The Forest working group meets regularly to share their research on the geopolitics of the forest across art, architecture, political science and landscape ecology. The group are exploring how to develop holistic and interdisciplinary understandings of the human / forest relationship that can represent multiple, overlapping and conflicting interests. They aim to develop a shared critical space for new collaborative artistic research projects which deal with the ethical complexities of forestry in relation to the climate crisis, to reconsider the language and aesthetics of sustainability.

The workshops investigate multidisciplinary approaches to the human and nonhuman entanglements of the forest in Northern Sweden. Research questions will investigate the ethical aesthetics of different kinds of woodlands and their material and geopolitical networks.

Forest Working Group participants: Gerd Aurell, artist; Luis Berrios-Negron, artist and architect; James B. Brown, architect; Sofia Johansson, curator; Toms Kokins, architect; Lars Östlund, forest historian; Edith Marie Pasquier, artist; Janina Priebe, political science; Moa Sandström, Sámi studies; Per Sandström, landscape ecologist.

Thinking about the forest as an archive, artist Gerd Aurell is investigating the relationship between people and the forest in northern Sweden. The project will examine the evidence of historical and contemporary arenas of conflict over the use of northern forests and how it can be interpreted and visualized artistically. Trees grow slowly and therefore living and dead trees can carry traces of events that happened hundreds of years ago. The old-growth northern forest can be read as an archive where layer is written on layer and traces in living and dead trees bear witness of unique events, both recent and far back in time. In deep collaboration with scientists in forest history and ecology, Aurell will investigate the places in the forest charged with human presence to produce performative drawing executed both on site in the forest and in traditional exhibition spaces.

Tankar i hatten (Thoughts in the Hat) 29 minutes.

A film by Gerd Aurell and Micael Norberg.

The film circles around the relationship between a man and the northern forest. We meet Magnus Sjögren, archeologist, musician and activist who walks with us on winding gravel roads and tells us a love story from the past. When Magnus was in his twenties he was searching for a place to stay and he was told about an empty cabin outside Vuollerim. He drives there full of anticipation but when he arrives the curtain moves and someone peeks out. ‘Thoughts in the Hat’ is a film about love, between two human beings, but also between a man and the forest. In Magnus´search for the rare northern orchid Nornan, these two tracks intertwine.

Supported by an UmArts Small Visionary Project award.

Directors: Gerd Aurell and Micael Norberg

Producer: Gerd Aurell

Camera: Micael Norberg

Editing: Micael Norberg

Sound: Daniel Westman

Music: Magnus Sjögren and Norrlåtar

The Matsutake Reading Group took place during 2021 inspired by Anna L. Tsing’s multispecies feminist perspective, reading the world through the matsutake mushroom (Tsing, 2015).

Rethinking the concepts and aesthetics of sustainability from new perspectives, the reading group aims to develop a critical dialogue between theory and practice, where both have equal agency, to find ways of empowering a social production of knowledge.

This key text integrates different modes of geopolitical research enquiry with sensory and performative interludes. Inspired by Tsing’s approach to the forest, the group gathers online and at specific locations to read texts, images, objects and spaces, sharing creative practices and ideas through reading, walking, and foraging.

The first sessions are led by Nella Aarne to collectively read Anna L. Tsing’s book The Mushroom at the End of the World: The possibility of life in capitalist ruins, 2015, Princeton.

As an open-ended practice of collaborative learning, reading groups open radically democratic spaces, within which ideas and practices can evolve and transform in (and due to) the presence of others. Intellectual and creative life is fundamentally social – research and creative practices never develop in isolation but, rather, in relation to others and at the intersections of different knowledges, perspectives and experiences. Whilst providing a generative context for these processes, reading groups also make them explicit. Facilitating multiple voices, reading group discussions unfold like patchworks of collective-making-sense without a sovereign leader who would alone hold the authority of interpretation. They resist the vertical dynamics of a master and an apprentice, and relieve the urge for territorial autonomy in individualist scholarly endeavours. Instead, reading groups establish and sustain lateral connections across disciplinary boundaries, and build intellectual camaraderie over unfinished thoughts.  

Nella Aarne, October 2021.