project image
Calvin Burton

first performed on August 8, 2018
Bergen Street, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY
performed three times in 2018


New York, NY


When I first considered climbing a tree, I had in my mind images of Italo Calvino’s novel, The Baron in the Trees, as well as childhood memories of Mexico, where climbing trees was a common game among children. Like the Baron Cosimo, I wanted to remove myself from society, but only in order to gain a different perspective.

As my ideas progressed I wondered whether it was legal in NYC to climb a tree—it turns out it isn’t. The illegality of my endeavor corresponded with an increased sense of urgency for the performance to happen. I walked for days around the neighborhood looking for a tree, and finally found a perfect Japanese pagoda almost in front of the studio.

Here are my notes from the time the first performance happened:

I want to occupy places that my body never occupied before and do so in forgotten but forbidden places. I want to control my visibility and from a bird’s angle to look around. Down there (abajo) on the sidewalk or up there (arriba) in the tree branches I establish a home base, a location, a place were making happens in the public eye.

Arriba, I use the mouth as a maker and as a cursing and blessing tool. With the mouth, I mix ingredients like burnt tortillas and activated charcoal. This childlike oral fixation helps me to leave my substance in the objects or surfaces while the surfaces also leave a trace of themselves in me or in the dough. Particles of moss, bark, and filth are encased in these oval-shaped molds, or what I call fruits. Fruits from a fruitless tree that I let drop as if they were pieces of words and sentences eager to be fully enunciated.

Inside of my plastic bags there is a dough made out of corn starch, glue, vinegar, and vegetable oil. In the 80s, my mom used to make kitschy flower arrangements for Catholic celebrations. Also inside of the bag there is activated charcoal (made out of hardwood trees like hickory and birch) used for cleansing and detoxing from indigestion to drug overdose. And then there is saliva in the mix, a kind of binder for the charcoal and the dough. The ashes of those unknown trees are going back to this urban tree.