where one of the first city council meetings of the settlement of Gastown was held, Laiwan considers how Maple Tree Square is a space of convergence.
Maple Tree Spiral is a research project studio residency that will remain in process over time in the gallery, being shaped through events and activities with a number of contributors and with a practice dedicated to a wider understanding of trees as a way to reorient and reconfigure how we inhabit the city and urban environment. During this time at Artspeak, Laiwan will present several works informed by her research, as well as a place to share people’s tree stories, and a site of gathering for events that will take place over the course of the project.
Laiwan’s interdisciplinary research maintains a rhizomatic methodology proximate to Donna Haraway’s assertion of a deeply embodied praxis that lends itself to better comprehending and articulating multispecies sociality. Haraway has frequently spoken of the ‘… need for other kinds of stories’, particularly ones that draw attention to the relationship between human and non-human forms living alongside one another. Put simply, to shift our focus and attend to what is already there. Maple Tree Spiral draws upon what is not immediately perceptible in our urban environment.
When we first began speaking about Maple Tree Spiral, Laiwan sent me an image of Goethe’s Oak, followed by an image from her work ‘C A V E: C A V E A T’ of an engraved print of a large tree in a labyrinth. Within the labyrinth are people actively conversing; and in close proximity a Minotaur is seen digging the earth, as if trying to get out. We know this image to be a depiction of The Labyrinth of Crete from Greek mythology. Central to many stories of trees is their role as monuments both mundane (as wayfinding markers) to that of bearers of knowledge, as witnesses, and integral to philosophical and religious concepts. During my year of correspondence with Laiwan, our line of questioning around trees in the city would incrementally shift to an attentiveness of the trees we live alongside. Informed by a site-specificity in her research and practice, Maple Tree Spiral questions the narratives we are attuned to, the ones that we want to deviate from, and the ones we want to write and hear.
Meeting with several individuals and organizations over the course of a year, Laiwan started to build an informal constellation and network of relationships with the objective of how to better care for trees in our immediate environment. Laiwan describes the building of these relationships and partnerships between human and non-human forms as a process of ‘sympoiesis’ – collectively created, produced and organized, without a central node. Another term, which nuances the decentralized nature of entangled relationships that Laiwan has mentioned, is ‘holobionts’ – assemblages of different species that remain in progress and are highly interdependent. Maple Tree Spiral fosters entangled ways of knowing that allow for a reading and writing that incites other ways of living and imagining the world.
Laiwan would like to thank Hannah Doyle, Mae Stark, Marc Hanson, Cynthia Low, Britannia Community Centre, Sharon Bayly, Mrs. Chin Kow Chung, Harmony Gardens X̱wemelch’stn pen̓em̓áy, City of Vancouver Arborists Troy Hudson, Jeff D’Altroy and Terry Marshall, Karen Henry, Douglas Justice, Dana Cromie, Dan Guinan at the Native Education College, and the BC Arts Council.