#photography & visual arts
This photograph documents an outdoor performance – the artist climbed a tree a day for a year. ‘It is my journal and private rebellion’, she explained.
Italo Calvino’s novel The Baron in the Trees inspired the artist to work on this project. The book is set in the trees, following the rebellion of its main protagonist, Cosimo. Malik blended this fairytale inspiration with environmental activism, posting the results of her quest on Facebook daily. That was in 2008, when talk of smog had not yet hit the headlines, and celebrities were not engaged in awareness campaigns about throwaway plastics.
The artist later described her surreal project as follows:
I felt 100% myself while doing this. It was extremely pleasurable and required very little effort. Every morning, I would put on my ‘tree outfit’: cheap, colourful clothes, thin-soled shoes, and red lipstick to make my face clearly visible. When I went back to work afterwards, my blouse would be full of pine needles or tree bark.
This activity also led Malik to start working outside of the artistic sphere – meeting activists and ecologists, and organising happenings to protect green sites and rivers. In 2017, she admitted that, in Kraków, where most of the pictures were taken, nearly half of the trees she photographed have been cut down.
Malik’s work touches on issues of existing in civic space and complying with (or defying) the norm. She improvises and has fun, with no thought for the consequences or interpretations. She follows her desire, regardless of whether it originally stemmed from a nostalgia for childhood, a rebellion against conventions, or pure chance. This independent activity helps her acquire a new cognitive horizon. After all, you can see more from the treetops.
Originally written in Polish, translated by MB, Nov 2018
This text is part of the project Metaphors of Independence: Poland In 100 Photos.
To coincide with the centenary of Poland regaining its independence, we have created a selection of photographs that allow us to understand both yesterday and today. A hundred photographs but so much more. Find out more.