Sunday 20th March: This is the last week of the installation. I checked the soil for moisture in each of the 6 trees. As I suspected the soil was very dry over half way down the pot. So I decided to top water each tree. There is risk in this but I am sure the trees would not survive another week without the watering.
Monday 21st March: The trees showed some signs of leaf yellowing. This is because of the watering yesterday. The problem was not bad and I decided that the soil needed warming slightly more whilst it was wet at the surface. For this reason I increased the top soil temperature by 1 degree to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). This temperature will run for 20 hours of the day. I can now understand where these problems occur and I am looking forward to this time next week when the trees will be back at my studio. I will then be able to place them into conditions where the top soil will dry out more naturally from heating above the trees.
Later in the day I felt there was a problem so I went back to the study. I have no idea why this strong sense popped into my head but I have learnt to follow these hunches. The trees were alright but clearly not as good as they were on Sunday. I rechecked everything and found that one of the timers, the light duration, had stopped. This would mean the trees would become completely out of schedule in relation to heat and light. This must have happened very recently as I do check the timers regularly. It probably happened in the morning and in some strange manner the problem got through to me. I recalibrated the timer and will check in the morning.
Tuesday 22nd March: I checked the timer and was pleased to see it had worked and was in synch with the temperature timer. I checked each tree for moisture and found they were still a bit dry and so gave each one varying amounts of water. I am aware that this may lead to leaf yellowing but I felt it best for the continued welfare of the trees. I kept all setting as they were. The humidity has remained very stable between 46 – 54%.
Wednesday 23rd March: Two of the 6 trees are looking a little unwell. This is because of the watering which has made the soil a cold and affects the general temperature of the environment. I am not sure if it is that this stage of the work is coming to an end but I really feel a strong desire to get them back to the studio.
Thursday 24th March: The two unwell trees are hanging in there but are in need of a couple of days in the grow tent to pull them around. There are now a total of 14 germinated trees in the study. My hope is to bring these trees on as they are intimately linked to the study at Nottingham Contemporary. They are metaphorically and actually connected to the air of contemporary art.
Friday 25th March: A couple of the trees looked a little unwell this morning, yellowing and falling leaves. I have removed them from the propagator environment and will bring them back to the grow tent over the weekend. I am not sure if this is a temperature or moisture problem. I am not too worried about these trees as I am confident they will thrive in the grow tent. The remaining trees look very well. They are all around 52 – 54 cm (20 -21 inches) in height and have very healthy leaf growth which is characteristically a beautiful dark green colour. The trees look handsome in the environment and they should survive the final weekend of the installation. All settings remain the same and the humidity is at 45%.
Saturday 26th March: The trees looked well this morning with little signs of stress on the leaves. The 2 trees I removed yesterday were still dropping some of their leaves. I think this is because of lack of heat in the study. Overnight they were behind the curtain next to the large picture windows in the study. The temperature outside the study dropped dramatically overnight and is forecast to drop a dramatic 10 degrees Celsius during the forthcoming week. Given this and the fact that the grow tent is ready to receive the trees I decided get them back to the studio.
Approximately 5 cm (2 inches) of growth during this week
The tallest tree, now in my studio, has grown to 60 cm (23.6 inches).
Sunday 27th March: This is the last day of the installation. The trees looked really well and I am pleased that they have survived what has been an intense period of study. This phase of the project has become a relationship of meaning and materiality that constructed, cultivated and reviewed a poetics of responsibility. It has been a relationship that advocates an intelligent ecology based on values that are immanent in the complex workings of nature.
It is the closeness of the relationship between the Moringa Trees and me that will stay with me and, as I continue the project, will continue to engage my thoughts. The project sought to privilege an intimacy of knowledge gained through observation and experience. Such closeness tried to overcome the material, social and ethical distance that can occur in works that attempt to comment on situations or conditions that are evident but not experienced.
The organisation of the relationship seems to have been governed through many forms of knowledge; experiential, procedural, social, conceptual, qualitative, experimental, descriptive, quantitative and self knowledge.
There were times when the intense relationship felt cut off, isolated from everyday experiences on an island of conceptual and material localism. I have experienced this many times in many projects and am beginning to understand that these isolated experiences are a means to cross thresholds of knowledge. This is not to say the project was lonely; the many members of the public I met and talked with and the brilliant exhibition staff kept the processes in a flowing dialogue.
The trees got close to dying and, in the end, this edge of life was the most intense learning possible for me. This phase of the project was drenched in intricate interactions connecting within and without the complexity of the relationship. As such, negotiating such complexities embodied the realities of uncertainty and trust that are essential constituents of my works.
Tomorrow the trees will return to the studio and the next phase of the project will gradually emerge. I have prepared some plans but fully embrace the notion that such plans are not immutable within the material territory of an evolving project.