Eline Kersten

The work of Eline Kersten is part of Exploded View

Humming Trees

Trees are living fossils. Through their slow but gradual growth, small birches can become giants over time. However, trees grow better together in a forest than alone. A forest protects: through an underground network, trees exchange information and nutrients. But can we (mankind) recognize and perhaps even hear this exchange? Can we learn from the way trees are connected? And can we communicate with trees? In other words, can we speak about interspecies communication?

Since some years, the world is captivated by yoga, mindfulness and meditation. On a daily basis, many people meditate during group sessions or alone at home, as a way to include quiet and stillness in one’s busy life. An often-done meditation is the so called ‘tree meditation’, which is meant for grounding, and in which the meditator becomes a tree. The body becomes the bark of the tree; from the feet grow roots deep into the ground; the arms stretch out like branches that are strengthened by daylight. It’s an everyday example of the way in which we identify with trees. In the Amstelpark, everyday one can find groups meditating together between the trees of the former Floriade park. What do trees tell our subconscious in this location?

After having done further research I came across the world tree, the Yggdrasil, via the Axis Mundi. Originating from Norwegian and Icelandic mythology, it is the symbol of an endless ramification of all that is. According to tradition, the Yggdrasil is an enormous taxus carrying various worlds and beings in it. I am mainly interested in the world tree as the highest point in the cosmos, as the center of all directions and above all, the physical connection between the underworld, the human world and the upper world.

I see the project in the Amstelpark as an extension of my project in the Via Appia park, where I focus on a soil boring showcasing the different historical layers through geology. I see the tree as a positive boring, dealing with history in its own way. In the famous work ‘7000 oaks’ by Joseph Beuys I see a parallel. For the Documenta of 1982, he made a proposal for an artwork with 7000 oaks in the city, with a volcanic stone accompanying each tree. In the following years he completed the work until he died. In this work he borrows the anthroposophical ideas of Rudolph Steiner of the four cosmic concepts, and alludes to the slow transformation of basalt into an oak.

In the coming months, I am going to look for the Yggdrasil or world tree in the Amstelpark by making an audio work with mostly spoken word, which can be heard at different trees in the park. Furthermore, Norwegian mythology will play a role in the work, such as the myth of Daphne, who turns into a laurel before Apollo can violate her, or Cyparissus, who is turned into a cypress to grief for eternity over the deer that he killed. Using an app and headphones, the visitor will be able to navigate through the park and thus discover the microstories hidden in the world tree of the Amstelpark.



Eline Kersten (1994, Maastricht) graduated from a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, after which she undertook an MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths University in London. Currently she is living in Amsterdam, where she works as an independent curator and artist. At the moment, she is developing a series of events with sound artists in multiple botanical gardens in the Netherlands, which are planned to take place in summer 2019. She has exhibited internationally, including at the BienalSur (Buenos Aires); Dak’Art (Dakar); De Brakke Grond (Amsterdam); Hohensalzburg (Salzburg). She has also curated exhibitions and events internationally, at Cubitt Gallery (London); Gorwiden38 (Zürich); Greylight Projects (Brussels); Schunck* (Heerlen), among others. She furthermore co-founded the collective Nowhere, which offers a platform to recently graduated artists, curators and writers through the publication of online zines.