In their critique of capitalism and schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari write, ‘We’re tired of trees. We should stop believing in trees, roots, and radicles. They’ve made us suffer too much.’ The attack is not on trees per se but on a model of organisation borrowed from their essential form. An organisational structure, it is argued, deeply implicated in the furtherance and expression of capitalism. Given such a perspective, this work can be interpreted as the framing of the pattern (the tree) within the material reality it generates (the city). An interpretation that’s true, whether we’re witnessing the neatest of arboreal choreography in London’s financial districts or more lacklustre configurations in the suburbs. It’s a juxtaposition occasioned by, what is often, the cynical tokenism of architects and town planners alike. The planting of trees in an urban context often being little more than soft ornamentation; an ornamentation that softens urban linearity but masks the lack of genuine thought and care for the environment. The tree, one could argue, is implicated in every aspect of this work: present as natural specimen, invisible substructure and cynical decoy. When a sign announces a new business park as ‘a productive working environment’ one should expect to find it surrounded by trees and newly blooming shrubbery.
Such a deconstruction may be valid but ultimately betrays the sensibility that informs this work. For Kantonen, one senses, these images mark affectionate encounters. The politics, as such, are personal. These are places befriended and returned to several times. Returned to in order to achieve an appropriate proximity and for the possibility of an image to emerge. The manner of address is always appreciative: avoiding too strong an insistence on significance or proffering a politically correcting lamentation. The subtlety of this work lies in making a significance possible without betraying the localised reality of such a claim: an ambient indifference frames this appreciation. For those who know these locales will probably never have experienced them in this way. It’s possible therefore, that ones’ navigation of the urban environment will change because of this work. But the images themselves remain, I suggest, highly personal. Capturing moments that perhaps recall the photographer’s native Finland. Each tree constellation having a different emotional register. They are testament to temporary reprieves into a past world. Offering, to the receptive, a different formal and temporal realm.