"TREE HUGGER" (20-6-2017) My body, a tree and several coloured (almost exclusively food) powders: Unsustainable charcoal, ground coffee, chocolate milk powder, Trekker mixture (coffee and chicory), groundnut powder, millet flour, strawberry milk powder, strawberry custard powder, maize flour, coffee creamer, white bread flour and cassava flour. Dressed in white (being his alter ego) makes Camilio a true part of the art work / performance and subject next to the tree.

dated 2017 until 2017 (click on an image to enlarge an artwork)
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This is the tree as found as it is in the forest reserve Lusaka, untouched, unmoved, most probably never analysed as intensive as did this time, from every angle. This tree was meters away from footpaths or 4x4 tracks and its beauty inspired the artist to work with this tree.

  For viewing the performance film, klick on this "picture and text" page and you will find the link to You Tube.
If (by clicking) you came on that "enlarged picture page" please scroll down on this window to find the film.

  After having performed with a “ready-made wood pile” in the forest reserve of Lusaka, Camilio felt the need for a performance with a carefully selected living tree in the same forest reserve. In the performance film, one can see the result of this reason and how it is conceptualised in a performance.

The difference in approach lies, not only in working with a living tree instead of with a “human ready-made object”, but also because Camilio wanted to perform something in the opposite and more “positive” this time; to work with a natural site and a living, beautiful tree. This required going around the area to find a perfect location and tree. This is stated because many times this is “not seen” by the viewer. 




Rinsing the tree and me with water. Water as the base of all live and water as “baptising tool” to “pay extra respect” before starting forcing “my human idea’s” on this tree. Spraying water on objects, humans or animals is also a very strong ritual performed by humans in a lot of cultures.

By using the sarcastic title “Tree hugger” I am defying those who consider me a tree hugger in real live, but in a nice, soft way, hoping to provoke a reaction I could then react to in return in a surprising and alternative (tender) way. Since 2003 I’m working as an artist with trees (Berlin), addressing environmental issues and this led to me being  referred to, once in a while,  as a tree hugger.

In Malawi I was, called a tree hugger to my face by my Missionary neighbour when I was addressing why his church is so aggressively against gays while not addressing deforestation (and other human devastating behaviours to nature, flora and fauna), which I consider a more important threat. All this inspired me to develop and execute this performance.




Hugging the tree after the first layers coffee, Trekker mix and chocolate milk powder have been thrown over me. In a sense these powders are used as an attack on “humanity” and “the power” human could have to cut down this tree. However, it’s doing the opposite: hugging the tree and undergoing these ‘attacks’ together. The charcoal dust and food powders also represent how far humans have gone from nature and how we are influenced by food companies. 

  It also illustrates how addicted humans are to sugar and refined foods. Charcoal is standing for our unstoppable greed for still using unsustainable un-efficient energy sources and not using our brains. Though some people don’t have alternatives sources and this is because governments art not thinking along and are not helping out where needed. Poverty could well be “a choice” by several malfunctioning governments so they stay in power. 

  The performance is taking place within an existing, (reasonable) healthy forest but, “of course”, under threat of the upcoming and expanding city (Lusaka) and deforestation by human molestation (illegal chopping trees down for charcoal and/or brick making). So, in a sense, with this performance the artist pays respect to the site (the forest) and this particular tree by hugging it, being a sign of comfort and being one with this living object for a short period of time, exchanging energy and spending time together. 
In this particular case, it is spending time together no matter what is thrown at us.  This may sound vague (I mean this all in a philosophical way though) especially considering that the artist is quite a sober person. 



After the artist is being covered with black powders, to brown powders, to pink powders to white powders (notice the adding of colors in comparison with the performance white element 11). The food powders also represent how far humans have gone from nature and how we are influenced by food companies and how addicted we are to sugar and refined food products. The last powders are white, being maize flour, coffee creamer, white bread flour and cassava flour. Everything extra refined to make extra white and making it less nutritious.
The focus point here is on the combination of maize and cassava flour. Cassava represents the ancient crop  while  maize is the new crop (non-indigenous in Africa, introduced on the continent by Portuguese slave traders about 100 years ago (or even more, as I’m not sure of this fact yet) as a cheap staple food to keep slaves alive.  Nowadays, maize is being seen as the traditional staple crop in the Zambian and Malawian culture.

This performance is, besides addressing deforestation, also about “pure nature” versus “refined”, “processed” and “chemical enhanced” even though all raw materials, used for all kinds of end products are in fact natural. This performance means to show, how humanity is intervening in nature around us, while it is at the same time itself intervening in a natural forest. 




The human has left the scene, leaving his mark in de powders on the tree bark. The mark isn’t permanent though, as it can and will be eroded by wind and rain in the upcoming rain season.  This serves as a reference to time and the fact that we humans come and go but hopefully nature will survive and outlive us.